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After studying Human Resources and learning about the definition of sexual harassment, I realized that I had been harassed at almost every job I have ever had! Being young, when a male supervisor made off-color jokes, I didn’t realize that it could have been considered harassment. (Heck that could happen at any age.) But harassment is really defined as unwanted attention. How does a co-worker or supervisor know it is unwanted unless they take their shot and you tell them “no.”

handshakeOf course, there are times when the “shot” is way over the line and no reasonable person should ever take that lightly. If you are ever in that position, state your position clearly. If that doesn’t work, contact your Human Resources Department.

But yesterday, for the first time since I started my own business, I had a client proposition me. This client came right out and said, “I’ve been meaning to ask you if you’d be interested in a mutually satisfying engagement.” I simply told him no. His response was, “Well, I had to ask.” I wasn’t confrontational about it, wasn’t offended or defensive about it, I simple stated that I was not comfortable with his offer.  I then told him that now that he knew my position, if he asked again, he would have to find a new assistant.

Afterwards, I talked to my business coach about the situation. She suggested that I could have told the client that the reason I was not interested was because I was devoted to my husband. She suggested that sometimes when people know the reason for our actions, they may take the information better, especially when we are trying to maintain a future business relationship.

While I don’t believe I owe everyone an explanation for my decisions, I do think this suggestion would have worked better in this situation. It could have saved my client from feeling rejected.

Only time will tell if this situation will cause problems in our business relationship. From my side of the table, I feel that I stated my position and am ready to continue our business relationship.

Have you had similar situations? If so, how have you handled it? Any suggestions on how else I could have handled it?

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AT_beige_suitMost people argue with me when I tell them should have at least one suit in their closet. I am not talking about the polyester suits you find at Younkers (although they have their purpose). I am talking about two-piece suits where you buy the jacket and pants separately (and in different sizes if you need to). Clients have expressed hesitation because a suit feels too structured, too stuffy or too boring. I can see where they get that feelings, especially when suits are presented in catalogs and in stores like the one pictured here from Ann Taylor.  You could fall asleep looking at this plain outfit. Thankfully the model is wearing a bright lip color.

But let’s take another look at this neutral suit. (Neutral colors are black, white, beige, navy, gray and brown.) It amazes me how many people coordinate their suit with only the top it came with or the one they bought at the same time. Stretch your imagination. Imagine how that suit will look with a simple change of top:

Clockwise from the upper left side we have:

suit_options

Ann Taylor Diamond Shibori Top. The lines create the hour-glass shape so will be very flattering.

Loft Shirred Top. This top has a lot of texture (see last post) so it will add interest to the “boring” suit.

Ann Taylor Crepe Shell. Simplicity at its finest. Nothing more need be said. Well, okay, I’d probably put a statement necklace with it!

Land’s End Ruffle Collar Blouse. If you like a bit of femininity to contrast the masculine pant suit, this is your ticket. Don’t both trying to get the ruffles to go over the suit lapels. Just let them lay down flat under the jacket. They will still look frilly.

Notice that all the tops have either bright colors, patterns or texturizing–anything to add interest.

Now that you’ve experimented a bit with different tops, think of all the possibilities you can do if you just use the jacket with a floral or denim skirt. Pair the jacket with a sundress and you will be comfortable in all the air conditioning. The pants will look great in the early fall with a gorgeous sweater or long-sleeve blouse. 

Go find your suit!

Several months ago a friend asked me about jersey dresses. Jersey dresses can be great because most of them will glide over your body and hide many flaws. But this is not true of all jersey dresses. The first thing you need to do is make sure it isn’t too tight. If we can see the cellulite on your hips, your dress is too small. If we can see bulging lines across your back where your bra strap is, your dress is too small. If the hem hits your mid-calf, it is probably too long. If you like it long, remember to wear a neutral shoe to minimize the impact of the hemline hitting you at the widest part of your leg.

The reason this came up now was I was reading an on-line post about what to wear to work. The dress on the left as considered appropriate for the corner office. I have no idea who the designer is or where to buy it, but I have to disagree about it’s work appropriateness! While it is a jersey dress, the neckline is way to low for any office environment. I can see the swell of the breast. That’s beyond cleavage. Plus, a wrap dress is great while you are standing. But sit down and the wrap often gaps, showing more of the chest area than before–unless it is stitched down in that area. Even if this one were stitched, it is so low that it would gap no matter what. Showing cleavage in the workplace is not professional. Showing the swell of the breast in the work place is just wrong!

work_dresses

The dress on the right is also a jersey dress. This one is from Nordstrom’s. I bet you can already see how much more professional this dress is. Not only is the neckline much higher, but the color is a power color. This woman will be noticed the minute she walk in the room, but in a good way. The dress compliments her female shape without pushing it in your face. The rushing on the side helps when you have a bit of imperfections across your midsection (who doesn’t?).

