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Dresses for work: 3 fashionable options that will surprise you!

Tired of wearing the same boring outfits to the office? Time to renew your look. Try these three dresses for work to leave an indelible mark!

If you feel that your look doesn’t project your essence and your leadership style, don’t ignore these concerns. You might need to update your image to make the right impression. Here are three dresses for work that are a far cry from the classic office number.

Use your clothes to help people focus their attention on you.

Use your clothes to help people focus their attention on you.

In a recent interview, the fashion designer Ozwald Boateng, former creative director of Givenchy, said that people who are not bold with their working clothes, are unlikely to drive growth for the company for which they work. “When you’re a leader, you need to be heard and anything that helps focus the attention of the people who work for you is key,” he said.

Serge Brunschwig, Chief Operating Officer for Christian Dior, said that, ultimately, people remember how you look and not what you say. “We always say that one image is worth 1,000 words. Leaders are going to use thousands and thousands of words but the way they dress should be used to enhance their speech. Nobody’s going to listen really, so at the end what’s going to stay is the appearance,” he said.

While these statements may be a bit over the top, I want to emphasize the importance of your image as an ally of your professionalism and leadership. And this image that you project through your clothes, should be unique to you. Therefore, it should stand apart from any uniformed looks. Especially if you are still following style parameters created by men for men.

Dresses for work that help you leave your mark

Let me show you some dresses for work with original twists, that move away from the traditional and sometimes boring work attire.

1Bare shoulders

Who said dresses for work don’t leave room for you to be fashionable? Photo: polyvore.com/pilitapia

Who said dresses for work don’t leave room for you to be fashionable? Photo: polyvore.com/pilitapia

 

The off the shoulder style is the star of this season and you can easily incorporate it into your work wardrobe. Ideally, you can wear it in a classic shade: black, white, brown or nude. Avoid prints if you don’t want to look too flashy. This style is ideal for curvy women and hourglass figures.

Beware not to go overboard with accessories. The beauty of this dress lies in it underscoring your torso. Therefore, it is best to leave that area free of accessories.

If you feel too exposed when wearing skintight dresses for work, you can always throw a blazer on to cover your derriere and hips. Use the one I chose for this occasion as an example.

Don't miss these business casuals dos and don'ts!

2Take a chance with ruffles

 

Consider dresses for work that can be used for the after hours cocktail party. Photo: polyvore.com/pilitapia

Consider dresses for work that can be used for the after hours cocktail party. Photo: polyvore.com/pilitapia

A woolen cardigan, a cocktail dress and a leather belt in the same look? Yes, I didn’t go nuts. Just creative and bold. Mixing textures and garments that are intended for different occasions is key to putting together a distinctive look.

I invite you to consider this flattering cocktail dress with a cardigan and to finish the look off with a belt, to accentuate your waist. This resource is called layering and is a strong trend this fall-winter season.

3A bit of sparkle on your work outfit won’t hurt

Sometimes, it is good to break the mold with your work wardrobe. Just like I did with this great looking gold dress. Photo: polyvore.com/pilitapia

Sometimes, it is good to break the mold with your work wardrobe. Just like I did with this great looking gold dress. Photo: polyvore.com/pilitapia

Did you buy a wonderful dress for a formal dinner and you have never used it again because you can’t find the right opportunity to wear it? Take it to the office! Yes! Make the most of your investment and wear that outfit to work and feel like a diva.

Obviously, make sure the dress is not too elegant or too provocative (super short or with a plunging neckline, for example) or that it’s not covered with paillettes.

A perfect dress for work. Combine it with a smooth coat to give it a more formal touch.

A perfect dress for work. Combine it with a smooth coat to give it a more formal touch.

“When we put on a piece of clothing we cannot help but adopt some of the characteristics associated with it, even if we are unaware of it,”explained Professor Karen J. Pino, University of Hertfordshire, UK, in her book Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion.

In the studies conducted by this expert, one participant admitted: ““If I’m in casual clothes I relax and am tomboyish, but if I dress up for a meeting or a special occasion, it can alter the way I walk and hold myself.”

As you see, what you wear has the power to change your mood and your self-confidence. So, opt for dresses for work that make you feel attractive, and that reflect the charisma and leadership that make you unique and successful.

And if you need some help developing or strengthening key leadership skills, it may be time to explore our Step Up program.

Using Color to Dress for Success for Women

Can you influence your company’s professional dress code?

Most articles about dress for success for women are either interview tips for women on appropriate professional dress code or advice on how to project executive presence (Want to find out how? Take this Executive Presence Quiz). Yet in an increasingly multicultural workforce, what does it mean to dress for success? Whose professional dress code are we all following?

If the “inclusion” side of the “diversity and inclusion” effort is to succeed, workplaces will need to become more accepting of other cultures’ version of dress for success. In other words, multicultural employees must start influencing what dress for success for women looks like in a 21st century work environment and not only be influenced by it.

Dress for success for women —One professional dress code doesn’t fit all

It’s a fact that the first thing anyone notices about you is not only the color of your skin but also the color of your clothes. Colors have a physical and psychological impact both on the wearer and on others. So it’s important to understand the subconscious messages you might be –unwillingly- sending out.

