Today’s post comes from guest blogger, Catherine Bruce from Style & Coach
My friend and career coach Sandra Green at www.handbagsintheboardroom.com conducted a recent survey where, among other questions, she asked career women to express their concerns regarding their image and dress at work. Some of her respondents were concerned about ‘how to dress professionally in an age appropriate way with flair and style without looking dowdy or dated’. She asked me to address this question and I offered the following advice:
I am certain that the shops are full of clothes that are age appropriate, stylish and on trend for women in their 40’s,50’s,60’s and beyond….. I am sure of this, as I am one of them and so are many of my clients I take personal shopping! There is absolutely no need to look frumpy or dowdy. The key questions you need to answer confidently are: ‘do these styles, shapes and colours flatter my colouring, my body shape and do they fit the ethos and mood of my organisation?’ Do they send out the ‘right’ message about my role and what I am aspiring to achieve.
I suggest you set aside a time at home when you will not be interrupted and go through your wardrobe, taking a serious look at whether each item still looks current (chances are if it’s over 3 years old it may be dated), if it still fits you and if you feel really comfortable wearing it to work. Is it still in good condition with no stains or worn collars, cuffs and hem lines? Ask yourself if it suits your shape and colouring and can be worn easily with other items in your wardrobe such as separates and accessories. Can it be altered or dry cleaned if you love it but it lacks currency or fit? If not, be ruthless and ditch it.
I think it’s far better to have fewer suitable, quality clothes that make you feel good rather than a shed load of outdated, dare I say, ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ outfits and/or ill fitting, unflattering clothes. Try to gradually replace discarded items with current, stylish ones that will match other items in your wardrobe. Keep an eye on manikins in good quality shops to get an idea of what looks good and is current but beware of buying clothes that don’t suit your particular shape.
It’s best not to confuse what you would wear for a night out with the girls, a hot date or a casual weekend activity with work wear unless you are in a very relaxed or creative industry. Even then, exercise caution and pay attention to what senior women in the company or corresponding companies are wearing and follow suit, within your budget.
When it comes to whether or not you should wear a skirt above the knee over the age of 40, I think the answer depends on whether you’ve got great legs or not. A shorter skirt may flatter your legs in opaque tights and still look suitable for work. However, be aware that the more flesh you reveal, the more authority you may lose. Also be aware that professional clothing should skim the body rather than cling. Clingy clothes, like bare flesh are not professional and will detract attention from the key part of your body that carries your message: your face. They can also make you look as though you are trying too hard to look ‘young’.
It’s advisable to ask yourself what message the clothes you wear sends out to others about you? Try to think of three words that you would like others at work to use when describing you. For example, ‘professional, knowledgeable, approachable’ Ensure your clothes, grooming and behaviour at work reflect your chosen words. These then become your ‘personal brand’ that should ensure your receive positive recognition for the job you do.
It’s a good idea to notice the mature /senior women in your organisation or related organisations who are successful and confident and look carefully at the way they dress. Accessories, especially tasteful necklace and scarves that draw attention to the face are the finishing touches that complete an outfit. Quality watches and handbags also speak volumes but remember, less is more when it comes to accessorising. As a more mature woman, it is important that you go for quality rather than high fashion and quantity.
Good tailoring is very important for flattering mature women. It is worth investing in a few well tailored quality items such as a fantastic pair of neutral trousers or jacket that can be mixed and matched with a variety of less expensive tops.
Keep your hairstyle current and flattering. Get the best cut you can possibly afford. You can colour it yourself but the cut is crucial. Having the same hairstyle you had when you left college 20 +years ago can look very dated!
Good luck, enjoy your age – you’ve earned all the wisdom and experience that goes with it and enjoy the wonderful confidence that comes with looking good- at any age, size or shape!
To find out more about Catherine and the services she offers through Style and Coach, click here.