What to Wear When You Get Dressed

What do you mean what to wear when you get dressed? Uh, clothes, obviously.

But it's not as simple as that.

And it's not even about first impressions (although that will be another blog post!), but about how your clothes are suited to your activities in any given day.  It's critically important that you don't just pull out the first thing you find in the closet, or even the outfit that makes you feel fantastic, but one that works for what you are doing today.

I recently attended a professional workshop that involved a number of speakers standing for their presentations, and then sitting down to be interviewed. Which was fine for the men, but didn't work so well for the very accomplished female presenter. She looked polished and appropriate when she was talking to her slides, but once she sat down, it became apparent that her clothing choices were, shall we say, unfortunate.

Her fashionably hemmed dress suddenly became a little too short. And by that I mean it was clear to those of us in the audience that she had chosen a pretty pink shade of panties on that particular day. Now I know she would have been mortified had she known what we were seeing, and since she is most likely behind a desk or seated at a conference table on a regular day, the issue had probably never come up before. But had she taken just an extra moment in her morning to think about what she might be doing that day, she may have chosen something with a slightly longer hem, or perhaps been a little more careful about how she moved.

The same principle applies to a mostly seated behind furniture sort of day. (Hello first dates, job interviews, super high powered negotiations, you get the idea.) Here's where you need to ensure that the highlight of your outfit is from the waist up. Scarves that bring out your eye color, statement jewelry, and flattering necklines should be your focus. But again, keep in mind what you will be doing. A voluminous scarf is probably not a great idea for dinner in a restaurant, unless you need a crumb catcher.

The thumbnail photo with this post is a great example. She looks fantastic from the waist up, and even as a whole ensemble in the right industry. In other industries, this blouse and necklace paired with a slim pair of pants would be better, but sitting behind a desk, the color and the necklace draw your eye to her face and to what she has to say.

And what are you to do when you'll be in the same position as the unfortunate presenter I mentioned above? Standing and sitting? My tips for this tricky situation:

  • Start with something that makes you feel like a million dollars, always a good place to begin.
  • Check yourself in a full length mirror for standing appropriateness (don't forget shoes! They're part of this ensemble too.)
  • Do a sit test - what's happening to your hemline? Can you sit comfortably? What do you have to do with your legs to make it work? Can you do it on any kind of chair? Find an audience if necessary.
  • Do a bend forward test. How much of your cleavage has suddenly become visible?
  • Accessorize primarily from the waist to keep the focus on you and your contribution. Keep in mind that some accessories (clacking bracelets anyone?) can be distracting from the incredibly important words you have to say.

And don't forget that your shoes need to get you around all day. They should finish your carefully selected outfit, but for heaven's sake, if you need to walk to the subway, make sure they're up to the challenge.