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Chapter 4 Professional dress for women in hospitality.


After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

1. Select your business wardrobe with ease and confidence.

2. Determine the right fabric, color, style, details and fit for your suits, blouses, skirts, jackets and dresses.

3. Recognize the different reactions and perceptions that specific outfits create in a business environment.

4. List the outfit options for women that are accepted internationally.

5. Determine the level of dressiness of different outfits and make a list in a continuum that goes from dressy to casual.

6. Identify the effect that a jacket has on a woman's credibility, and list the six occasions at which she benefits from wearing one.

7. Identify the different outfit options for the hospitality professional woman who works at a resort.

8. Select your makeup, hairstyle and accessories for a polished professional look including shoes, hose, jewelry, etc.

In today's workplace, women in hospitality can express both their credibility and their individuality with their business outfits. The times that required a cookie cutter look of a man-tailored suit, shirt and bow-tie are now gone. This "dress for success" look was necessary 20 years ago. But the times have changed, and today women have proved they can do a so-called man's job without looking like a man. Now, professional women's clothing conveys responsibility, position identification, power and the appearance of competency without looking mannish. In her book The Power of Dress, Jacqueline Murray writes, "Women finally have a wide variety of choices that work well because they have worked through specific adaptations of the significant male business symbols, and they have established their presence visibly as counterparts as well as equals with their own female position symbols."

However, along with this freedom of choice also comes confusion and uncertainty as to what is appropriate to wear for business. Women are bombarded with conflicting messages about how they should dress for work. Fashion magazines and some department stores display inappropriate career clothing because it appeals to those readers and buyers who want to be on the cutting edge of trendy dressing. Some of the work clothes promoted by these fashion arbiters are inappropriate for most working women. We find pages and pages of models with extremely short and tight outfits that leave professional women wondering how they are supposed to dress for the office. Susie Watson, advertising and public relations director of Timex, Inc., may have said it best: "If I wore to work at my corporation one of the many baby-doll dresses shown by this year's designers, they would think I was sleepwalking!" Too often women hurt themselves in their career by taking too many liberties with their image at work. In hospitality, even though there is room for creativity and flair, your image must convey messages of professionalism and credibility.

Research conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership in North Carolina found that attention to image was vital for women who want to advance in their careers. The overall image of top achieving women was "stylish, sophisticated, businesslike and commanding." This chapter will provide you with the information to achieve this image of excellence. In this section, we will walk you from the clothing store to your closet and then to your place of work so you will learn the guidelines that will help you select clothes and accessories that send a message of professionalism and credibility, along with the flair that is appropriate in hospitality.

When we think of a well-dressed female hospitality professional, "appropriateness" is a key element that comes to mind; also, attention to detail in the selection of fabrics, styles, colors, accessories and the art of putting them all together. With this premise in mind, let's begin with a questionnaire that will focus on some clothing essentials necessary for being a well-dressed female hospitality professional.


As we said earlier, today's professional woman does not need to copy the male "uniform" any longer. You can convey credibility, professionalism and authority while expressing your individuality and complementing your personal characteristics. The new working wardrobe rules are: Wear what is appropriate, comfortable and flattering. Of the three rules, though, numero uno is wear what is appropriate--first for your position, second for your figure, third for the season of the year and fourth for the career fashion of the moment. During our seminars with Fortune 500 companies, we invite the participants to discuss a set of posters with photos of professional women wearing different outfits. They select one of the following statements for the outfit that they believe creates that specific type of reaction and/or perception:

a. Client relates to a competent business look. Reinforces confidence in doing business with company.

b. Client senses a "sporty," loose feeling about the company. Lack of seriousness to handle his/her business.

c. Client may interpret this as a social occasion, not a business opportunity.

d. An outdated look may reflect lack of innovation in the marketplace.

The following descriptions of outfits are examples of some of the photos that our participants have analyzed. Take a few moments and read each description and choose one of the above statements that you think will describe a client's perception. Circle one of the letters for each outfit. You can select a statement more than once; example, you may decide that there are two descriptions that will create statement c, and so on.

1. Gray-and-white, double-breasted, houndstooth wool jacket; white silk jewel neck blouse and a black wool skirt.

a b c d

2. Blue, low-cut knit sweater with a short black leather skirt, opaque hose and flat shoes.

a b c d

3. Brown men's-style plaid suit, long full skirt with a white, pleated cotton blouse with a bow tie.

a b c d

4. Red gabardine coat dress with shawl lapels and gold buttons.

a b c d

5. A pink, white and blue floral print dress with lace collar and cuffs, high heels and dangling pearl earrings.

a b c d

This exercise describes your perception of the symbols of a woman's business wardrobe. At the end of this chapter you will find the perceptions shared by our seminar participants around the country.

Judgments are often formed about a woman on the basis of her attire; thus, on the following pages you will find information on professional dress that will guide you in creating a business look that sends clear messages of capability, professionalism and credibility, and will help you be accepted for your credentials instead of your looks.


