Five Reasons Why You Need an Image Consultant

Business group portraitEvery so often, it is useful to take a good, long look in the mirror and to ask ourselves whether our image needs an update. However, this can be a daunting task to undertake all on one’s own – especially if we cannot pinpoint exactly how to go about revising a “look.”

This is a great opportunity to enlist an image consultant for assistance. An image consultant can help you to identify the elements of your image in need of improvement, and can give you the tools to care for and improve your image in the future.

Here are five issues you might identify with your image – and five great reasons why you might need to hire an image consultant.

  • My attire doesn’t feel appropriate for my workplace.
    Perhaps you have just started a new position in an office with a different corporate culture than your previous workplace. Or, you may have climbed the corporate ladder to a higher-level position. Whatever the reason, it can be uncomfortable to feel like your wardrobe does not adhere to your workplace standards.

    An image consultant can help you to find wardrobe pieces that fit within your office culture, and can also indicate for which occasions you should dress up a notch. She or he can also identify pieces that can easily transition between business casual and business attire.

  • My clothes don’t seem to fit right.
    No matter how put-together an outfit may look, if it does not fit appropriately on your body it simply will not look professional. Cut and fit matter as much as colour, style and coordination.

    An image consultant not only can help you to find pieces that fit properly, but also can identify which styles and cuts can be the most flattering for your body type. After all, feeling comfortable and confident in clothing contributes to overall presence.

  • I can’t determine which colours match or which colours go best with my skin tone.
    Clothing colour makes a huge difference in your attire. Clothing colour can project a bold or muted statement, and mismatched colours can send the wrong impression. In addition, clothing colour can be highly personalized: each skin tone matches a unique and individual colour palette.

    While it can be difficult to zero in on which colours match your skin tone and personality, the highly trained eye of an image consultant can help you to locate a palette that speaks to your personality and complements your skin and hair.

  • My hair and makeup need a retouch.
    Did you know that wearing makeup could make you appear more competent? According to a Proctor & Gamble study, makeup increases perceptions of a woman’s likability, competence and trustworthiness in the workplace. Of course, too much makeup can have the opposite effect, so there is a fine line between looking presentable and looking over-the-top.

    An image consultant can help you to locate the tools and techniques for office-ready makeup, and can also advise on grooming to ensure that you project a polished look.

  • I have trouble adjusting my wardrobe for the seasons.
    Here in Toronto, we go between extremes when the seasons change – from blazing heat in the summer to sub-zero temperatures in the winter. Of course, for each season we need an entirely different wardrobe to dress appropriately for the weather.

    An image consultant can help you find clothing choices that not only will accommodate the fluctuating temperatures, but also will look professional for work life. From finding an appropriate length and cut of dress in the summer, to finding hearty yet well-tailored winter gear, an image consultant can advise on any season.

At Corporate Class Inc., we offer Personal Image Enhancement for men and women as half-day, full-day or two-day trainings, as well as individual consultations. Contact us today to learn more about our programs.

For an inside look on the image consulting process that our clients experience, click here for the blog series A Personal Journey. In this 10-part series, we observe Liz, a young Corporate Class Inc. client, on her personal journey through our image enhancement programme to her ultimate destination: developing her own look of success.

 

Beat the Heat with Professional Style

Summer dress for officeSummer brings heat, humidity and the occasional thunderstorm. Most of the time, we are sheltered from the elements in our offices, and the air conditioning – not to mention professional environment – keeps us from dressing like we’re headed to the beach.

But for the times when we find ourselves at the company barbecue, an outdoor cocktail party, or when we simply want to look put-together when out and about – we’ve got to dress smart to beat the heat. Here are a few style tips that accommodate the summer weather without compromising a professional look.

 

Attire

  • The linen suit is a classic summer option for both formal affairs and everyday elegance. The white colour exudes summer freshness, but the fabric makes all the difference: you will feel a noticeable difference from a wool suit. This is a go-to for both men and women; women could wear either slacks or a skirt as a bottom piece.
  • A professional summer dress “don’t”: Don’t choose breezy maxi dresses or beach cover-up that you would wear over a swimsuit, as comfortable as it may be. That said, you can still find comfort in a more formal dress; opt for capped sleeves instead of a thin-strapped dress to keep cool. This placed leaf print dress from Loft has a modest boatneck, capped sleeves and a tailored fit, but the short sleeves and unique leaf print make it a great choice for summer.
  • For blouses, again, do not go for thin-strapped, slinky tank tops or trendy transparent blouses. A slightly oversized long-sleeved linen shirt will keep you surprisingly cool – and will protect you from the sun – worn with fitted or tailored pants. Or, try a classic button-up shirt with a twist: short sleeves instead of long, like this J. Crew striped silk short-sleeved shirt.