I also need to mention that both of these dresses are just a bit too short for the work environment if you are striving for the corner office. I would have kept them at the knee–right across the center of the kneecap. Remember, when you sit down, the dress will likely ride up. What started out as two inches above the knee will end up to be four inches above the knee. Now we are talking bedroom rather than boardroom.

May you always look great!

Emerald, declares Pantone, is the color for Spring 2013. You may recall my post a year ago “Eyes for Emerald.” This tells you how popular this color can be. (Or maybe I’m just ahead of the trends.) Either way, emerald is a great color on most people. It is considered a cool bright color. You may recall that bright colors bring brightness to your face, which is a good thing. When you face looks bright (compared to dull) you will look more vibrant, thus looking younger.

You can pair your emerald green with any neutral color: black, white, gray, navy, beige, cream. For a pop of fun color, try these Coach pumps with a simple shirtdress (like this one from Younkers). If you work in a creative environment, you could be more bold and wear emerald green with this purple shirtdress from Banana Republic!

emerald_pump_w_shirtdress

chadwick_colorblock_jacketdresschadwick_ruched_crossover_dressWhile emerald may be the “in” color for Spring, timeless cuts in this color will take you through many seasons. Chadwick’s ruched dress or their colorblock jacket dress are two items that will stay in your wardrobe for many years.

nordstrom_lanvin_silk_blouseIf you prefer something to pair with your current black skirt or pants, try this silk blouse from Nordstrom’s.

What will you wear emerald with this Spring?

Have you ever watched What Not To Wear and hear the poor girl say, “But I found it in the stores!” when Clinton and Kelly tell her the attire is not appropriate. Well, just because it is in the stores or you see in a catalog doesn’t mean it is appropriate or flattering.

Here are some examples:

  1. talbots_refined_collectionTalbot’s is showing work attire and this image was in their recent flyer. The black skirt length is great. The pump is work appropriate. The bright, bold color of the top is great and even the necklace is nice. But can you see what is wrong? No matter how think you are, cleavage is not appropriate for the workplace. With a wrap top, this can often be a problem. If you see a top you like with this sort of wrap neckline, try and see if it will stay closed with the neckline not as low. A little trick I use is the pin the under piece to my bra at a high enough point so no cleavage is showing. If the over piece is cut properly it will lie flat against the under piece and you will be set. I do not suggest trying to pin both pieces of fabric as it usually pulls as you move throughout the day and calls more attention to the area!
  2. chadwick_blouson_dressWhile Chadwick’s isn’t calling this a work-appropriate outfit, it is shown on a page that contains other office attire. So what’s wrong with this dress? The length is fine. The neckline is fine. The problem is the dress overwhelms her. The top is too voluminous. Even with a tied waist, this dress makes her look too top heavy. You may recall that patterns also add bulk. The bigger the pattern, the bigger the bulk. This dress is too much, whatever way you look at it!
  3. chadwick_border_printI also have to comment on Chadwick’s border print dress. You may recall I reviewed a dress a few months ago that was also a border print dress. That dress was considered “right” because it was well balanced. This dress is not balanced at all! Note all the attention goes to the bottom portion of the body. If you are top heavy, this might not be a bad thing. Another problem is the decoration that seems to top out at the abdomen. If you have flat abs, this is great. The rest of us probably don’t want anyone staring at our abdomen. And don’t get me started about where the largest print of the pattern sits!

