OK, ladies. We all know that clothes and hair are important, right? Specifically speaking of the public relations field, we are constantly interacting with colleagues, clients, reporters, donors, celebrities and many more that come our way. In short, we must a) look good and b) have good hygiene. According to PR Consultant Elissa Freeman, your appearance says a lot about your personality and career goals. If you feel you’re not being taken seriously at work, take a step back and look at the way you present yourself. As young ladies, we receive constant pressure to “look good.” And we have such a large variety of clothes and accessories to choose from. I may not be a fashion expert, but I have worked in a PR environment long enough to know the do’s and don’ts of business wear. I’ve seen women (including myself) challenge the limits of work attire, and I believe that it’s time to address some things.
Note: As you read on, you may find my language to be descriptive and a bit candid. My words are not meant to offend, but to inform you of what’s acceptable in the professional world.
Cover the “girls” and cover the belly buttons. Always. No sheer tops. No spaghetti straps. Lace only works on the sleeves. Wear your tank tops with cardigans, or other small sweaters. Button-down shirts should have no more than one button undone. Most colors are appropriate, but try to stay away from neon colors. The bright colors may distract those around you, affecting overall productivity.
Your pants should be fitted enough to show your girlish figure, but not so tight that they show a panty line. Or worse: they pull when you sit down. Or the worst: they rip when you bend over. If any of this has happened to you, find some new pants. Also, try to wear neutral colors. Blacks, grays, browns and navy blues. Maybe a dark green. However, other colors tend to look childish, or tacky.
Dresses and Skirts
Never underestimate the power of the Finger Rule. Stand up straight with your arms beside you. If your dress reaches your middle finger, then you have nothing to worry about. Dresses are just like pants: tight enough to show your figure, but loose enough to show you have class. The same color rules apply here: go for neutral or “earthy” tones.*
*Earthy tones meaning natural colors of the world: green, brown, blue, beige, etc.
You may be able to wear those new, expensive sandals on Casual Fridays, but heels and flats are best to wear to work. Keep your heels to a 3-inch maximum. Heels that are longer than that send the wrong message. (Club shoes, maybe?) Follow the same color rules here as your dresses and bottoms: neutral colors and earthy tones.
Makeup, Jewelry and Nails
This is, by far, what women struggle with the most. Wear the same makeup that you would wear to go visit your grandmother. Keep the colors light or natural. Nudes, browns and pinks are ideal. Save the “smokey eye” for the weekends.
Keep your jewelry accessories to a minimum. Large hoop earrings, chunky necklaces and loud bangles are not appropriate for work. Your best options are silver or gold.
Fake nails are OK, as long as they look real. Abnormally long fingernails show one of the following: lack of sophistication or lack of hygiene. In general, most solid colors will look decent. Stay away from neon colors, polka dots, stripes, designs and rhinestones. As a professional, you shouldn’t wear any of these on your fingers.
Piercings and Tattoos
It’s easier to say not to get unnecessary piercings and tattoos. However, if you do have them, try to keep them in discreet places that are easy to hide. Take out piercings during work hours if you can. If you’re still having problems with this, use bandages and long sleeves to cover them.
I made the mistake of wearing a strapless sundress to work. It was cute, elegant and it was long enough to pass the Finger Rule. But it was strapless. And in a corporate office, this is a big no-no. So ladies, remember not to get too casual on Fridays. When in doubt: swap out your pencil skirt for jeans and you’re good to go. That’s about as casual as it gets.
As Freeman stated, it’s good to dress your age. Yes, we are professionals, but we are individuals, too. Don’t be afraid to show a bit of your personality in your clothing. But make sure your “personality” stops right above the knee. Never forget you are always representing a corporate identity.
By the way, appearance is not just physical. Appearance also includes how you carry yourself on the job. For example, walking with your head held high, making eye contact with others and greeting your colleagues all show signs of confidence, professionalism and good energy. In summary, all of these traits equal a productive worker. If you haven’t already, try refining your appearance (both physically and mentally) and be the best professional you can be.
Click here to see Freeman’s full article on what to wear to work in PR. Share your thoughts in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!