Shoes

  • If you choose sandals to complete your professional outfit, make sure they are not rubber or plastic and are not generally found by the pool or in the locker room – in other words, don’t go for flip flops. There is a range of sandals, from materials like leather and suede to styles like heels or flats that could make a better statement.
  • Heels generally are a good option because their style keeps feet exposed to the open air. The last thing you want is a foot that cannot breathe: it will make your whole body feel more uncomfortable. For extra breathability, choose heels with a peep toe.
  • Certain flats are made for summer; for example, ballet flats made with open leather cross-hatching couldn’t be worn in any other season – at least not in most of Canada.

A fresh face

  • When temperatures climb, sweat hits the brow within moments of leaving the office. Keep it at bay (or at least unnoticeable) with smart makeup choices. An expert panel reviews the best makeup brands for summer sweat, with general recommendations such as choosing waterproof mascara and eyeliner, and opting for cream eyeshadow instead of powder.
  • Do not forget to put on sunscreen! Even minutes under the sun can do damage; keep your skin safe and looking radiant. If the traditional thick cream format makes you avoid sunscreen altogether, try a sunscreen mist, like Hampton Sun’s broad spectrum UVA/UVB mist.

Summer is a wonderful time to be outside and soak up the sun and fresh air. When it comes to looking professional in summer weather, you don’t have to sacrifice comfort: a few simple wardrobe adjustments will help you manage – and enjoy – the heat!

“How do I look?” – The Value of a Second Opinion

When we go shopping, many of us bring along a friend or two to weigh in on our fashion choices, to provide a second look at a flattering (or not) pair of pants, or simply to say “yes” or “no” when we try on an outfit. Like a friend tagging along on a shopping trip, an image consultant similarly can offer a second opinion on fashion choices – but this professional opinion can give you so much more, including an edge in the workplace.

An image consultant not only can tell you whether your outfit looks good, but also if it is appropriate for your corporate culture and whether it is the best choice for your body. An image consultant can also help you determine which professional clothes fit your personal style and your budget. Most importantly, an image consultant can help you dress for success. At Corporate Class Inc., we offer unique Personal Image Enhancement services for both women and men that cater to the individual’s needs alone. How can you benefit from image consulting?

Dressing for Success in the Right Context
Professional image consulting does not mean selecting only formal business suits. We can help you determine the best outfit choices based on the corporate culture of your office: whether you work in a business casual or business formal environment, subtle details in your dress can set you apart – for better or for worse.

In addition to your office culture, we’ll help you to accommodate all the needs of your professional schedule year-round, from the high-pressure presentations and board meetings to casual Fridays and staff picnics.

Flatter Your Body
It’s not what you wear but how you wear it: this is never truer than in a professional setting. A presenter in a well-fitted suit can capture you with the force of his or her words, but someone onstage swimming in a baggy suit or squeezed into something too tight can be distracting from the content of their presentation.

Not only can we help you choose a wardrobe that fits your personal body type, but also give you the tools to know what types of cut and fabric to buy in the future, and to determine if and what kind of alterations a suit or outfit may need.

Colour, texture, print, and weight of a fabric all come in to play here too: each of these elements works with the individual’s body and skin tone, as well as in the context of place and season. We will show you what works together, what doesn’t, and namely, what works for you.

The Full Package: Not Just Clothes
Dressing for success isn’t just about wearing a good outfit. It’s about constructing an entire, unified image that makes you feel confident and look poised. For women, this includes hair grooming and style, hair colour, and makeup. Again, we help you find the right colours and types of makeup for you, then ensure that you can properly apply it on your own.

For men and women, we help you determine the habits of proper grooming, choosing flattering eyewear, and matching with appropriate accessories – all of which contribute to the overall success of your look.