Dress for success -Know your colors

The following section was adapted from Colour Affects, a London-based company specialized in color psychology and its effect on people. The chart below focuses on color’s impact on people regardless of their culture, and not color symbolism (“the conscious associations that we are conditioned to make”[1]).

Nothing like knowing the psychological effect of color in people to dress for success. FInd out how to do it here.

Nothing like knowing the psychological effect of color in people to dress for success

You’ll notice that there are positive and negative aspects to each color. Being aware of both will help you make the right choice for the right situation.

RED –Positive: courage, strength, energy. 
Negative: Defiance, aggression, strain.

BLUE – Positive: Intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency, serenity. Negative: Coldness, aloofness, lack of emotion.

YELLOW–
Positive: Optimism, confidence, friendliness, creativeness. 
Negative: Irrationality, fear, emotional fragility, depression.

GREEN –
Positive: Harmony, balance, refreshment, reassurance, peace. 
Negative: Boredom, stagnation, blandness.

VIOLET – Positive: Vision, luxury, authenticity, truth, quality. Negative: Introversion, decadence, inferiority.

ORANGE – Positive: Warmth, security, passion, abundance, fun. 
Negative: Deprivation,frustration, frivolity, immaturity.

PINK – Positive: Physical tranquility, nurture, warmth, femininity, love. Negative: Inhibition,emotional claustrophobia, physical weakness.

GREY – Positive: Psychological neutrality. 
Negative: Lack of confidence, dampness, depression,lack of energy.

BLACK –
Positive: Sophistication, glamour, security, emotional safety, efficiency, substance. Negative: Oppression, coldness, menace, heaviness.

If you love to wear bright colors, it can be intimidating to walk into a room filled with men and women dressed in black. It can feel oppressive. Likewise, showing up with a bright orange dress in such an environment might shock people not used to such displays of boldness. They might make assumptions about you (that you are immature, for instance) that could affect your career opportunities.

Dress for Success for Women – When to introduce your ideas

When your own take on dress for success differs substantially from what you see around you, figuring out what to wear can be daunting. The newer you are in a job, the more careful you must be. As people get to know your ideas, values, and work ethic, they will naturally become more accepting of your dressing idiosyncrasies. That’s the perfect time to introduce your version of dress for success for women!

Each woman at Scotiabank in El Salvador has figured out how to make her own professional dress code work within the corporate culture

Each woman at Scotiabank in El Salvador has figured out how to make her own professional dress code work within the corporate culture

Should you adjust to a professional dress code that differs from your culture?

The answer depends on your career goals, your organization, and the industry where you work. In more conservative industries such as banking, finance, or accounting, it’s harder to break away from the professional dress code. If you work in a more progressive industry such as technology, fashion, or publishing, you will have less trouble carrying out your own version of dress for success for women.

Small tweaks can go a long way

If projecting executive presence is critical for you, you might need to adjust to the dress code favored by your industry. This means that you will have to turn down the volume on anything that clashes too much with the reigning fashion.

For example, I’m partial to bright blue, but when I present to a corporate audience I choose a more subtle shade. Or I’ll carry a purse in a brighter shade of blue. My main concern is to avoid taking the attention away from my message. And here is the key. Dress for success for Women is about dressing so that people can focus on who you are beyond the clothes you wear. What makes you relevant for their teams? Why should they think of you when there’s a great opportunity?

Feeling comfortable is key in dressing for success for women

You can’t dress for success if you feel like a prisoner inside your clothes. (Why wear black if it depletes you of energy?) When it comes to dressing for success for women, you have to strike a balance between the colors, look, and fit that express your culture and personality, and the professional dress code at work. (And this is likely to be an unwritten dress code!)

Three tips for using color to dress for success

  1. Check your closet and determine your color palette. Identify the colors that you feel most comfortable with and evaluate how appropriate they are for your work environment. If you decide that they’ll make you stand out in a less than beneficial way, consider wearing an accessory or a lighter hue of your favorite color.
The RSM Signature charm allows you to make a subtle statement about your style

The RSM Signature charm allows you to make a subtle statement about your style and you can buy them at our online Shop.

  1. Wear your accessories with pride! A lot has been written about the impact that accessories have when it comes to dress for success for women in the workplace. And yes, it’s true that less is generally more. But for Latinas and other women of color, it is particularly difficult to leave our accessories behind. I have a huge (and I mean HUGE) collection of custom jewelry from all over the world. It’s my trademark. I use my necklaces as a way for people to start a conversation with me. But I’m aware of how distracting these pieces can be, so in certain situations I chose a smaller piece. Dress for success for women is always about what works for you and your career goals.
  1. Observe high-ranking women at your job, then tweak. Does the professional dress code of female executives closely resemble the dominant male style? Is there room for you to grow in the company with a “tweaked” version of the “company-sanctioned” dress code? Try it! If you want to be part of a new breed of leaders who are changing the workplace you’ll have to start by pushing the boundaries a small push at a time. (If you need extra help to change the culture, you can always lead the way by implementing Red Shoe Tuesday at your company!)

It’s all about keeping your career goals front and center. If you are new at a company, test the waters. If you have been at your job for a while and have a more established personal brand, you can be more daring. But if you want to change things for you and for generations of women to come you need to influence the established professional dress code currently in place. You don’t need to do it all at once. Small steps go a long way in gaining acceptance.

[1] Colour Affects http://www.colour-affects.co.uk/how-it-works