Monday, December 15, 2008

How to Take the Stress Out of Holiday Dressing

When the holidays roll around, so does the stress of what to wear. During the holiday season there are a lot of parties, receptions and dinners. Sometimes formal wear is expected and it can be difficult to figure out whether you need several outfits, or just one to wear everywhere.

Fortunately, there are some strategies you can employ to make your holiday dressing just a little easier. Planning your holiday wardrobe ahead of time will help reduce stress and let you get your wardrobe shopping done ahead of time. All you need to do is follow the tips given here.

Look at What You Already Own
There is no need to spend a huge fortune on holiday clothing. You can probably use some of the items that are already in your closet and add some festive accessories to make them look new. If you have a nice red or green blouse, for example, you might add a pair of earrings or festive necklace from the current season to make a classic blouse current. Pair this with a nice black skirt or pair of slacks to complete the look.

Holidays are A Great Time For the Classics
The holidays are a great time for the classic little black dress. Do not be tempted by trendy holiday outfits, as you will not be able to wear them next season. Instead dress classically for the holidays and feel good about spending a little on some great trendy accessories.

Choose Versatile Clothing
When you are buying a new holiday outfit, avoid making it too holiday specific. A dress with an embroidered Santa can only be worn during Christmas, and chances are you won’t want to wear it to every single party, so it would get very little use.

A smarter option would be to look for separates in holiday colors that can be worn together or with something completely different. This expands their versatility outside of the holiday season. A burgundy sweater will look great with jeans anytime or combined with dark green pants works ideally for Christmas.

Go Light With the Brights
While a brilliant red shirt combined with a bright green skirt might be in the holiday spirit… it also looks over the top. Instead, if you are going to wear shimmering or bright colors wear only one bright color. If they are in your color palette, the jewel tones look great for the holidays.

If you are not comfortable with shimmering fabrics and bright colors, do not feel you have to include them in your holiday wardrobe. You don’t. Add a little shimmer or brightness with your accessories or not at all. Be holiday specific with your fabric; velvet or burnt velvet will always get you compliments on your holiday outfit without the flash.

Avoid Going Too Skimpy
If you are going to an office party, be careful not to show off too much skin. A scoop neck dress or a slightly lower neckline on your blouse might be fine, but save the plunging necklines and cleavage baring dresses for your own parties.

Test Drive Your Holiday Clothes
If you are going to go short or low be sure to give these outfits a “test run” before the big evening. Also if you have not worn an outfit since last year, try it on before the big night. Do not pop on an outfit for the first time before you run out the door to an important function. At least wear it around the house the day before to see if it stays in place as you move, if it pulls anywhere, or if it gets too short when you sit down. This ensures that your dress supports you at your big event. The more confident you feel about your outfit, the more comfortable you will be and the more fun you will have.

Choose Comfortable Clothes
Holiday parties and family gatherings are often long and can be somewhat socially awkward, so it is key to wear something comfortable. Do not tell yourself you will be all right in those high shoes or too tight bra. Being uncomfortable does not look good on anyone.

Holiday dressing shouldn’t be stressful, so make sure you read these tips and then do your clothing shopping nice and early …you won’t regret it. With the right selection, you will have some lovely new clothes to use all winter long, holiday or no holiday. Pick up some cute, festive accessories and you will have just the right amount of holiday cheer in your wardrobe.

Following the above guide for the holiday season party circuit is sure to assist you in looking fabulous and function appropriate. If, or when in doubt, the stylist services at Exclusive Corporate Image, LLC are happy to provide attire suggestions. Happy Holidays and enjoy!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Is your short skirt affecting your bottom line?

Wearing nylons during warm weather months can be uncomfortable, and that’s the naked truth! Some employers try to accommodate their female employees by allowing them to come to work without hosiery. Usually, this is considered a perk. As we shall see, however, the facts of the matter leave us with barely a leg to stand on!

For several reasons, the image presented by a woman with no hosiery can be inappropriate for the workplace and may lead to problems there. For instance, when “given an inch”, sometimes the unfortunate tendency among workers is to “take a mile”. Once an employer permits a relaxation of the company’s dress code in one area, employees may assume that they have their boss’s tacit approval to make comparable adjustments throughout their wardrobe. Soon, the company’s dress code will have faded into the mists of memory, a relic of bygone days.

During warmer weather, women may elect not only to leave their hosiery at home, but also to arrive at the office in short skirts, sundresses, and other types of casual clothing that generally reveal more skin. This casual, more revealing clothing can make a woman appear less-than-serious about her career, or frivolous about her professional goals within the company. Studies have shown that women who dress in this manner at work earn less money and are taken less seriously than their male counterparts who dress more traditionally. The woman who dresses too casually at the office relinquishes her business power to her male colleagues who are clad in polo shirts, slacks, and loafers with socks. While their attire may be equally casual, the men’s clothing reveals less skin, allowing them to retain some level of personal comfort while maintaining their professional image.

