Wondering What to Wear to the Office, Ladies? It's All about Finding the Right Kind of Femininity

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 22, 2007 | Go to article overview

Wondering What to Wear to the Office, Ladies? It's All about Finding the Right Kind of Femininity


Byline: By Cathryn Scott Western Mail

Masculine shapes are the wrong choice

WOMEN in Wales need to stop dressing like men and accept their femininity if they want to get ahead in business, according to fashion experts.

Gail Foley runs an image consultancy based in Cardiff and admits you "see some terrible mistakes". And top of the list is wearing masculine shapes and hiding curves.

"Just as men look more authoritative in dark suits, white shirts and red ties (just think of Gordon Brown and how he has smartened up since becoming PM) so women often think they need to dress severely to be taken seriously in the workplace," she says.

"Often women need to show waist more than they do. I use pegs with my clients to pin their clothes and show them they have been wearing the wrong sizes.

"It's about getting the right kind of femininity, classic chic."

She says that while in theory you should be judged on your ability to do the job, we are all guilty of making assumptions based on appearances. She points to classic research that states 93% of how you come across has nothing to do with what you are saying. For the first 30 seconds people focus on your behaviour and the sound of your voice.

"It's a shame, but we all make judgments.

"It is a terrible faux pas if you are wearing the wrong thing for business - if you are wearing something and it's 10 years out of date does that mean you are not current in your thinking too?" she says.

"You do see terrible things, like muffin tummies, where people haven't thought about shape. It doesn't matter what size you are - what matters is what shape you are. If you are curvy you need more drapey fabrics.

"Satin blouses are not for bigger ladies, as the fabric is too stiff.

"And double-breasted and military-style jackets are not a great style if you are bigger. If you have an hour-glass figure then show off those curves."

She says looking good can give you the confidence "which can mean getting that promotion or that presentation correct". She adds, "You don't have to be bang up to date fashion-wise, but stylish."

Vania Jesmond, who owns the Vania Jesmond designer clothing boutique in Swansea, agrees.

"You want to look businesslike and authoritative and somebody people would have confidence in," she says, but that doesn't necessarily mean wearing a 'power suit'. "Today for example I am wearing black trousers and a black wrap-over top which is a nice look. You can soften it with a necklace, scarf or shirt with the collar out to make it look more classical."

And she says the quality of what you are wearing counts. "Look at investment pieces. The colourings and styles should be something you can wear for a long time."

And it's not just women who are affecting their professional image by wearing the wrong things - men are guilty of it as well.

"They are more simple to correct," says Gail Foley. "You tell them a tie doesn't go with a shirt and they will bin it, they don't question it, whereas women have emotional attachments to clothes. You say a top doesn't suit them because they have put on weight and they'll say 'oh my husband bought me this in Puerto Fino for our first anniversary' or whatever.

"Men make the mistake of tending to go for the darker suits - but if they are auburn or have softer colourings and features like someone like Brad Pitt's muted tones, you need more muted colours.

"Asian men for example need deep, rich colours.

"And if a man is more rounded he needs a single-breasted jacket, not a double one." So what should you be wearing in the workplace? Gail Foley has these tips: Top tip this season is waistcoats - you'll find them from pounds 15 in Florence and Fred at Tesco, to about pounds 200 in Jaeger and Prada. …

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