May you always look great!

mirrorINPUT FROM READER: “reading a romance novel and a sentence caught my eye and thought Wow, that makes sense When trying on clothes, do not look in the mirror until the outfit is fully on.  Take a breath, count to 3 and than turn and look. That way you get the pow! Can’t wait to try it.” K2

Thanks “K2” for your suggestion because it is really a good one. Often when we see only one piece of the outfit we make a decision that would be different if we tried on the entire outfit. To go along with that suggestion, here are some other tips:

  1. If you are looking for something to go with a specific piece of clothing, take the piece of clothing with you to the store. Then try the entire outfit on (using K2’s suggestion above).
    • Try to do this without a sales associate nearby. You need to see what your personal thoughts are. Do not let a sales associate talk you into something. If you don’t love it without their help, you probably won’t love it when you get home!
    • Move around in the outfit to see what would happen in real life: sit down, bend over, lift your arms, twist at the waist. If the item lands “funny” then you will probably be worrying about it all day long and that just isn’t worth it.
  2. If you spot something and don’t happen to have the specific item with you, see if the store has something similar. Almost every store has black pants, white blouses, black jackets, etc. Strive for something as close as possible to what you have at home. Remember that you don’t buy what you are using as a substitute!
  3. If neither option above possible, make sure you try on the complete outfit as soon as you get home. That way you won’t accidentally miss the “return by” date if the outfit doesn’t work. Keep your receipts and don’t take the tag off anything until you are 100% sure.

Any other tidbits of advice you’ve picked up that you can share with others?

A recent article appeared on Forbes.com called “The Seven Ways Your Boss Is Judging Your Appearance.” While this is no surprise, I wanted to expound on some of the areas:

  1. younkers_structured_jacketGrooming: The article refers to looking “polished” or “pulled together.” Of course it means that our clothes are clean and pressed. But a “pulled together” look is more than that. You need to put together an outfit that is pleasing to the eye. Jackets are a girl’s best friend when trying to look pulled together. Statement jewelry that is not distracting (too flashy, too noisy) gives one a polished look.
  2. Posture: Sitting tall adds to your height (see No. 5). If you’ve gotten into the habit of slouching realize that it is adding years to your look and tells others that you are not proud of yourself. Think about keeping your chin parallel to the floor. If you can push your shoulders down and back, your posture has room for improvement.
  3. Physical Attractiveness: This is where a lot of people just throw in the towel. But it doesn’t mean that only the most beautiful people will succeed. It means you do the best with what you have. Wearing cool bright colors will make most people look alive and energetic, keeping the attention on your face. People only see your flaws when you don’t tell them where to look. Take charge of your image!
  4. Slimness: Yes, some of us aren’t in the best of shape. But dressing appropriately for your shape will make you look slimmer. A black tent dress doesn’t solve all your problems. Wearing monochrome clothing does cause the eye to glide over your silhouette, but structure is still important. We need to know where your waist area is, where your legs start and stop, that you have shoulders that don’t slouch. A structured jacket will solve this problem for most people.
  5. younkers_pumpHeight: While we can’t change our height, we can add a few inches with the right shoes. Adding more than 5” heels, however, is overboard and causes you to look like you are more interested in being trendy than getting to the next meeting in one piece. I recommend no more than a 3” heel for the workplace. Again, that posture will help!
  6. Expensive Clothing: This area can be overwhelming to those with a limited budget. But it is the way the item is made and the material that is being used that is important, not the actual price tag. Recently I saw a pair of plaid pants at Von Maur where the plaid didn’t match up on the sides. This is distracting and a sign of poorly made clothing. Conversely, I saw a similar pair of plaid pants at Sears where the plaids were matched properly. Wearing items that are appropriate for your body shape will also help less expensive clothing look more expensive because they drape on your body properly.
  7. Youthful Appearance: Should all of us over the age of 40 just give up? Absolutely not! Wearing clothing that makes you look vibrant and energetic will help you look and feel more confident. When people see vibrant, energetic and confident people, they don’t even think about age. Again, cool bright colors will achieve this. A pop of lip color will also wake up your face.

So don’t be disheartened by these studies. When you are in control of your image, you are in control of your career. Don’t get left behind by being a wall flower.

Do you feel your boss is judging you by your appearance? In what ways?

Yes, getting in shape and eating healthy are great resolutions. But, let’s take a look at a few that you can do today that will start helping immediately:

