As we come up on the 100-year anniversary of the ‘flapper’s’ post-World War I fashion revelation I thought it would be a good time to dissect women’s workwear fashion trends through the century.Read More
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The global women’s wear market is predicted to reach peak value by 2022, to the tune of around 830 billion dollars. But, women in the workplace is not a ground-breaking concept. Why is this industry growing so much, and why now?Read More
It is an undeniable truth that being a woman in corporate America is difficult. Between unfair stigmas, glass ceilings, and wage gaps it’s no surprise that for decades women in the business world feel the need to hide their femininity in the workplace. For some women joining the "boys club" can feel like a necessary evil of business. Recently I was speaking with a woman who has been extremely successful in the pharmaceutical industry over the past few decades. We spoke about women and fashion in business, and something she said has inspired me. She said, “For so long women were expected to dress masculinely. Back in the ’80s we wore squared off suites with pearls so that we wouldn't stand too much from our male counterparts, something I've never agreed with. Dressing femininely and accessorizing for work makes me feel powerful, confident, and I believe it has helped me become more successful. The confidence that I get from dressing up helps me stand out in my business.” We as women have so many incredible qualities that make us fantastic business leaders. So, why should we be made to feel inept when showcasing our femininity?
“Women should be sure of themselves because women have a lot of capacities. We can achieve so many different things that men cannot. I think women are stronger.”
Though women are constantly underestimated in business, Donatella’s words could not ring truer, even science agrees. When analyzing over 24,000 leaders from around the world one study found that in key areas of emotional intelligence female leaders statistically edged out their male counterparts. Emotional intelligence directly correlates with career success particularly the ability to “Apply Consequential Thinking” a concept that enables people to evaluate the pros and cons of a particular action or decision. On average female leaders scored 4.5% higher in this category as well as the ability to identify and understand feelings and to recognize patterns, all extremely important traits of leadership in business.
Another study shows that women are 86% more likely than men to consistently show emotional competency and, are 45% more likely to be consistently empathetic. This means that women make better mentors, inspirational leaders, conflict managers, and are more likely to achieve team goals. According to Daniel Goleman, Co-Director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence, “The data suggests a strong need for more women in the workforce to take on leadership roles”
Goleman isn't the only scientist to come to the conclusion that women in leadership roles equal better business. There are countless studies that prove this, some of which are talked about in this article published by CNBC. One study that stands out is The Peterson Institute for International Economics’ survey of 21,980 firms from 91 countries. The survey found that "A profitable firm at which 30 percent of leaders are women could expect to add more than 1 percentage point to its net margin compared with an otherwise similar firm with no female leaders” and that for the profitable firms in the sample a 1 percent point increase on a net profit margin of 6.4%, the average for their sample, represented a 15% boost in overall profitability for that respective organization.
So, the next time you feel the need to downplay or hide your femininity remember that in 2018 women only made up 4.8% of CEOs on the Fortune 500 list and we are still kicking ass in Corporate America. Women belong in the business world just as much, if not more than men. Celebrate your femininity, it is your strength. Dress to make yourself feel confident not, to hide or fit into a male-dominated industry. I believe in women in business, that is why I started Citrine Grey, to support women like me who are embracing their femininity and working towards break glass ceilings.
Project Runway’s Nina Garcia says it best: “When you are comfortable in what you’re wearing, you immediately emanate that confidence. It’s very much reflective in the way you handle yourself”.
Though millennial women are working to redefine corporate femininity, most traditional work attire marketed to women is still a collection of boring pencil skirts or men’s style suits that have been shrunk down and rebranded as the modern woman’s ‘Power Suit’. Women are told to pick between scratchy or wrinkle-prone fabrics. We are sold tops that don't button properly, pants that don't quite fit, and skirts that lose their shape by our lunch break. On top of that these ill-fitting options often require uncomfortable undergarments and do nothing to increase women's comfort or confidence in the workplace. Should women give up, remove these stressful daily work decisions altogether, and resort to wearing the same nondescript clothing every day, à la Steve Jobs? What about the woman who feels her most genuine powerful self in lace skirts and statement heels? Is there a benefit to women wearing more formal quality workwear?
“You put high heels on and you change.”
While it is likely that Blahnik was speaking to his namesake brand when he said, “You put high heels on and you change.”, he has a point.
