As one of the "OGs" of the Society of Saleswomen, I have a unique historical perspective on how professional women have gotten where they are today.
Some style concepts are timeless, whereas others have changed radically since I began my career in 1978. I've always loved fashion. And I've come to realize that many of my tastes haven't really changed much since I was a little girl.
I still love color and unique combos like pink and orange or purple and lime green (which are my brand colors). Metallic and tie-dye appeal to me. And, as a New Yorker, I am committed to having at least 30 percent black clothes in my closet.
Comfort is key. Soft, stretchy, and easy to clean and pack win the day.
I didn't start wearing boots and hoop earrings until my teens, but they remain wardrobe staples.
I've worn glasses since I was in second grade and my collection of prescription specs and readers is now unparalleled.
But now let's talk about work clothes.
As one of the original working women of the 1980s, I was allowed in the boardroom but only if I wore a suit with big shoulder pads, nude pantyhose, and fashionable pumps. Tats? Multiple piercings? Stylish shorts in the summer? NFW!
We were allowed to play a role in business, provided we dressed the part.
A rule-bender, I always allowed my own personal style to shine through, but I subjected myself to being the subject of whispered judgment -- often from other women!
Fast forward to my life as an entrepreneur in the early 2000's...
Leaving corporate life and becoming a founder was liberating in many ways. When I embarked on my speaking career, I worked with a coach who helped me not only define what my messages would be but also how I would pack for and show up at speaking gigs.
We landed on an upscale hippie vibe (which felt totally natural to me). Irreverent, colorful, slightly provocative, and timeless are among the adjectives that define my personal brand.
It makes shopping, packing, and organizing my closet much easier.
We now live in an era where we accept more diversity of appearance.
Even LinkedIn's latest ad features a wide range of fashion vibes.
Although I still have a few different wardrobe options -- work, play, and glammy (for the occasional formal occasion or girlfriends' night out), I no longer feel constrained by a "uniform." I paint my nails teal metallic and wear my hair long.
Despite the evolution of fashion over the years, "appropriate" can still also be defined differently for men and women. A tech CEO can wear a hoodie and be considered cool, but a woman who shows up in sweats may be viewed as a slob.
The definition of "provocative" fashion is also highly subjective. As I've aged, I've discovered I can push the boundaries more and still be taken seriously as a professional. Women who are building their careers may need to be slightly more discrete in their choices in certain industries or in settings where they want people looking at their pitch deck rather than their cleavage.
When I meet with conservative clients, I may dial my look down a notch, but I'm way more confident in my style choices than I used to be."Dress to impress" is still valid. But we must also impress both others and ourselves and feel comfortable in what we put on every morning.
As a marketer, I've been trained to appeal to my audience, but as a personal brand, I must also stay true to myself. The balance between being taken seriously and allowing your own tastes and personality to shine through can be a precarious one. It definitely becomes clearer with age and experience. But you'll NEVER find me wearing nude pantyhose again!