  1. lipcolorsWear a lip color every day. I say this over and over again, but lip color is really the most important makeup tool you have. It brightens your smile, your eyes and lights up your face. If you don’t normally wear lip color, try L’Oreal’s Peony Pink, Burt’s Bees Rhubarb or Avon’s Mad for Mauve. These colors are soft and a good starting point. If you are already wearing lip color, think about kicking it up a notch with L’Oreal’s Blushing Berry, Maybelline’s Madison Avenue Mauve or Avon’s Divine Wine. Check out your local Walgreens for the L’Oreal and Maybelline products. Contact me if you are interested in the Avon colors.
  2. Stop chewing gum. I used to be an avid gum chewer. I once had a contest with another woman (both of us over age 40) to see who could snap their gum the loudest. I am ashamed to admit I won. But I’ve seen people chewing gum at work, in church and even as part of a bridal party! If people kept their mouth closed while chewing, it might not look so bad. However, once they get going, the mouth starts opening and the sound effects start! (Think about opening your mouth when you chew food. Same thing.) Don’t believe how bad it looks? Try looking at some on YouTube. I could only watch a minute of this video before I had to turn it off. If you have dry mouth, try a Tic Tac.
  3. barretteDo something with you hair. I don’t mean it has to be cut in the latest style or needs to be permed or straightened or even color treated. I mean do more than just wash and air dry. Dry using a blow dryer and a brush for a bit of lift at the crown or a bit of body on the ends. It may not be much, but it communicates to people that you are willing to put some effort into your looks. Even pulling it back with a barrette can look sophisticated if your barrette has any sort of style to it.
  4. Smile more. As we age, the effects of gravity start to show. Not only do we have wrinkles and sagging skin, but the ends of our mouth start to droop. Eventually you can look like you have an eternal frown on your face. Not a very good image. You don’t have to paste a fake smile on your face. Just stop, right this minute, and do a little smile. Just enough to get the lip line straight or the beginning of a smile. Keep practicing, it will become a habit.
  5. Leave your name and number. I know we have a lot of technology out there, but really, not everyone has the same phone options you have. Do not assume anyone has your number automatically. Some people don’t have cell phones (gasp!) and don’t have caller id (another gasp!) and would like to call you back but don’t have the info. Make it easy for people to reach you. Always, always, always leave your name and number.

What are your do-it-right-now resolutions for 2013?

There are so many interesting things to find on the internet and I recently have been playing around with Polyvore.com. With so many products, you can create so many looks. Here’s one I pulled together that is trendy, yet still work-appropriate. I think the bag is the star of this outfit.

What’s right about this:

  • The blazer is a great color! It’s fitted and the lapels are structured, but the second set of lapels tells everyone that this is not traditional.
  • The pencil skirt is always a go-to and will remain timeless. The black-on-black texture helps offset the extra material in the jacket.
  • Booties with a skirt might seem a bit of a stretch for some traditional offices. But the black tights minimize the trendiness. Notice that the heel high is reasonable. The company calls it a “kitten heel,” which I would have said is much lower, but it’s less than 2″, so it works in the workplace.
  • Love the animal print bag. Yes, the bag has texture, as does the skirt, but the textures are different so they can play well together.
  • The necklace is a statement piece, but it isn’t too loud. Great for the office because it is simple and not fussy.

Give polyvore.com a try. See what outfits you can come up with!

Things are really looking up for one of my clients. After working together, she was quoted and pictured by the Waterloo Courier’s women’s magazine “b true” in an article about “Fashionistas.”

In her 40s, Barb Scoles of Elk Run Heights lost 100 pounds on Weight Watchers, transformed herself into a runner and finished college on what she jokingly calls “the 25-year plan.”

Now 53, Scoles wants to polish her look. “That’s important to me professionally. I don’t want to be the person in the office perceived as too old to do something new. I want to look like someone who can do the job.

“I don’t feel old, so I don’t want to present myself as old.”

So she hired an image consultant to dig into her closet a la TV’s “What Not To Wear” and weed out the “coulds, shoulds and giveaways” in her professional and casual wardrobes. She had her colors done, experimented with new makeup and listened to advice on how to pull together great looks.

“It was eye-opening,” Scoles said, “I had suits from size 16 to 8. I had long jackets that didn’t fit my body shape. She told me I needed short jackets. I had several tops in that warm coral color that’s so popular — I love the color but I can’t wear because it doesn’t flatter my skin tone,” she laughed.

Barb’s transformation from a “plain Jane” to her “15 minutes of fame” came after attending a Style Evolution Boot Camp–a full day of image consulting for up to 5 people: color analysis, body awareness, wardrobe review, office-appropriate makeup lesson, power of accessories and wardrobe basics. We even found time to head to mall for a brief shopping trip.

Style Evolution Boots Camps are scheduled throughout the year. Or, if you’ve got a group of friends who want to plan one for a specific date, let me know.

PS: Just have to share Barb’s “before” photo. I’m sure you’ll agree . . . A Start Is Born!

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