In an ideal world we could show up to work in our personal versions of workwear and it wouldn’t matter because the quality of our work would be judged instead of our outfits. That is not our world and, at least in business, maybe it’s for the best. Formal workwear has been shown to encourage more successful mind-set in the wearer. That is to say that dressing up for work is similar to a character actor dressing for a part. A study published in 2014, called "The Cognitive Consequences of Formal Clothing”, reports that when dressed in formal workwear (clothing worn to a corporate job interview) participants showed increases in abstract thinking and action identification levels as well as seeing the bigger picture of a situation more quickly. High performance in these areas are associated with people in leadership positions, proving that formal workwear helps breed a successful career.
It turns out that the cheesy adage “dress for the job you want” advice lifestyle gurus love to tout around rings true. Dressing like you hold a position of power will make you behave as if you do, case closed. That’s not all that your work clothes say about you though.
Molly St. Louis, an executive-level creative consultant writes in INC. Magazine that “Your clothes tell a story about you. If you want to show that your work is clean, sharp, and to the point, you need to dress in clean lines, sharp creases…”. A study published by the Journal of Research in Personality, "Shoes as a source of first impressions", hypothesizes a similar theory to Molly's. Our clothing choices, even small details like shoe choices, indirectly communicate aspects of our personality to peers. To test the theory participants randomly rated pictures of stranger’s shoes. The most compelling results were from the Big 5, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness to experience, personality scores. The rating participants came to a positive, significant, mostly accurate consensus for every category except emotional stability. Results also showed that rating participants had similar success guessing shoe owner's gender, politics, and attachment anxiety behaviors.
Essentially Molly St. Louis is right, your work clothes are an important part of office first impressions and should be treated as such. Yes, be mindful of what your clothing might say about you but most importantly wear clothes that make you feel powerful and self-assured. It is worth investing in workwear staples that are ready to take on whatever your day throws at you. Clothing that’s designed to flatter and support women, with high-quality fabric that holds its shape, and resist wrinkles so that you can walk into any room confident and distraction free. Citrine Grey was built on the belief that it’s not about what you wear, but how you feel that matters that's why we make clothing for women to do exactly that.
In 2012 journalist Laura Stepp wrote an article for The Washington Post in which she labeled Millennial women as “the confident generation” and says that they are no longer the “fretting, overstressed women” of generations past. Research has shown that Millennial women have higher ambitions, better educations, better outlooks, and higher expectations for their lives. We now have a generation of women that have been raised to dream boldly, who believe that they have been equipped with the tools to achieve well-rounded lives outside of traditional female gender roles. While it has been a few years since this article was written the sentiment holds true. The new generation of women is taking on the cooperate world with every expectation of smashing the glass ceiling. They are done apologizing for their ambition or camouflaging femininity to suite male-dominated professions. Now, women are opting to suit up in their femininity, celebrating it as armor in the ongoing battle for recognition and equality. It is clear that these women refuse to sacrifice themselves and that translates into their clothing.
"Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life"
Clothing has long been a simultaneous form of expression and suppression for women. From the strict conservative gender normative dress codes of the ’50s and ’60s to John T. Molloy’s 1975 book “Dress for Success” which encouraged women to strip their femininity in the workplace and instead “power-dress” in more masculine styles with a larger blazer, boxier shapes, and shoulder pads. This look infamously knows as the “Power Suit” was once described by Newsweek as “exaggerated masculine style of dress”. The look was capped off with ankle-breaking heels that helped women make up for any height differences between them and their male colleagues. These trends evolved through the ’90s and early 2000’s all in a bid for women to not only rebel against the feminine dress codes once pushed on them but, to also hide their femininity in order for them to seem more equal to their male counterparts.
Millennial women are changing this trend. Women are closer than they’ve ever been before to job equality. Though we have a long way to go, it has caused a major transition in how young women prepare themselves to face a work day. Because of social media and easy online shopping empowered women have begun to experiment with their style and they no longer feel as much pressure to conform to traditional workplace attire. Women’s workwear is no longer dictated by company dress codes and social standards. It is dictated by millennial women’s desire for high-quality staple pieces that support them, make them feel stronger, more confident, and look good on an Instagram feed.
Millennial women go after what they want. They are on more challenges every day and they want clothing that will be able to go on this ride with them. This group of women breaks through barriers and no longer feels the need to prove that women belong in the workforce. They aren’t hiding the fact that they’re women, they aren’t trying to conform to an image society is more comfortable with. Women are taking back femininity and embracing tighter silhouette, feminine patterns like lace, in their work clothing.