When John Molloy first published Woman's Dress For Success in 1977, his purpose was to help women establish their credibility and authority in the workplace by establishing guidelines for a women's executive dress uniform, based on the established executive dress uniform for men.
Since that time, he has become a clearinghouse of information about how women are actually dressing in the workplace and how clients, customers, coworkers and superiors are responding. He has written a column on dressing for the workplace, conducted seminars, done video consultations, corresponded with woman executives and performed research.
In New Women's Dress For Success (published in 1996), Molloy explains the development of women's business dress and gives some clear guidelines of appropriate dress for different positions and situations.
His purpose is to help women advance in the workplace by dressing in a way that people will tend to respond to positively in different scenarios. For example, women in situations where they want to sell or persuade others generally will want to wear lighter, earth tones. Women who are having trouble being taken seriously or otherwise need to establish their authority will generally want to wear dark gray or navy blue. Petite women who are otherwise invisible in business meetings find a red jacket helps them get noticed.
The most radical change in women's business dress since 1977 is the establishment of the jacket outfit as the business uniform for most businesswomen. Wearing a jacket over almost anything increases the authority of the woman who wears it.
The "Dress For Success" gray or blue skirted suit is still generally effective in the workplace, especially for accountants and lawyers.
Female superiors tend to be more harsh in their judgment of improperly dressed female subordinates than male superiors.
According to Molloy, the biggest disaster to happen to women's dress in the workplace is the informal office, where jackets aren't permitted. Women won't be considered team players unless they abandon their symbols of authority. The suggested "best solution" is to spend at least as much on your informal business outfit as you would on a regular business dress outfit, including buying clothing in a men's store with a women's annex. Wear conservative colors and avoid clothing that looks "sexy" (unless you are trolling for a husband or boyfriend and not a promotion). Wear the most high scale accessories that you can afford, like a Rolex watch or an expensive scarf. Keep a jacket handy in case a customer or client drops in.
Although women have made considerable progress in the workplace, the dress choices they make have much more serious consequences than for most men, and a woman's work and social wardrobe is much more complex. New Women's Dress For Success is an essential reference that every woman who is serious about her business career will want to read and have in her library.
Buy it on Amazon: New Women's Dress for Success.
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