Over the last year especially, I’ve had a lot of conversations with women around feeling the need to ‘cover up’ so that we don’t attract the wrong kind of attention.
This really pisses me off.
Even if I’m wearing a maxi dress that skims my body (aka not tight or oversize, but still flattering) or workout clothes to keep me cool and unencumbered, I’m catcalled or honked at or looked up and down. This doesn’t make me feel beautiful. This makes me feel shame and objectified. Sometimes, it makes me feel unsafe.
It’s simply being out in the world and seen as a woman that invites this sort of attention. (Just like being drunk seems to make it our fault that we’re assaulted. Um, je pense que NON.)
What are some of the ways women try to avoid these experiences?
We wear clothes that look to big or unpolished so we don’t stand out for our curves. We literally put on weight so we hopefully avoid the comments, leers and objectification. We’re advised to only drink beer and wine.
Did I mention that this pisses me off?
The solution isn’t covering up.
I have moved through my own body confidence issues over time as I’ve taken back my own power and my style has played a big part in my confidence.
When I was younger, I was really uncomfortable with the attention I would receive for my body and looks. I never identified as ‘beautiful’ and certainly never saw myself the way others did. I saw myself as an athlete – a tomboy who happened to care how she presented herself. It wasn’t about being beautiful, it was even then just about feeling good.
To this day, the best compliment I’ve ever received was during an astrology reading looking at my birth chart (yes, I’m woo! 😉 ) and she proclaimed I must be beautiful by looking at my chart.
This, to me, was a compliment on my inner beauty. My essence. My heart.
My knowing of my essence and WHO I am is what I connect to as I step out into the world. This is what we help our clients connect to as we help them stand out in THEIR style.
To me, owning your style is owning your power.
Taking pride in how you present yourself is honoring ALL of you – your intellect, your gifts and your heart.
After all, how can you make an impact on this world if you’re not willing to be seen as completely, confidently YOU?
Even with all the progress we’ve made, it’s still a man’s world. At the highest levels of leadership, even in the Fashion Industry, it’s mostly male. If you’re in construction, manufacturing, politics, etc., it’s male dominated.
So, we’re going to have to continue to deal with these challenges in simply showing up as women as parity is not here yet. Which means we have to stand in solidarity and in our power.
Dress for Success, to be seen & heard in any environment
Support your Sisters (as I affectionately call my #powerposse)
Keep Stepping it up – in Visibility & Style
One of the keys to making an impact as a leader means that you need to get your message heard.
So, if you have to play by their rules until you start the process of subtly shifting their perspective, then so be it. The point is that you create the opportunity to shift their perspective.
I’ll now step off my soapbox to share with you the keys for you, as a dynamic woman with a body, to dressing for success in a man’s world:
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
This is one of the keys for branding & presence. If what you’re wearing is distracting or out of touch from your audience, then they’ll be focusing on what you’re wearing, not what you’re saying.
Respect who your audience is by meeting them where they are and you’ll be able to move mountains as they get to know and love you.
This means that if they’re conservative, be a bit more conservative than you otherwise are in your style. If they’re business casual and really casual, dial down the dressiness a bit (even if that’s your personal style – go for ‘polished casual’ instead).
For example, one of our clients owns a wildly successful event production and marketing company. Many of her clients are gamers and techies. So, SUPER casual (and pretty nerdy … but we love nerds!).
We polished up her jeans + sandals to add booties and the occasional cool jacket, but it wasn’t so much that it put them off of her as a possible vendor (aka so she didn’t feel out of touch with their world). Eventually, she was able to start stepping it up with dressier outfits and such as they were used to working with her and knew the quality of experience her company would provide.
Please note, this is NOT about sacrificing yourself for the sake of your audience. This is about understanding them and honoring yourself (as you read on).
HONOR YOUR BODY
You’re a woman, so you have a body. You have boobs, a butt, maybe a belly. We all have those same parts in different proportions. Whatever your body looks like, I want you to honor it, not hide it.
This means wearing clothes that are the correct size and shape. They flatter your figure:
- Avoid dresses that are too short (stick to the fingertips rule to be safe, especially when you sit down)
- Save the tops that are too deep of a v-neck for date night and weekends
- Look for dresses or skirts that skim your body while highlighting or creating a waist, but don’t HUG the body
(We share a lot of professional (and life!) style inspiration on our Instagram. Join us!)
PLAY WITH COLOR
A favorite Dr. Seuss quote that I reference often is ‘Why fit in if you were born to stand out?’
Color gives you the opportunity to subtly (or overtly!) stand out without a lot of effort. This is also a great way to infuse some personality into an outfit that is otherwise ‘appropriate’ for an occasion. I love to add a ‘pop of color’ to an outfit via an accessory – be it a shoe, a belt or an accessory.
As you feel that you can be more bold with color in your environment, I love to play with color. Mix + match with unexpected combinations or create the always elegant monochromatic look.
If you’re a woman on the rise, a woman navigating a man’s world, or simply a woman looking to take back her style power, I’d love to chat!