In many career paths moving toward the C suite also requires a change in dress. Take a look at Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Janet Napolitano of Homeland Security or anyone in Congress or the CEO of Citicorp, you will often see them in suits, dresses and skirts. Although, many CEO’s in the tech field are a bit more casual, in most fields if you’re looking at joining the C suite then you will need to take your wardrobe up a notch or two.
Although business casual dominates many corporate cultures, moving to a director, VP or President’s position requires a return to classic business dress. For women and men, suits, sport coats, skirts and dresses are more the order than jeans, pants, jean jackets and T-shirts. Here are some guidelines to help you move to the next level.
- · If you choose a plaid pattern in a jacket, suit or pant, make sure that they match up in the back and side seams as well as the sleeve and shoulders.
- · When trying on pants the waist should land right below the navel. Pants are cut normal or long so find the best fit for you. If you want them cuffed or plain that’s also up to you.
- · For blazers and jackets you have so many choices; however, you’ll want the jacket to cover your derriere. Consider raw silk, linen blends, in plaids or tweeds with solid colored slacks.
- · For shirts go for long sleeved varieties and consider as well pin- or chalk striped but avoid plaids. Make sure that the shirt fabric is of medium weight so it doesn’t show everything underneath. Most times undershirts are worn underneath dress shirts for a clean look so make sure it doesn’t show when the collar is open. Consider V-neck styles for a clean look with dress shirts.
- · With dress shirts there are also a variety of styles to choose from. If you have an athletic build go for fitted ones. Regarding the collar, consider the shape of your face and neck. For example, if you have a short wide neck and a full face consider traditional convertible, tab, or button-down collar styles to balance out the shape. If you have a long neck and an angular face consider a spread collar.
- · Regarding accessories you’ll be tucking your shirt in and want your belt and shoes to match in color. Consider brown, cordovan or black. Regarding shoe styles consider wing-tip, oxford, tie, slip-on, loafer styles with good soles and stable leather uppers. Save the deck shoes for you time and please, no athletic shoes or sandals.
- · Regarding ties, if your work requires a coat AND tie remember that it is one of the key accessories for men. Moreover, the power tie is still in full order so consider including it as a part of your wardrobe. The width of the tie needs to complement the width of the lapel
- · Regarding socks choose dark colors with subtle patterns and make sure that they stay up on your leg. A leg exposed when crossed is not pretty.
- Suits and suit separates are going to be the mainstay for your wardrobe but today you can kick it up a notch or two. All the restrictions that were apparent in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s as well as in the new millennium have vanished; however, it is still imperative to look professional. Being sexy and looking it doesn’t fly for work (unless you’re applying for a pole dancing position). Here are some pointers for when jackets are required:
- · Consider fabrics and fabric blends that give easy care and provide comfort, such as wool blended with Lycra or Spandex, linen polyester blends, Tencel, and cotton/Lycra blends are comfortable and easy to take care of. Consider woven fabrics over knits for your key pieces; however, double knits that are lined can be very stable and hang well for work. Choose from solids to prints yet keep the prints subtle.
- · Choose from traditional blazers with a tailor-notched or shawl or mandarin collars when selecting suit separates. As well consider Chanel style or military styled jackets. Besides blazers and short jackets consider longer ones that hit below the hip; however, in any choice seek tailored styles that allow you to switch them out and coordinate with other pieces of your wardrobe.
- · For shirts and blouses consider tailored shirts or feminine blouses in cotton, silk or polyester blends. Cowl, jewel, tie or ruffle styles in silk or a fine synthetic soften the face and work with jacket styles; however don’t mix totally different styles like a ruffled shirt with a military styled jacket. Make sure that the fabric is not too revealing and there isn’t any cleavage. Choose from long, to short, to sleeveless; however, if wearing sleeveless wear your jacket at all times. Consider sweater sets as an alternative to blouses and jackets.
- · Regarding pants and skirts, consider plain front, or pleated with or without pockets that land at the waist or high hip. Pants and skirts, with a waist band or not, are suitable but if they have a waist band and belt loops a belt is needed if the shirt or blouse is tucked in. Regarding pant legs, straight or flared is best. Fabric choices include tropical weight wools either in a plain weave or gabardine that have a great drape. Skirts land at the knee or no more than two to three inches above. Longer skirts keep to about mid calf.
- · Tailored dresses are an easy option for work in this category. Consider simple silhouettes with interesting designs such as princess seams, or necklines like a cowl.
- · Regarding accessories consider jewelry in gold, silver or pearls for the most part. The design is up to you; however, keep it conservative perhaps a round or angular shape or small or medium size hoops are fine but should be in proportion to your size. Have an abundance of scarves to wear at the neck, waist, or over the shoulder belted. Accessories are to tie the look together and draw attention to your best asset, your face. Belts are great for long jackets and at the waist for pants or skirts. Also try belting a sheath or two piece dressing. As well, belt a tunic top and wear it under a jacket. Think about putting a silk kerchief in the breast pocket of your blazer either with the points out or tucked in. Add a broach or pin to the lapel or right above the breast to bring the eye up and to add shine to the face.
- · For shoes there are lots of options; however, avoid sandals, very high heeled and platform styles , and flip-flops. Consider classic pumps with or without an open toe, loafer or slip on, and tailored boots. Seek comfort as well as style with classic designs tailored for your professional image.