All about YOU
Do not assume that image consulting will limit you to a single set of grey or black suits and will stifle your self-expression. Our unique approach to image enhancement works in conjunction with your personal style, so that your own fashion sense and style choices will be reflected in your professional attire.

Not only do we consider your style, but also what fits into your budget. In setting you up for success, we do so in a sustainable way that will help you make fashion choices that align with your financial ones, too.

Developing your professional image will give you confidence in the workplace and will allow you to present your best self to clients, partners, and colleagues. Our approach to image consulting will give you a foundational wardrobe, as well as the tools to make choices and determine the best look for you in the future. Are you ready to step up your image in the workplace?

Learn about what’s involved by reading our personal journey blog series:
Introduction
• Style Analysis
 Colour Analysis
• Wardrobe Planning
• Shopping: Step 1
 Shopping: Step 2
• Shopping: Glasses
• Hair
• Make-up
• Grand Finale

Entrepreneurs, Consultants and Those Who Pursued a Professional Dream: Why Do You Love What You Do?

For entrepreneurs choosing to follow their professional passion, starting a business from the ground up can be risky and daunting. Yet pure excitement and enthusiasm combined with experience from previous jobs can help to jump-start a business. The key to maintaining a successful business is to continue to grow and develop skills and offerings in new and unique ways.

How did you get into your business? Why do you love what you do? There are many reasons – and benefits – to transitioning careers in mid-life and going out on a limb for your own entrepreneurial pursuits.

You know your passion – and your objectives.
It can take years to define your career passions and what is important to you. Once you have an idea of your long-term goals, it is easier to turn these into concrete objectives. Your years of experience in another profession can help to shape and guide these plans.

You have experience and skills to support you.
Not only can your initial career path help you to determine your overarching career goals, it can also give you a strong foundation of professional skills and experience. Skills you have used previously in other career contexts can be surprisingly interchangeable and universal.

You define your professional future.
In your own business venture, you can steer the company in the direction you want it to go. You have the flexibility to grow – and to determine how much and where it will grow; you also have control over the product, concept and look of your business.

Once your business is up and running, passion for the job and a serious work ethic will keep you at a steady pace. But a successful entrepreneur also must expand and develop; proactively learning and seeking new ways to grow is also then key.

 

A corporate training program can revitalize your brand and vastly enrich your material. Corporate Class Inc.’s Executive Presence License Program, developed and taught by image and professional development expert Diane Craig, is a gold standard for executive training.

For personal and professional development consultants and coaches, or for those ready to launch their own consulting businesses, the Executive Presence License Program includes a robust package of materials and techniques that will either further expand your existing program or help to build the foundations of a new venture:

-       Learn how to have a recognizable brand to fuel marketing

-       Connect with people in the organizations you want to work with, break into the corporate world, and do business with Fortune 500 companies

-       Build Executive Presence program material, including:

  • Executive Presence System Participant Manual
  • Executive Presence System Trainer’s Guide
  • Slides, downloadable Executive Dining Etiquette program, access to self-assessment tool and STEP profile, and more (includes all exercises developed by Corporate Class Inc.)
  • And more

-       Train for over 50 hours with Diane Craig, with the opportunity to be privately coached by Diane on a monthly basis

Passion for your profession is what helps to get your venture off the ground. Now, allow your business to thrive by becoming a licensed expert!

 

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It’s Not Just What You Wear, It’s How You Wear It

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As much as having a sense of style and knowledge of the latest fashions can help you look great, the reality is that it’s not just what you wear – it’s how you wear it that creates your best image. Many years ago I presented regularly on The Art of Accessorizing.  When it came to hats, many women said they couldn’t wear a hat.  I always believed that we all can wear a hat.  You have to find the one that suits your face shape, height, personality and wear it with the right “Hattitude”.  If you think you look silly in it, you will walk awkwardly and indeed look silly.  Wear it with confidence!

What determines an image goes far beyond the clothes themselves; the cut, fit, and colour of your clothes, as well as complementary accessories all contribute to how you appear. No matter if you are wearing a stunning designer dress, if it is two sizes too small or paired with mismatched accessories, your image will not reach its full potential. So how can you make your clothing choices work for you?