Additionally, the more revealing attire may make an unwanted “provocative” impression on male managers, particularly those who are older and may have more conservative tastes. Leaving a male manager with this type of impression may be the last thing that a female employee intends to do. Nevertheless, she must remain mindful of the potential for misinterpretation.

Many women find it quite a challenge to present attractive legs and feet without benefit of hosiery. If you decide to report to work without hosiery, please take the time to properly prepare for it! Ensure that your legs are carefully waxed, thoroughly moisturized, and evenly tanned. Apply fresh polish to toenails. Smooth out rough heels and soles (using a pumice stone, if necessary). Always wear sandals that fit your feet perfectly.

Short skirts and navel-revealing midriff tops are perfect for social outings or weekend activities. But, they seldom work at work! At the office, the female employee is more likely to enhance her career by paying attention to the company’s figures rather than her own. The only statement that her clothes should be making is, “I’m here to work.” Simply put, the more skin a woman reveals in the workplace, the fewer promotions, salary increases, and other benefits she reasonably can expect.

The Hosiery Dilemma

Not Wearing Hosiery

Wearing Hosiery

Sends a casual message in the workplace.

Makes a professional impression at work.

Requires time-consuming and expensive preparation.

Provides a quick, inexpensive solution.

Legs MUST have a deep, even suntan.

Instantly provides a “tanned” appearance.

Skin tone MUST appear perfectly smooth ~ free of ANY blotches or blemishes.

Helps to “smooth out” the appearance of pale, blotchy, or uneven skin tones.

Legs and feet MUST be moisturized.

Makes dry skin less noticeable.

Legs must be waxed WEEKLY or shaved DAILY. (Shaving leaves an appearance of “stubble” after only 24 hours!)

Slight “stubble” is camouflaged.

Provides NO support for legs with varicose or “spider” veins.

Support hose will protect legs and prevent additional damage from broken veins.

Pedicure MUST be kept current.
Nails MUST be freshly polished.

Toes are invisible in pumps or sling-backs.

Heels and soles MUST be kept moisturized and smooth. If necessary, a pumice stone should be used on feet to prevent a cracked, crusty, rough appearance.

Pumps keep heels and soles invisible.

Bare feet with bunions, damaged toenails, corns, hammertoes, extra long toes, blue veins, or injuries are frequently distracting.

Unsightly feet are hidden and therefore create no distractions.

Unnecessarily emphasizes the legs and feet, minimizing the effect of “continuity”.

Creates a streamlined appearance.

Requires the wearing of open-toe sandals or back-less mules to prevent damage from body heat and perspiration*.

Hose absorb moisture from body heat and perspiration (which naturally gravitate to our shoes) … slowing damage to footwear.

* Sandals should fit the feet perfectly. Toes should neither extend over the edges nor should they touch the ground. Heels should not spill over the back of the sandals. There must be no pudginess between straps ~ either at the toe or along the straps of the sandals.

Elaine M. Simmons, AICI FLC provides educational programs to help men and women learn how to dress appropriately for professional environments. For the training your employees need ~ to ensure that their image at work will reflect their own self-confidence, inspire the respect of other professionals, and reassure clients and co-workers that they are committed to the goals of your company ~ contact Elaine today at

Monday, June 30, 2008

On An Interview

A recent series of articles by “On Style” columnist Christina Binkley of the Wall Street Journal brought Ms. Binkley into contact with several executive recruiters (a.k.a. “head hunters”) and personnel officers of major corporations and law firms throughout New York City and Washington, D.C. During her interviews with these experts, the author discovered that even 30 years after the publication of John T. Molloy’s ground-breaking how-to “Dress For Success”,
the problem of personal appearance still presents a minefield for many movers-and-shakers in the corporate world. If decision-makers operating in the rarefied atmospheres of Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue have difficulty determining which tie to wear, or whether pumps or sandals would be more appropriate, then how can mere mortals here in the Sunshine State be expected to traverse successfully such an esoteric labyrinth?

To shed some light on this topic, I decided to do a little research of my own. First, I compiled a brief questionnaire, posing such questions as (1) “When an applicant arrives for the interview, do you think he or she is dressed appropriately?” (2) “What is the applicant’s body language telling you?” and (3) “What differences do you perceive among the ‘Traditionalists’, ‘Baby-Boomers’, ‘Generation Xers’, and ‘Millennials’?”

