When Do Girly Clothes Become Unprofessional?

dressing-too-girlyIf you wear girly clothes, will you be seen as less of a professional? Reader A wonders…

I recently parted ways with a company where I was being micromanaged, like my boss didn’t trust me to do anything without his help and supervision. He never said why, but he kept treating me like some incompetent child. At the same time, I’m really into mid-century fashion, and I would wear really girly things that wouldn’t really been seen in most traditional offices – polka dots, shades of pink, lacy headbands, and even bows. I knew it was unorthodox and I may get some weird looks, but in hindsight I’m wondering if my clothing made my manager see me as a little girl, and maybe that’s why he wasn’t taking me seriously as a young professional. Do you think there was any connection between my fashion choices and my boss’s micromanagement?

Yowza. Ok. We’ve talked before about being feminine, as well as wearing vintage to the office, but we haven’t really discussed how going Extremely Girly affects how colleagues perceive you.  I do think  A few thoughts:

  • In general, wearing the occasional girly item is OK.  For example, something pink or polka-dotted will not make you seem like less of a professional, particularly if you otherwise act like a grown-up. Similarly, a bow here or there is fine, provided you don’t look like a present waiting to be unwrapped.  Personally I’m not a huge fan of headbands, but I think that sedate ones (solid ones, if not ones that match your hair color) are occasionally OK at work.
  • That said, it’s a bad idea to wear very girly things exclusively — Elle Woods was comical because she wore pink ALL THE TIME.  [Read more…]

How to Lower Your Voice

how to lower your voiceHave you ever thought you should deepen your voice (and make it louder) to be taken more seriously? Reader G has a great suggestion for a topic …

I’m in my mid-thirties and had to work hard early in my career to be taken seriously. A big component of that is consciously “aging” my voice, so that I don’t sound 12. I frequently speak publicly for my job, and have found that the engagements where I was a bit hoarse are the ones where I feel that I was taken the most seriously. I have seen other ladies in the same position–they talk normally all the time and its like birds chirping, they get hoarse from too many late nights of prep work, and all of a sudden have gravitas.

YES. Yes, yes, yes. I always feel like I need to deepen my voice — significantly — in order to be taken seriously. On average, every time I’ve recorded an “out of the office” message I’ve done about fifteen takes (oh, how I hate having to do it for a two-day vacation!), and I definitely think about it before I leave voicemails with people. In fact, I’ve been editing some family movies lately (using Pinnacle on my iPad, and loving it, FWIW) and it’s kind of shocking to hear my natural voice with my husband and son because I sound like I’m twelve. They’re my family, I shouldn’t have to lower my voice for them, but it’s just odd compared to all of the other times I’ve heard my voice lately, such as for Corporette videos or whatnot.  [Read more…]

OMG, LOL!!! How to Convey Tone In Email Without Seeming Childish

How do you convey tone in email without seeming childish or girlish?  Can you ever use exclamations in emails?  Reader C wonders…

I’m hoping you can address the issue of using !’s in emails at work. As we all know, tone is hard to convey properly via email. However, whenever I am inclined to use an ! to convey a positive tone, I get the sense that it actually reads as childish or immature. I also never seem to notice men using !’s in emails, either…. I’d love to hear yours and others thoughts on this!

Outstanding question, and I can’t wait to hear what readers say.  A lot has been written about overuse of exclamations in emails — with some people even suggesting that one exclamation mark per email is a good rule to follow.  There’s even an app to help you check the tone of your email!  My best general advice is that abbreviations, multiple punctuation marks (!!!), and overly casual phrases (“amazeballs!”) have no place in professional emails.   Beyond that, I think a lot of this depends on why you want to use a positive tone.  For example: [Read more…]

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…]

How to Dress Professionally with a Bubble Butt

Are *any* curves appropriate in the office? Reader L worries about her self-described “bubble butt:”

You’ve covered dressing with curves at least twice before (how to dress professionally if you’re busty and whether curvy girls can wear sheath dresses), but I’d love to hear you and my fellow readers weigh in on a curve that wasn’t mentioned in either post: the curve from lower back to tush.

I’m a 4 top/ 8 bottom and have a small bust, but I have a significant bubble butt. My waist looks pretty straight from the front but very, very curved from the side. When I wear shirts tucked in, I’m afraid that the curve from my back to my butt looks too suggestive.

I’m tired of feeling obligated to always cover my waist with a jacket or cardigan. Am I just too paranoid?

Well. Of course, looking around the web, there is lots of advice on how to minimize a big butt — wear bootcut pants! wear dresses! wear tops that end at your hipbone instead of your natural waist! make your shoulders seem broader by wearing boatnecks!  Here on Corporette we’ve also given suggestions for how to dress professionally when your top and bottom are two very different sizes. I have a few opinions here, but I’m curious to hear what the readers say.  (And of course, sometimes curves are great — Tyra Banks considers the “booty tooch” up there with smizing.) [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…]