Fit and Cut of Clothing

Every body is different – and so a suit that looks perfect on a mannequin might not be the best cut for you. It is important both to know how a suit or dress should fit, as well as to know your own body type.

First, for standard business suits: any suit jacket should feel comfortable while both standing and sitting, as well as when you reach your hands over your head, without extra tightness or sagging. The shoulder of the jacket should lie straight; straining indicates the jacket is too small. The sleeves should fall to the top of your hands when arms are at rest.

Suit bottoms, whether pants or skirt, should allow you to fit your finger between the waistband and your body. When trying on suit bottoms, make sure to walk around and try sitting, so that all movements are comfortable and flexible. No suit bottoms should feel too tight when you sit down.

If your work environment allows your clothing options to extend beyond the standard suit, pay extra attention to your body type and what cuts and types of fabrics best fit your shape. For example, for women with wider hips might choose high-waisted pants as bottoms, as they emphasize a slimmer waist instead of the hips. Real Simple’s article “The Right Clothes for Your Body Type” is an excellent resource, as it addresses four common shapes for women and features tips on clothing choices from fashion gurus Isaac Mizrahi, Simon Kneen and Bridgette Raes.


Clothing Colour

Clothing colours can make (or break) an outfit, and colour choices are especially important to consider in business, when you want to dress appropriately professional for your surroundings.

For business attire, your outfit should be limited to around three colours, using a standard solid and neutral colour such as black, navy, beige or grey as a foundation. It is certainly acceptable to have a bright colour as part of your outfit, but too much colour or an overly vibrant combination can be distracting, and can detract from an image of professionalism. Add a splash of colour to a business outfit with a subtler component, such as a scarf or a blouse under a suit jacket. This will allow you to give your outfit a bit of flair without being too flashy.


Accessories

Colour choice is again important when choosing accessories. Accessories should complement the colours of your outfit; similarly, they should go well with each other (for example, matching your shoes and jewellery will create a harmonious colour balance in the outfit). As mentioned above, well-chosen accessories can let you incorporate your personality into professional attire – a bold red bracelet will brighten your whole outfit. That said, limit the amount of colour in accessories: don’t mix the red bracelet with a sunny yellow scarf, for example.

Accessories should also follow a professional style code. Choose accessories that are tasteful. In most circumstances jewellery should be minimal and elegant, instead of dangling or sparkly costume jewellery. (You may find an occasion such as the office holiday party to bring out a glitzy necklace, however!) Likewise, a purse can be sleek and stylish yet professional when it is a reasonable size and a subtle pattern – shy away from oversized totes and metallic purses when composing a professional outfit.

The bottom line is, though a dress may seems fabulous on its own pulled right from the store rack, it’s important to remember all the elements that build a great look so you can maximize your presence!

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Hats and Fascinators: Style and Etiquette Tips

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Once a wardrobe staple for men and women alike, hats and fascinators have become less of an everyday accoutrement and more of an occasional accessory. But when you know when and how to wear them, they can make for a creative yet classic addition to an outfit. And such headpieces are certainly still present on special occasions, especially more formal and traditional affairs – just look at the extraordinary display of hats and fascinators during last year’s marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, or the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee just a few days ago. If you need inspiration from the royals themselves, take a look at this slideshow of the Queen’s hats spanning her monarchy, courtesy of Vanity Fair.

 

Style Guide

If you’re not used to donning a hat daily, it can be hard to determine how to incorporate it into your outfit and appropriately balance it with your other accessories. Here are a few tips to make it work:

  • A hat’s colour should be lighter than or the same colour as your outfit.
  • Earrings and a neat hairstyle are a must. The hat or the hair should frame the face, but not both.
  • Button-style or stud earrings are preferable with a hat; dangly earrings are too much and risk detracting from the total look.
  • When trying on a hat, always observe it from the front and the sides, to ensure that it is not too large for you.
  • Put a hat on from front to back.
  • Almost everyone can wear a hat! If you are not used to it, it may feel awkward at first – but wear a hat with the right “Hattitude”: walk tall and beautifully!