Then, I passed my questionnaire to several senior level executives of various industries, including some Florida-based entities as well as nationally recognized firms. These individuals include representatives of the healthcare, construction, insurance, employment, and social welfare fields. I asked them to respond to the questionnaire on the basis of their observations
in the course of performing their professional duties. I was surprised by some of their answers. Candid comments regarding appropriate dress among employment applicants included, “The younger generation does not understand the rules, or chooses to ignore them. These concepts
(of appropriate attire in the workplace) often are lost on the younger applicants.”

Before heaping too much opprobrium on the “younger generation”, we would do well to recall that “Dress For Success” is a phrase that has been around longer than they have! It has become so thoroughly ensconced in the idiom that we often forget what a fundamental concept it represents: first impressions really do matter, and one’s appearance really can be a determining factor in how one is perceived by colleagues, clients, and members of Management.

There seems to be a great deal of confusion regarding the definition of “appropriate dress” for the workplace. Among my survey’s respondents, the “older generation” seems to be slightly more in tune with this concept, apparently being willing to forgo a certain level of personal comfort in exchange for a higher salary, whereas younger applicants seem to think that “comfort is everything”. Apparently, it all depends on one’s perspective ... and the salary range!

When asked to share their pet peeves, the survey respondents were equally outspoken. Jacqueline Glover, Office Manager at Workman Commercial Construction, replied, “Business Casual has taken over. People want to draw outside the lines and not follow the rules.” Andrew Flick, an Advisor at Northwestern Mutual Insurance, indicated that he dislikes “ties that are too short, clothing that is wrinkled or ill-fitting, and shirts that are too blousy.” An executive from the healthcare industry (who asked not to be named) replied, “My pet peeves include clothing that is too casual or too tight-fitting. Big jewelry is also a distraction.” Other respondents stated that they are put off by visible tattoos, “cleavage”, sandals (rather than shoes), and blouses that are not tucked in.

When asked to comment on verbal versus non-verbal communication, respondents of the survey provided some very revealing data. Many applicants, it seems, are unaware of how much information they are communicating about themselves, without ever uttering a word! Susan H. Zingaro, Executive Vice President for Sales and Recruiting at FirstPRO, Inc. (an executive search firm), commented, “Body language is the key indicator as to how interested a person is in a particular job.” It can directly affect the impression that the applicant makes on the interviewer. “Good eye contact,” according to Ms. Zingaro, “a firm handshake, and good posture all are very important during the interview process.” Mr. Flick of Northwestern Mutual laments, “A lot of times, they (applicants) are unprofessional. They seem not to know the importance of it.” And, according to Paul Ryan, Senior Account Executive at David Wood Personnel, “Most applicants do not have their thoughts in order for the interview.” Their discomfort is telegraphed by their body language: I am nervous. How quickly can we get this over with? On the other hand, many applicants need to be aware of their verbal communication skills, as well. Says Ms. Glover of Workman Commercial, “Often, they (applicants) are so eager to impress that they will give a long-winded answer that does not even address the question!”

In compiling questions for my survey, I thought it might be helpful to include one about the impression that applicants may be making on the Receptionist. Ms. Glover states, “She sizes them up the instant they walk through the door! Nine times out of ten, she knows what the company is looking for, and ~ within 15 seconds ~ she knows whether or not the interviewee has ‘it’.” Reinforcing this point, Ms. Zingaro of FirstPRO, says, “This has always been important. If the candidate treats the Receptionist professionally and with respect, then his or her behavior should be consistent in the new job.”

Overall, how are applicants throughout the employment spectrum are perceived? Well, it depends on whom you ask. One survey respondent in the social welfare field said, “Boomers typically are seeking their ‘next’ career or a move up from their former position. Traditionalists have longer stints at previous jobs and now are looking for ‘meaningful’ work. ‘Generation Xers’ want flexible work schedules due to family needs and the pursuit of their education. ‘Millennials’ don’t want to have to work too hard, and they tend to leave their jobs more frequently for ‘greener grass’.” Ms. Glover wrote, “Traditionalists and Boomers know the game and play it very well. I think ‘Generation Xers’ expect that their degrees, skills, and personality will be sufficient to get them by. They don’t seem to realize that ~ while those things may help them to keep the job ~ as an applicant, they first must get through the door (for the interview). One cannot put the cart before the horse. And, ‘Millennials’ know the rules, but they want to modernize things, and put their own special spin on it.” Finally, Ms. Zingaro avows, “Representatives of the ‘X’ and ‘Millennial’ generations often have the opinion that they don’t have to work so hard, that they are entitled to everything because they have a degree. They seem much less generous than members of the older generations.”

While some of the above comments may seem to spell doom and gloom for the future of the free world, let us not despair! After all, everyone is young, once. With a little education and encouragement, even these unruly “young ’uns” can be shown the importance of appearance and image awareness. If you perceive a need for that sort of assistance or training at your company, just have your Human Resources Department contact me, Elaine Simmons, at