Can Older Women Have Long Hair and Still Be Professional?

Glasses and long hair, originally uploaded to Flickr by Carutapera | PixelAlibi.Long hair on older women: the perennial question.  Despite our extensive oeuvre of hair-related questions here, I don’t think we’ve done this one* (and it was hotly protested among commenters in response to The Careerist’s recent diatribe against Hillary Clinton’s long hair, as well as among her own readers.  (Although looking back, we have done the “should I cut my hair for my first job” variation on the question.)

Let me begin by saying I’m biased: at 35, I have probably the longest hair I’ve had in a long time.  This is for a few reasons, I suppose:  first, the last time I did a major cut (donating 9″ to charity after my wedding), it kind of grew into a triangle shape, and now both my husband and my hairdresser protest heartily whenever I try to cut it anywhere near the top of my shoulders.  Second, it’s growing like a weed right now (which will probably change when we finish weaning). Furthermore, I look back on pictures from my early 20s to mid 20s, when my hair was at its all time shortest, and feel a sense of disconnect with that person.  So I think I’m kind of solidly in the camp of “I’m going to wear my hair long until I can’t.” (Pictured above: Glasses and long hair, originally uploaded to Flickr by Carutapera | PixelAlibi.)   [Read more...]

When is Red Lipstick Inappropriate?

red lipstick for work.indexedI often tell readers to “wait until you see a female superior wear it when an item might be questionable” — but when can you ignore that advice? Reader P has a great question:

I know that your advice is usually “know your workplace,” but is it ever okay to do something that a female superior isn’t doing? For example, I regularly wear bold red lipstick (with very minimal makeup otherwise) in my personal life. I know that I pull off the lipstick – I often get compliments on it, and I’m usually assumed to be older than I am by the way that I carry myself, lipstick or no. However, I’m the youngest in my workplace by a large margin, and most of my coworkers are either men or women significantly older than myself who tend to dress on the frumpier side.

My question is this: should one always strive to fit into the office culture? And do the circumstances change if I’m in a lower-level position and much younger than everyone else?

I think this is a great question because for me, it gets to the heart of what everyone’s wondering: what might be questionable at your office. There are some items of clothing — peep toes, bare arms, bare legs — that are so often on the “what not to wear to the office” list that I think for those items you should really wait to see what your female superiors do, because they help set the office culture. I would not put red lipstick on that list, though — and in fact I’d tell you to rock it out — so let’s explore some more.  [Read more...]

How to Edge Up a Conservative Look

how to be edgy.indexedHow can you “edge up” a conservative look (and still look professional)? Reader T wonders…

I’m in a creative field (aspiring commercial director) and recently came out of a personal branding seminar where I was given the suggestion to “edge up” my look, which I think is actually a good idea. I dress pretty polished (J. Crew, Theory) – any suggestions? I do tend towards bold shoes and bright handbags, but I think that’s not enough and need something visible from the waist up (i.e. during an interview or over coffee). I’m leaning towards always making sure I have one statement piece of jewelry – chunky ring or bib necklace – but would love to hear other suggestions, from the temporary (giving my hair a gray streak, painting one nail a different color) to the more permanent (a small tattoo on the wrist). Any suggestions for how to do this without spilling over into kooky art-teacher land?

My gut reaction here: gaaah, don’t get a tattoo! I actually think the statement piece of jewelry idea is a good one — this is one of the only times I would encourage someone to think “volume” in terms of accessories, but layered bracelets, rings, or necklaces can all have a big impact. There are lots of other ways to edge up your look in ways that are not permanent. Here are some ideas on ways to push your naturally-conservative style towards an edgier vibe: [Read more...]

Open Thread: Summer Hair Secrets

I thought it might be fun to share some of our best secrets for summer hair. For example, when my hair was straighter, I felt like I was constantly battling frizz — so I kept a container of Frizz-Ease Secret Weapon at the office and would smooth it on my locks before I left the office to meet up with friends. If Frizz-Ease was somehow unavailable, I just would take a slightly bigger amount of my hand lotion (I’m addicted to Curel) and, after moisturizing my hands, smooth the remaining amount on my hair.

I have never been a fan of blowdryers in the summertime, but especially over the past 5 years or so (as my hair has gotten curlier) I’ve been doing minimal blowdrying in the summer (sometimes just 3-5 minutes of blowdrying at the crown of my hair) and then letting the rest airdry into whatever waves or curls my hair wants to go into.  [Read more...]

Beauty Wednesday: Skincare and Aging

wrinkles - part I, originally uploaded to Flickr by kroszk@.So here’s a fun question:  how has your skincare routine changed through the years?  For the older readers, when did you notice that you needed to add a little “somethin somethin” to your routine?  Do you think particular brands matter, or is it just important to do something?  (For example: does a particular brand of eye cream work better than the others, or does your eye area just need extra moisture and any eye cream will work as long as you’re consistent?)  (Pictured:  wrinkles – part I, originally uploaded to Flickr by kroszk@.)

For my $.02:  For the most part, my skincare routine is roughly the same as it was when I first settled onto it at as a pre-teen.  Most mornings, I wash my face with Basis, and (once I’m out of the shower), I follow up with a light moisturizer with SPF in it (usually Neutrogena’s basic one sans retinols, but I’m still finishing a container of Kimberly Sayer that I bought during my pregnancy because it had proper zinc oxide instead of chemical SPF).  Things I’ve added over the years:

[Read more...]

The Professional Implications of a “Naturally Frowny Face”

A recent SNL episode featured a fictional campaign advertisement for a mayoral candidate.  The character, Glenda Okones (played by Kristen Wiig),  listed her flaws, including her reputation for being harsh and cold.  “Here’s why,” she said:  “I just have a naturally frowny face. Not ugly, but certainly severe looking.”

Ah, perfect, I thought: an opportunity to talk about bitchface.

I’ll admit: the main reason we haven’t talked about it before is because I didn’t want to use bad words in the headline of the post!  But I think this is something that can affect a professional woman’s career, and something we should talk about.

[Read more...]