Another staple headpiece for women is the fascinator. Less weight than a full hat, yet can still be the eye-catching centerpiece of an outfit, the fascinator is a timeless accessory. It certainly has found its place in current fashion; contemporary designers and milliners use materials from lace, feathers, wool, beads, even straw – anything to create an imaginative and original headpiece. When I spoke at the Rostie Group’s 2012 High Tea this June, all the ladies were sporting either a hat or a fascinator. I also wore my favourite fascinator, compliments of the Necessities shop in Toronto, which I bought originally for an evening soiree. Besides its captivating look, the beauty of a fascinator lies in its versatility: they can be worn during an afternoon tea, an elegant evening party, a morning ceremony – nearly any formal occasion that merits a dashing headpiece to match.

 

Etiquette Guide

Hat etiquette for men and women vary greatly. There is also some debate about best practices for men’s hat etiquette in current times; for example, it is no longer considered necessary to for a man to remove his hat in the presence of women. Still, some hat-wearing guidelines remain relevant:

For Men

  • No hats of any kind should be worn at the dinner table, whether at home or in a restaurant. (At a restaurant, ask the host or server where to temporarily store a hat, if there is not hat rack.)
  • Excluding hats worn for religious purposes, hats should be removed as signs of respect during national anthems, the passing of funeral processions and flag-raisings.
  • Hats can be kept on indoors in larger public common spaces, such as a lobby or elevator.

For Women

  • If the hat is small and worn as a complementary accessory, it can be kept on during dinner. However, if it is a functional hat worn for outdoors, remove the hat once inside a restaurant or home.
  • Wide-brimmed hats should only be worn outside, not inside during dinner or events – mostly for the practical reason that you could block the view of a fellow patron during a movie or show.
  • Hats do not accompany formal evening gowns.
  • Women should remove their hats while at work in an office.

If you’re just beginning to integrate hats into your attire, perhaps the eccentric hats and fascinators worn by Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice at the royal wedding last year may not be the first place to look for inspiration. Instead, check out Style.com’s hats from the 2012 runway. The selection ranges from colourful to classic to contemporary – something for everyone!

 

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Get a Wardrobe Consultation and Save $131,809.89 in Your Lifetime

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Did you know that the “average woman” buys 3,109 pieces of shoes, dresses and bags over the years?

The numbers average out to 185 dresses, 271 pairs of shoes and a whopping 145 bags.

A recent study endorsed by Sure Women in Britain revealed that even though women speand on average a whopping 83,498 pounds (131,809.89 Canadian dollars as of today) on their wardrobe in their lifetime, almost sixty percent of women say they “struggle to find something to wear for a night out.”

Here’s a break up of where some of the money goes:

“The figures reveal that in a bid to follow ever-changing fashion trends the average female buys a wardrobe-busting 3,109 items.”

Footwear (most expensive): 13,898 GPB (21,935.51 CAD)
Bags: 5,420 GBP (8,553.92 CAD)
Jeans: 5,905 GBP (9,319.35 CAD)
Dresses: 7,699 GBP (12,149.96 CAD)

Here are some other things the study revealed as published in the Times:

The research, commissioned by Sure Women, also revealed that 14 percent hide purchases from their partners and one in ten end up buying at least one item of clothing a week in their lunch break to wear after work.

It also revealed that 41 per cent women re-apply make-up five times a day.

“Women never seem to have enough clothes. Many feel the pressure to keep up with ever-changing fashions and this means they’re always buying something new,” the Mirror quoted ‘Sure’ spokeswoman Julie Spearman as saying.

“Outfits may only be worn once or twice before they’re replaced. It’s incredible to think we spend so much on clothes, but it seems it’s a price we’re willing to pay to look good,” she added.

Whether you’re British, Canadian or American, I think it’s safe to say that women all over the world share a love for clothing and looking their best.

Whether you need a complete wardrobe for your office or your personal life a wardrobe consultation can be worth it’s weight in gold to understand the colours and styles that work for you and how to cut the budget and buy clothes you actually look good in.

A wardrobe consultation will save you from spending thousands on clothes that don’t suit your personality, and in fact may hinder building your executive presence which is a must for getting ahead at work.

If you want to enhance your executive image, contact Diane for customized private sessions of Personal Image Enhancement for Women or Personal Image Enhancement for Men today!

