Let’s talk about looking like a professional—or not.

First, I will readily declare that I am not the preeminent businesswoman. I have worked in various businesses throughout my careers. They were offices where jeans and shorts were permitted—so wonderful to not go near nylons! Then there were places where suits-only were the protocol. It’s been a broad array of atmospheres and attire expectations. Some of which I fit into, others not so much.

Tell me what you think of some observations I’ve made.

Attending Business Workshops & Networking

I recently attended a business workshop. Key word in that sentence? “Business.” I’ve gone to many workshops over the years and always dress business casual. For me, that term means a dress, dress slacks or skirt, with blouse/cardigan/suit jacket. I have a mad passion for scarves, so if I can toss one of those on, I do it. That said, the first thing that always amazes me is when fellow attendees show up in jeans or worse, sweats. 

I have seen men in workshops wearing jeans, but usually if it is a part of their business attire, such as jeans and a corporate polo shirt. I still disagree with it in a business setting, but I understand it.

Except for the first comment, the below happens to apply to women because this particular workshop contained 95% females.

The first presenter was bad—his presentation was too vague to be any good. And he was wearing toe-shoes. I’m never going to take anyone seriously when they’re wearing toe shoes (unless they sell toe-shoes). Ever. Particularly not when they are supposed to be a subject matter expert on a business topic important to me.

Now Ladies, Your Attire Should Match the Setting

There was a woman across the aisle from me. She was in her late fifties, early sixties, wearing one of those long dresses that she might have had since the 1970s that are popular again. Not sure why they made a return—they were difficult to walk in and unflattering back in the day. This was a halter-type and she was not un-endowed, so her breasts looked like they could pop out any moment. In addition to her beach attire, she was knitting. YES, knitting.

A woman in front of me—also in her fifties—had hair the whole way down her back. As a sixty-year-old whose hair is nearly that lengths long hair doesn’t bother me. On anyone. But this woman played with her tresses incessantly. It was up in a ponytail. Then it was down again. Her hair was twisted in a knot. It was off to the side. Guess what? Then she let the locks flow down her back again. Good heavens! I got dizzy watching her.

This kind of thing makes me crazy. Women! We are still dealing with a low Glass Ceiling. It’s put to us to do what we can do to excel and lift ourselves up. Then I observe this kind of behavior, which clearly shows us as looking less businesslike than men. We have that one initial moment to make a first impression. I would not like to be remembered as the woman in flip-flops at a networking event.

Attire appropriate for raking leaves in a yard
appropriate for raking

Women’s Business Attire Will be Compared

I told my husband about the inappropriate business attire at this meeting. We tried to think of one comparable thing a man could do during a meeting that would equal this distracting and unprofessional behavior.

We couldn’t come up with any. 

What do you think?

Am I being a bit extreme in my observation or have you seen the same things and reacted the same way?


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