Making the right clothing choices

One of the most inspiring lines for me from the movie, The Help, is “you is kind, you is smart, you is important”. The grammatical errors are easily forgiven in the light of this definitive truth.

Ultimately, this belief should be at the core of every woman – irrespective of what you are going through, you are important. You are beautiful! You are more than enough.

With this in mind, you can be free in expressing your true self through what you wear.  Be free and express yourself! So this brings us to the question of what to wear?

Well, that depends on the following:

  • The occasion
  • Your body type
  • The desired impression
  • The industry and position you’re in
  • Your age
The occasion

Where are you off to? A hot date? A wedding? Coktails after work? A smart-casual dinner or a board-meeting, interview or a family affair?

Each occasion has pre-defined style boundaries i.e. It’s not okay, on any level, to wear a t-shirt and jeans to a board meeting, even if your hair and make-up is flawless. It’s not okay to wear a ballgown to an interview. Well, unless the interview is an audition for a period piece. A black-tie event calls for formal dresses and not a cocktail dress.

These may be extreme and ridiculous examples but at least I have your attention. Being an individual is okay, but do respect the host and abide by their dress code request.

The desired impression

What message are your trying to get across? What do you want your clothes to say?

  • I am conservative and professional.
  • I am laid back and relaxed.
  • I’m a driven and ambitious working woman with no time for nonsense.
  • I’m free-spirit and will try anything once.

Remember that everything about you says something about you. This principle rings true for areas of businessand dating, to name a few! You may find that your personal and business personas differ. That’s completely normal, but a split-personality in style may cause confusion in your work relationships, so consider if this is acceptable or potentially detrimental to your growth in business.

The industry and position you’re in

Whereas an art director or graphic designer is seen as creative and independent if she has tattoos and edgy hair-cuts, a corporate business woman covered in tats with one side of her head shaved won’t be revered as much. Or at all? Wiggling around in a tight dress and heels at a construction site won’t give you the credibility you’re looking for – although yes, you will be discussed.

Generally a good indicator is to look at what the CEO is wearing. Although, do consider that they are looking the part of the CEO because, well, they are the CEO. If you’re a junior assistant in the IT department, walking around in a suit and tie will merely come across as pretentious, or that you don’t understand your role or position.

Your body type 


Take your vertical proportions into account. You may be short but have longer legs with a shorter torso, or a long torso and shorter legs. Or you may be tall but with a long torso and shorter legs. There are so many body type combinations.

Your horizontal proportions account for a lot as well. Are you a pear or triangle shape, round or an hourglass?

A short pear-shaped lady with a short torso will dress very differently to a tall pear-shaped lady (of the same size) with a long torso. See the difference? Hence, one size definitely does not fit all.

Your age

These previously distinct lines have become blurred over the years. 40 year olds are getting away with wearing the same clothing that 20 year olds wear today. The difference is how they’re wearing them!

Dressing top-to-toe in a look from Cosmo magazine, can come across as desperate and clueless if you’re in your mid thirties. Similarly, dressing like you’re 45 when you’re 21 will merely age you and remove every ounce of youthfulness.

Dressing ‘older’ doesn’t necessarily give you credibility.

All in all, keep it in perspective. Revisit your preconceived ideas of your personal style. It’s the safest way to do so. 

Written by Petra Laranjo Hourquebie