I was doing an image update for one of my female executive presence coaching clients. She works as a financial advisor in a male dominated industry and has typically worn suits to work. While suiting helps her project professionalism and polish, she wanted other options for the office. I suggested adding some dresses to the mix.
While doing a pre-shop for her, I was thrilled to see so much colour and variety in the stores. But as I was going through the racks I noticed that the majority of dresses were sleeveless dresses. Uh-oh!
In less conservative fields and more creative professions, wearing a sleeveless dress is certainly more acceptable. But in a corporate role or where you look after people’s finances or personal affairs they are less prevalent. (Contrary to the popular TV show Suits see photo, most female lawyers especially managing partners; do not wear a lot of sleeveless dresses at the office.)
I just finished reading I’ll Drink to That, a fascinating autobiography by Betty Halbreich an image coach who has worked at Bergdorf Goodman for decades. Like many of my clients, she doesn’t much care for the design trend of sleeveless dresses and sleeveless garments for woman of all ages. She believes that designers should at least provide us with more options like a short sleeve.
She writes “You can always alter the fabric of a sleeve – shorten to your liking or let the fabric down. However, when there are no sleeves, there is nothing you can do. Today designers feel the no-sleeve look is younger. Nonsense—it has nothing to do with age. Women should at least have some options.” I couldn’t agree more.
If going sleeveless is not always suitable for your profession or brand, here are a few options that I give my executive presence coaching clients for adapting the sleeveless dress.
Tip 1. Add a jacket and some colour
This can instantly turn sleeveless dresses into a classy, pulled together outfit. And if you want to update a dress from a previous season, you can choose a jacket from any one of this season’s shades to compliment your skin tone, hair and eyes. Click here to see the 2017 Fall colour trends
Tip 2. Add a little ‘false’ sleeve
Try a sleevey wonder, this provides maximum mileage from your existing wardrobe and makes dresses look more polished and professional for the office. As an added bonus they are more comfortable in air conditioned environments. (Now available in many Canadian boutiques.) http://www.sleeveywonders.com/
Tip 3. Add a cardigan in a fine gauge knit.
You can choose from short-sleeved, three quarter length or long sleeved. This is a great option for a business casual day.
Tip 4. Shrug your shoulders
Shrugs are great for the office or after 5 dressing. They allow you to cover your arms without covering up too much of the dress or top. You can then safely wear a tank style or strappy dress to the office without baring too much.
Tip 5. Add a mesh tunic
This season many tunics and cardigans are coming in mesh fabrics. Great for women who heat up in the summer, yet still want to cover up a sleeveless dress.
As I tell my audiences and clients – dress for your brand and the job you want.
Posted by Joanne Blake – Canadian corporate image consultant and sleevey wonderer