The Myth of Professional Dressing

| The struggles of trying to be professional and how "Smart-Casual" dressing can be the most stressful part of your job.

If there is anything Romy and Michelle taught me (other than a formula for glue and some sweet dance moves) it was you shouldn’t have to dress serious to be taken seriously. In fact embracing your weird and wonderful self can be exactly what you need to do to shine in your professional life.

I mean is there a dress code any more terrifying that business casual? Depending on your company culture and your profession this can mean going buck wild on a Friday with a pair of denims or it could be letting your freak flag fly appropriately with some Avant garde piece that will have people question – how exactly did she get in to that? Business casual while being a proverbial mine-field, remains the gold standard for any office, but do we take it too seriously?

When it came to performing some warped version of adulthood I well and truly drank the kool-aid. The whole idea of corporate dressing was drummed in to me. Hard. And I suppose, because I had visible tattoos and (often) bright coloured hair it was my visual short hand of saying TAKE ME SERIOUSLY I’M AN ADULT. But crisp white button ups and tailored black trousers with blazer to match was never my style. In fact I looked awkward and uncomfortable and this coupled with the perpetual look of deer caught in the headlights. Power dressing it wasn’t. Adulting? Not even close.

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Author and podcaster (and slash all around girlspo) Emma Gannon wrote about the whole idea of not having to take yourself serious to be taken seriously. While this can be enjoying your work and what you do, I think this also can apply to how we integrate a professional working wardrobe in to our life. I mean does anyone out with the biggies (banks, law, finance) really subscribe to 3 piece suits and pencil skirts?

And while some companies still enforce women to wear heels to work (I know guys, a lot to unpack in that sentence alone) if you work in a creative field, freelance, or well, anything that doesn’t have a uniform, navigating the waters and putting on your big girl trousers can not only be daunting but down right uninspiring.

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Some of the most successful women I know have said a big fuck you to the idea of corporate dressing. They can embrace uber-femininity that is reminiscent of the fanciest Easter Egg, or they’ll wear ripped jeans and leather and look like fucking rock stars. These women who wear black lipstick and pom pom earrings, or stiletto nails and sky scraper heels. These are the bitches doing business.

The thing is, they are all damn fine at their job. Better than fine really. The secret is, and sorry to blow the lid off on this one, but there is no secret sauce to dressing to be taken seriously. The trick is what it’s always been. Smoke, mirrors, and for me – red lipstick.

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Clothes have power to transform and if you don’t feel your best you’re not going to perform your best. If I met with a client I wouldn’t be reaching for a wrap dress and heels (though I have both in my arsenal) but more likely a roll neck and a slip. If I’m particularly nervous? The brightest red lipstick I can. For others, their lipstick will be a statement bag or some totally ostentatious fugly as hell shoe.

A business woman special doesn’t need to be a suit (though if that’s what it means for you, that’s awesome) but more having confidence and half the battle there is your wardrobe.

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