 

The Fundamentals of Style: What We Can Learn from AMC’s Mad Men

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As AMC’s Mad Men concludes its latest season, the show has now spanned five years from the early to mid-1960’s – and five seasons of sleek 60’s fashions in the boardroom and out. Even though the employees of Mad Men’s feature ad agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce have much to learn about business etiquette, the office style is certainly on pointe. The men and women of Mad Men all have distinctive and varied tastes, yet each character seems to master the basic fundamentals of a great outfit. Here are a few style tips from Mad Men that go beyond the 1960’s setting of the show – and that you can take back to the office.

 

The Men: Don Draper, Roger Sterling

As the men of the ad agency stride through its halls and on the streets of Manhattan, their sleek suits paired with their confidence contribute to their suaveness and authority. Though the outfit looks effortless, there are many details to consider to make a simple suit look its finest:

Cut and Fit of a Suit.

Much of the polished look of the ad men comes from the cut and fit of their suits: each character wears his suit tailored to a perfect fit. The sleeves rest just at the base of the thumb; there is no excess fabric at the bottom of the trousers or in the suit jacket.

A tip from Mad Men’s costume designer Janie Bryant to men shopping for suits: Keep trying suits smaller and smaller (often smaller than you think!) until you get the perfect fit.

The Subtle Elements.

The finer details truly complete the outfit. Don Draper would never leave home without his pocket square, watch, cufflinks, tie clip, hat, and of course, a great tie. Investing in high-quality yet simple accessories is a great idea for the well-dressed businessman: a pair of fine, basic cufflinks or a classic watch will never go out of style.

Be Prepared to Look Fresh.

The ad men always sport a crisp, white shirt under their suit jackets. So how do those shirts stay so sharp? Cut to a scene of Don Draper reaching for a fresh white shirt from a stack in his desk drawer. This is where the motto “be prepared” comes in handy – especially if you need to make a smooth transition from a long day at the office to an evening out on the town.

 

The Women: Joan Harris, Peggy Olson, Betty Francis

Even under moments of extreme pressure, the women of Mad Men seem to be nearly always put-together. Like their male counterparts, the harmony of their looks lies in the details and the versatility between different contexts.


I
f the dress fits, wear it.
For both men and women, how your clothes fit is a major influence on how they look. AMC costume designer Janie Bryant notes that what makes Joan Harris such a Mad Men style icon is how her clothes work for her: “I always saw [Joan] as a character who knew what shapes work for her body.”

(View the full interview with Janie Bryant here.)


Don’t forget your overcoat.
The women’s mod 1960’s outfits look great inside the boardroom. But when they travel outside in the chilly Manhattan fall or winter, they pay close attention to their outwear, too. A fine hat is essential, paired with tailored gloves and a trim overcoat of wool or another fine yet heavy fabric.

On light weather days, Betty can be seen with a silk scarf over her trench coat and leather driving gloves.


Marry form with function.

Office manager Joan Harris nearly always appears with her signature long necklace with a gold pen attached. The delicate gold chain adds elegance to her outfit, and this Women’s Day article notes its ability to make one look taller and slimmer by creating a vertical line down the body. Yet the same necklace never fails to come in handy when it’s time to take notes at a partners meeting.

To be sure, the partners of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce have a lot to learn about treating their employees equally and with respect – perhaps they might benefit from a business etiquette seminar? Nevertheless, the characters of Mad Men never fail to look suave and confident – a credit to their mastery of the fundamental elements of style!

 

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Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Three Top Professional Shoe Styles

Shoes can make or break an outfit. They can also have a huge impact on your professional presence: a sleek pair of heels can construct an image of sophistication and authority; alternatively, donning a pair of worn sneakers or overarching stilettos can make you look unprofessional and invite colleagues or clients to take you less seriously. Additionally, as footwear greatly influences mobility and comfort, executive women must choose their shoes wisely. Outlined here are three top styles for professional shoe choices – and tips on how to make them work for you.

Pumps
Pumps are a classic high-heeled choice for executive women. Often they go best matched with the colour of a woman’s suit, though coordinating colours with another prominent accessory, such as a purse, also works well. In a professional setting, pumps are generally the highest heel appropriate: extremely high heeled shoes like stilettos risk looking too flashy in the office, not to mention can be very uncomfortable when worn all day.

