Dressing for Power – The New Rules of Professional Attire by 3 Leading Ladies by Christine Göös
As women are finally gaining more of that well-deserved status and power in the workplace, the rules of sartorial engagement are changing along with it. It’s time to swap the casual with the cool. The new norm for office attire is less “The Office” and more Condè Nast headquarters – or whichever female startup founder you’re following on Instagram these days. Cue Emily Weiss of Glossier or Aurora James of Brother Vellies.
Gone are the days of emulating that out-dated One of the guys – sentiment through strong shoulder lines and neutrals that would bore even Annie Hall to death. Make no mistake, though, the pantsuit back with a vengeance. Perhaps its comeback doubles as a triumphant middle finger to the notion of having to exude masculinity while dressing the part at work.
We are taking up space and making our voices heard not just through our actions, but also our attire. Take Argent for one, the brand creates norm-breaking workwear and counts many millennial CEOs as its fans. From double-breasted fuchsia blazers to turquoise co-ords, women are leaning in and doing so in style.
Influencers and fashion crowds aside, I invited three successful – and stylish – women from both coasts to share how they dress and what makes them feel confident. These women hold exceptional careers in their respective fields and convey their spirit and personality through their attire.
Meet Minda Harts, the Founder The Memo LLC, a career development company for women of color. She describes herself as a 5ft everything seat creator with killer style. Abby Grozenski is Partner and Managing Director of North America at the talent agency TDA Creative. She’s a fierce proponent of diversity and inclusion and takes pride in mentoring young women and hiring and promoting women and working mothers. Hope Frank is seasoned Global Chief Marketing and Digital Officer. Currently, Hope is a futurist and Global Experience Officer at Mercer who loves classy yet magnificent fashion.
How do you dress to feel confident and powerful at work?
Minda: It depends on the mood I’m in and what I want to accomplish at that moment. For example, if I have an important meeting or presentation; a cute fitted dress with a color that compliments my skin tone accompanied with a high heel. If I am speaking on a panel, I love a great t-shirt and blazer. Women are often my audience, so I like to wear a shirt that empowers them and me along with a great loafer – my favorite ones are from Cole Haan.
Abby: I have fun with how I dress, aim to look stylish and put together. Someone once told me to dress for the job you want, and not just the job you have, so I try to put in the effort. I tend to stay pretty casual unless I have an important client meeting or event. I make an effort to dress professionally and avoid anything that could be deemed sexy.
Hope: I go for richly beaded vintage Hollywood style dresses that end above the knee. Understated necklines in hues of navy, gray, black, rose or cream. As for jewelry, I wear a wedding ring and single bracelet paired with statement shoes. I keep a pair of flip-flops under my desk.
Which myth should we debunk regarding professional dressing?
Hope: On the contrary to what some might believe, women can create a stir with fashion selection and a classy style. Women should be able to be themselves when they dress for work. It is a myth that it is a barrier to promotion or the C-Suite.
Minda: I think women should dress in clothes they feel comfortable wearing. If pants make you feel powerful then wear pants. There is no one size fits all for professional attire for women.
Abby: Feels like women walk a fine line between looking polished and professional while avoiding looking too pretty. We need to be enough to command a room, but modest enough to keep the boys at bay. Women seem to take on all of the responsibility with how they dress, including the reactions they garner. It starts in school with dress codes which are designed to “help the boys behave” – this is pervasive and continues into the workplace.
There is something very liberating about allowing yourself to disregard the male gaze when dressing for work because hey, when have men ever looked at themselves in the mirror and asked “Is this too provocative?”. Women should be able to express their personality through their style while conveying professionalism through their actions. Should you choose to wear a tighter dress or a shorter skirt to work, that is never an invitation or an excuse for anyone to behave inappropriately.<
Words by Christine Göös