How to Be Taken Seriously When You Look Young

looking young - body languageWhat should you do if you look young for your age, and you do all the basic things you’re supposed to in order to seem older (dress professionally, wear heels, etc.), but you still get mistaken for a college student? What more can you try to get your colleagues to take you seriously?

Reader E wonders…

I’m a college professor (outside your normal demographic, but I really enjoy the conversations here). I often am told that I look like an undergrad. I have two questions. First, how do I respond to this in a workplace setting? With a frosty “Nope, I’m actually in my mid-thirties”? With “I’m told that I’ll be grateful for it one day”? Why do people think this is an acceptable thing to say to someone? Second, how can I actually look older so that I avoid these comments and am taken more seriously? I’m short (5′), which is part of the issue, but I already wear 1-3″ heels/wedges (more would look out of place here and are not my style). I use basic makeup (tinted moisturizer/blush/mascara), wear professional and structured clothing, have nice-looking but understated jewelry (including my engagement/wedding rings), keep my wavy hair shoulder-length and mostly under control, and make an effort to speak in a lower voice. This all feels like Looking Older 101–I need the upper-level class!

Hmmmmn. Hmmmn. We’ve talked about a lot of this before — how to avoid acting young, how to lower your voice, and whether long hair makes you look younger — but it sounds like Reader E has already taken a lot of these tips. What else can be done? I’m curious to hear what the readers say, but I did come up with a few tips. I don’t think everyone needs to take these steps, but for people like Reader E, who have tried everything else and are still frustrated by people telling them they “look young,” these may be the tweaks you need to consider:

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The Next Step: Professional Clothes

workwear next stepHow to Upgrade Your Work Wardrobe | CorporetteA lot of people know where to go for inexpensive professional clothes — and then they know the brands that celebrities wear.  But the middle ground can get confusing for people — particularly, how to step up your game when it comes to fashionable workwear.  We talked a few weeks about what the next step is for furniture (based on a commenting thread a while back), and this week I thought we’d talk about the spectrum for professional clothes. (Obviously, some of these brands could fit in multiple buckets — any big disagreements, though?)  Readers, where did you shop when you started your careers — or when you need budget pieces?  What was your next step, and the step after that, and the step after that? When did you notice a big change in quality?  Am I forgetting any brands?  What are your top 3 in each bucket? 

Bucket 1: Budget Fashion

  • Dorothy Perkins
  • Express
  • H&M
  • Loft
  • Modcloth
  • New York & Co.
  • Old Navy
  • Target
  • Zara

Bucket 2: Midlevel Fashion

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Can You Wear a Sheath Dress and Jacket to an Interview?

Theory 'Betty 2' Stretch Sheath Dress | CorporetteAre you required to wear a skirt suit for an interview, or are sheath dresses acceptable? We’ve talked about interview attire (including what to wear beneath a suit jacket) before, but let’s discuss again. Here’s Reader L’s question:

I have an upcoming call back interview at a big law firm. I am a 2nd year associate. Can I wear a Theory sheath dress and jacket or do i have to wear a skirt suit? I only ask because the Theory sheath dress is wonderful, comfortable, and super professional. The internet basically says absolutely not … but this is a West Coast based firm. Any thoughts are much appreciated!

For my $.02, I think that while a skirt suit is the default conservative option, pants suits are becoming more and more acceptable — and a sheath dress with a matching blazer isn’t that far behind. A few notes on this, though:

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Where To Start When You Need Style Inspiration

Online Stylists and Inspiration | CorporetteWhere should you start when you need style inspiration? Are online stylists all out of your budget?  Reader M has a great question:

I am a 48 yr. young corporate professional / entrepreneur /contractor looking for professional, age appropriate looks. Can you suggest a website that can guide my “lack of style” sense to better purchases within a reasonable budget, too? I really need a stylist but the internet is my next best option. I tend to like www.marieforleo.com and www.giulianarancic.com clothing but I am a size 16 (working on this part) and 5′ 3′ (wish it could change :) … two big issues… and oh yea, no heels for me. Thanks in advance for any help you can offer. I would love to find the info I seek here.

Great question, M! We’ve talked about some of the best personal style blogs before, as well as personal shoppers, but we’ve never quite done a post on stylists, or where to start for style inspiration.  (M, you may also want to check out our post on how to look professional in flats when that’s all you wear.)  I’m curious to hear what readers say!  A few notes:

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The Hunt: Strappy Pumps

The Best Strappy Pumps To Wear With Tights | CorporetteSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

As we approach tights weather, I thought it might be fun to round up some strappy pumps (see also our roundup of t-strap pumps).  Although boots and booties are much more acceptable to wear with tights than they used to be (just for kicks take a look at our 2010 poll on peep-toe booties), the most conservative option is still, I think, pumps or flats, whether with straps or without.  So without further ado… readers, what are your favorite shoes to wear with tights?  Have you made any killer purchases recently (or classics that are still available) that go the distance in terms of comfort and style?

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Fun But Professional Patterns and Colors

Fun but Professional Patterns and Colors | CorporetteCan fun colors and patterns ever be professional? Reader S wonders:

The only black piece of clothing I have is one blazer and I don’t have a single white thing. You could find me in a floral skirts with striped tops, long bright dresses, and when I occasionally wear jeans, I always pair them with shirts and blazers. My favorite patterns are stripes and florals, favorite colors are purple, red, orange. Can this ever be professional? I feel very uncomfortable in black and would hate to give up my favorite pieces. The field where I hope to find a job is business causal.

Great question, S! We’ve talked about how to start wearing prints, as well as how to mix prints — but not in a long while (other than this brief mention in our post on how to shop your closet and Play Clothes). So let’s talk about it. First: I don’t think there is anything inherently unprofessional about prints, colors, and patterns — indeed, some of the most adventurous dressers, who mixed prints and patterns in the boldest ways, are some of the male partners I knew at my old law firm.  The easy advice here is that it’s very, very easy to throw on a solid cardigan or blazer that picks up one of the colors in your print, throw it on with a neutral trouser or skirt, and go to work.  But let’s have a bit more fun with it…

Fun but Professional Patterns and Colors | Corporette

Layer multiple patterns and anchor them with a solid piece, either in a neutral (black or white) or a color from one of the prints. (Check out our new Professional Prints board on Pinterest to see the pictures bigger, and click through for the sources.)

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