An example of a sophisticated yet simple pump is one from Gianvito Rossi’s spring 2012 collection (see image), courtesy of the Harper’s Bazaar article “12 Perfect Spring Pumps.”

Kitten Heels
This low-heeled shoe, popular in the 1950’s and 60’s, has been revived in the last few years on runways and in the boardroom. Many credit this style return to Michelle Obama, who at 6 feet tall chooses a lower heel, so that she does not tower over whomever she stands near. (See this previous Look of Success blog post for more on what you can learn from the First Lady’s professional clothing choices.)

The kitten heel is certainly the best option for tall women who do not want to add extra height yet seek the formality of heels. It is also an ideal heel for women who, like Mrs. Obama, must spend long hours on their feet.

Flats
If you work in a business casual office where heels are not a daily requirement, ballet flats are an excellent alternative – just stick to the more polished versions that project professionalism. A recent article from Bloomberg Businessweek depicts “The Season’s Best Ballet Flats” that are at once office-ready, comfortable and warm-weather appropriate. J. Crew’s Ballet Boutique also speaks to the popularity of ballet flats while providing a spectrum of colours and styles within the ballet genre. Like heels, flats can pair with both slacks and skirts.

If comfort remains an issue but you can’t bear the idea of parting with high heels, check out this blog post on Canadian designer Ron White and his All Day Heels® shoe – which has proven to be a top choice for both celebrities and politicians on their feet in prominent places. Remember, the key to the best executive footwear is finding a balance between professionalism, comfort and style!

 

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Dressing for Success, Not for the Beach: Professional Summer Attire


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Summer is just around the corner, and cities across the country have already benefitted from a preview of what’s to come: sunny skies, blooming flowers, and unusually warm days. Once the temperatures start to climb, many of us are inclined to bring out our favourite sandals and sundresses, in preparation for spending as much time as possible outdoors. Caution: while breezy tank tops and flip-flops are appropriate for the beach and the park, they should not be worn to the office. Business attire is still the protocol for corporate and professional settings, even when the heat is on and we are tempted to shed layers. Here are some do’s and don’ts for summer attire in the office, with a few tips to keeping cool – even when looking your professional best.

Office-appropriate summer footwear can be tricky, because different corporate cultures have varying expectations. In some business-casual offices, elegant and simple sandals or peep-toe pumps are permitted. If this is the case, before breaking out the open-toed shoes, make sure that your feet are sandal-ready (a pedicure may be in order!). Flip-flops are never appropriate in the office; these should be left as beachwear only. For corporate or professional settings that require more formal dress, sandals of any kind should not be worn. Sling-back pumps are a great option that allow for more breathing room, while maintaining a tasteful style. You can also wear sandals or casual shoes on your way to and from the office, as long as you have a pair of pumps or closed-toe ballet flats waiting for you when you arrive.

In terms of attire, dressing in light colours and materials is key. For tops, stick to cotton or linen shirts: a crisp, white shirt keeps cool in summer and is a classic option. Blazers or jackets are also made in summer-friendly materials: linen or seersucker for both men and women provide a lighter alternative than a wool blazer. Or, a standard navy blazer over a white shirt also allows for a fresh look. Short-sleeve or three-quarter-length sleeve dresses in a lightweight material make for a comfortable alternative; if you choose a sleeveless or thin-strapped dress, a cardigan or light blazer would be necessary to cover bare shoulders.

With regard to bottoms, khaki pants or dress pants made from a lighter material are reliable options. Skirts should still maintain a modest cut around the knee, but switching up a more breathable fabric in lieu of a wool skirt will help to keep cool. The question of whether pantyhose is necessary in summer is again subjective to varying office cultures and different levels of attire: however, as stockings are the norm year-round in business formal and as well as in some business casual settings, I would recommend continuing to pair tights with skirts – opting for the sheerest and lightest versions in the hotter months. In any professional context, denim and cutoff shorts are inappropriate, though in more casual environments, well tailored Bermuda shorts or Capri pants are acceptable.

Luckily, air-conditioned offices during the summertime make it more comfortable to don standard suits and jackets when necessary. The trick is finding an easy transition and balance between professional attire and breezy summer fashion. And if you’re going to head to the beach right after work, bring your flip-flops, swimsuit, and beachwear in a tote to change into – after hours!

 

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