When selecting outfits for the office, safe is better than sorry. There are several options for outfits that are internationally accepted as professional looks for women: a suit matched or contrasting, a dress, and a dress with a jacket. Other outfits such as pants or skirts and blouses are not always recognized as professional attire. Therefore, select outfits from a variety of suits, dresses and coordinated separates that are well-made, fit you properly, complement you and are totally professional.


These are the levels of dressiness for the different clothing options for a professional look:
matching suit in a solid color                    most dressy
matching suit in a subtle pattern                 more dressy
unmatched suit                                    dressy
dress with a jacket                               dressy
coat dress                                        dressy
pant suit (if accepted by organization)           dressy
dress solid color                                 less dressy
dress in small to medium print                    less dressy
skirt and blouse or sweater                       informal
pants and blouse (if accepted by organization)    casual
shorts and jacket (if accepted by organization)   casual



A suit is the smartest choice for a professional woman today and is the most important item in her wardrobe. Unlike a few years ago, today you don't have to intimidate anyone with huge shoulders. Shoulders are generally softer because of the fashion trend. Suits are more authoritative, though, if they are in dark or rich colors such as navy, black, camel, teal, brown, purple, gray or olive green. Be sure to select a shade that complements your coloring. If you are a very light, fair-skinned person, you will look overpowered by a black or dark suit. Instead, look for shades of teal, blue or blue-gray. If black is your choice or is required by your company, soften it at your neckline with a light top and/or a light color accessory. A patterned suit is another choice; look for tweeds, checks, herringbone and subtle plaids.


A red suit is considered a new neutral; red is also a color that tells others you are prepared to stand out and be noticed. Wear it when you are dealing with a large group or convention and you want the participants to listen to what you have to say.


The new suit also has a softer silhouette and simple design. You have many choices: the lapeled jacket either notched or shawl-collared; the V-necked tailored; the box jacket; and the cardigan with soft shoulders. The so-called two-piece or Channel-style suit, to be worn without a blouse, is another option; even though it is an elegant choice, it is not as versatile to mix and match with other pieces in your wardrobe. You may only be able to match the skirt with other jackets. The non-lapeled and V-necked suit are styles that will accommodate many different necklines. A jacket without lapels sets off blouses with high collars, jewel collars and even a simple V-neckline, allowing you to wear a scarf for variety.


The best fabrics for suits are the all-seasonal fabrics such as gabardine, lightweight wool, wool crepe, silk, linen and rayon blends. Linen is a cool fabric during the warm months, but it wrinkles so much that you will lose your polished look after sitting for more than an hour. Instead, buy linen and silk blends or linen and wool blends which give you comfort without the wrinkles.

When selecting a jacket, pay attention to the details of construction. It is important that you check the quality of a suit because, in general, accepted industry standards are lower for women's clothing than for men's clothing. Look for even trims and hemlines. Your jacket is the most important item in your wardrobe, so select the best quality you can afford.


When selecting a jacket, be sure that it fits you properly. Examine the shoulders: Do they look natural and not severe? Excessive padding at the shoulders is passe. If you want to balance wide hips, try some moderate shoulder pads. Many women wear their jackets too small. Your jacket should not wrinkle across the back or under the collar and you must be able to button it easily. Even if you do not button your jacket, it must have enough space for a blouse, vest or sweater; buttons should never tug or pull, be loose or hang. Because you will need to button your jacket before any presentation, be sure that the lapels, buttons and vents look smooth and comfortable when buttoned. Check sleeve buttons occasionally for replacement. Be careful not to stretch the pockets from carrying heavy contents. Be sure that the sleeve of the jacket touches your wrist bone; many times a half-inch makes a big difference. If you need the sleeves altered, it is a very worthwhile investment for a polished look. The length of the jacket will depend on two criteria: your body proportions and the fashion trends. You need to choose current styles that flatter your figure and body proportions.



In our seminars, when we discuss the role of a jacket in a professional wardrobe, we invite a participant who is wearing a suit-jacket and a blouse to come to the front of the room. We ask the group to look at her and say out loud what clothing message she is sending. Participants say things like professional, credible, powerful. Then we ask her to remove her jacket. The first thing that happens is that she says she feels different, using words like cold, naked and uncomfortable. The group says that without the jacket our participant looks more casual, less credible, less professional. We call this exercise "the magic of the jacket." A jacket is a symbol that imbues the wearer with a feeling of self-confidence and sends out messages of credibility to observers. The jacket is the female equivalent of the male suit and, therefore, it should become the backbone of your wardrobe. Studies on business dress show that in a meeting, if a man takes off his jacket and the woman keeps hers on, she has a slight authoritative edge. But if a woman takes off her jacket and the man leaves his on, her position of authority is diminished, even to the point that she may not be perceived as a manager but as support staff.


There are five occasions in which a professional woman benefits from wearing a jacket:

1. When meeting a client for the first time. In hospitality, as well as in other industries, first impressions count. The jacket will send a clear message of professionalism. A jacket is an international symbol that means business. If during the first meeting, your client is not wearing a jacket or removes it during the meeting, you may also take off your jacket to make them feel more at ease.

