I've spent quite a bit of money on great suits and dresses for the office for a new job that I have held for the past six months. I make sure I'm polished since I'm working with a lot of much younger hip people (I'm past the middle of my career and feel fortunate to have landed a sweet job). On Fridays we have a dress-down day and I'm tempted to pull on jeans for a break, but I'm afraid to look unprofessional, untidy, and an old frump amid a young crowd.
Do clothes give an impression to employers even after you're hired? I'm still hoping to move forward in the company. I'd like to dress down but I'm afraid of messing with my "image."
THE FIRST ANSWER
Founder, Women's Executive Network, Toronto
Casual dressing is an opportunity to show your personal style and flare. Done right, it's an opportunity to boost your image – especially if you are surrounded by younger people who already have an edge, thanks to age.
I think the struggle you're having is with your perception that wearing jeans equals dressing down. I certainly would not recommend wearing your most comfortable mom jeans. That said, a pair of well-tailored pants and shirts – regardless of fabric – always make the woman. Dress for success is a slogan because it's true. When the fit is right (and this is key: fit, not brand, is everything), then you feel more confident and that will come out in how you carry yourself and how you interact with people. Feeling great is energizing.
And yes, clothes absolutely always give an impression. Make the most of it. Use casual Fridays to make a statement about yourself and your personal brand. Clothes are a way to show that you are on trend, on point and sharp, and that age is just a number. I hope you change your mindset and give your employer and co-workers a glimpse into you and what you offer.
THE SECOND ANSWER
Vice-president, fashion direction, Holt Renfrew, Toronto
First, congratulations on landing a dream job. Having the right skills and confidence is what is really needed in a workplace environment today.
Do clothes give an impression even after being hired? The answer is yes! It is always important to take pride in your appearance and to strive to look professional and relevant in the workplace – whether it is a formal or casual environment.
If wearing jeans is the norm in your office for casual Fridays, then there is nothing wrong with wearing them as long as they are suitable to your body type. Stay away from overtight and low-waisted styles. Slashes, rips or overwashes are not appropriate for the office. Keep the denim dark and uniform in colour.
A good tip is to team your jeans with a longer tunic top that offers some coverage. Boot-cut styles or those with slight flares are current and can elongate the leg. Choose an ankle boot with a mid-height heel, add some eclectic cuffs to your wrist, and the look is casually polished. The right fit of jeans, with the right top and proper accessories, will keep you looking professional, current and appropriate.