2. When giving a presentation. In this situation a jacket says "credibility" and your audience--no matter if they are men or women--tends to pay more attention to a speaker wearing a jacket. You will not see a man giving an important business presentation without his jacket.

3. When attending meetings, especially ones in which you know men will participate. It is a matter of space. When attending a meeting, shoulders from suits take up space, so you don't want to diminish your personal power by not wearing a jacket if everyone else is.

4. When being interviewed. Whether it is a job interview, a press interview or an internal office interview, your jacket will give you a sense of confidence and credibility.

5. When you work in an office in which clients or guests drop in unannounced. If you work in this type of office, your jacket will send a consistent message of professionalism at all times. If your office is not as visible, having a jacket available allows you to be appropriately dressed whenever you learn visitors are stopping by.

6. When you appear in court. Chances are that the key players--the judge, attorneys and jurors--will be wearing jackets. They will take you more seriously if your outfit is at the same level of professionalism, and your jacket helps you achieve just that. A jacket could be worn over a skirt, over a dress or even over pants or city shorts. A jacket elevates the degree of dressiness and formality of an outfit.


A blouse for a woman is like a tie for a man. It is your signature, the opportunity to express your individuality and to add sparkle to your outfit. Remember that eye contact centers on the oval made by your face, the lapels of your jacket and the upper part of your blouse. This "frame" must send the right messages of quality, coordination and taste. Blouses give your suits, jackets and skirts a finished look and, like suits, should be made of natural fibers or top quality blends such as silk, crepe, challis, cotton and linen. The new washable fabrics are a good choice since caring for them is easy and economical.

You may choose blouses with handsome detailing to make the basic pieces of your wardrobe look new and updated. Sometimes your blouse can make a conservative suit look fresh and sophisticated. The neck styles that work best with most jackets are the jewel neck and high collars. Always invest in a good quality white blouse, but a white that is complementary to your coloring could be ivory, off-white or pure white. A white blouse combines well with most colors of suits and jackets and gives you the option to use accessories--scarves, necklaces and pendants--to set your outfit apart. Sweaters and knits add another dimension to your jackets. Select a turtleneck, a cowl neck or a jewel neck that complements your face shape and neck length. Wearing a knit top with a suit makes the outfit less formal. When I conduct seminars for resort properties, I wear suits and separates with knit tops to achieve a professional resort look. A career camisole is another option, and a silk or satin camisole can take your suit into the evening for a dressy occasion. Remember that in this case, you will not want to remove your jacket.

When selecting the right neckline, remember that "the least flesh shown, the more powerful you look." Two inches above cleavage is considered a conservative neckline. This rule applies to blouses as well as dresses.

You want attention focused on your face not on your chest, so wear appropriate undergarments or a slip-camisole when wearing light-colored blouses. Make sure the blouse is properly fitted with at least one inch of fabric on each side of the bust-line, so it looks loose and comfortable. Buttons must remain closed without pulling. When trying on a blouse, do all the arm movements that you usually use on the job, so that you know that the blouse is comfortable.

Here's a tip I learned from my mother, who is an accomplished seamstress. When fitting a blouse or dress on me, she would ask me to take my right hand, bend my thumb and put the four fingers together; then I placed the hand in between my underwear and the garment she was fitting. If there was enough space for my hand, the fit was right; if not, the blouse or dress had to be altered. I still use this "home measurement" when I try on ready-made clothes.

If your blouse has long sleeves, they should reach to the wrist bone and stick out from the jacket between one-eighth and one-fourth inches. Your blouse should also be longer than your hip bone so you can tuck it in between your underwear and your pantyhose, which helps keep it secure and neat.


In the last few years, the dress has become a welcomed alternative for professional women. After the male uniform look was over, the coat dress was the most popular option for female executives. This dress provided a safe transition via its sleek tailoring and notched lapels. Today, you can create a completely professional look with a dress. Designers and manufacturers have created dresses that are authoritative, stylish, comfortable and appropriate for the office. Many dresses today can enhance your image as well as a suit can.


The most important elements when selecting your dresses are quality of construction, color, fabric and design. Look for clean lines and few details. A coat dress made of gabardine is a good first choice. The look should be classic with an impeccable cut. The two-piece dress is also appropriate and a good wardrobe investment since you can mix and match the pieces. Select fabrics such as challis, silk, rayon or a silk blend; these lightweight fabrics team up well with a jacket, which can give the two-piece dress a more formal look.


Solids are easier to accessorize and look dressier. If you prefer prints, be sure the pattern size is small to medium--the size of a quarter or equivalent to a man's tie pattern is appropriate. Large patterns are too casual or too dressy for the office. Select patterns such as geometrics, paisleys, stripes, foulards and abstracts. A full floral dress is too dressy for the office and sends confusing messages; colleagues and clients may interpret the situation as a social occasion, not as a business encounter. Florals are symbolic of love, relationships and intimacy; use them in small amounts for blouses and scarves only. Career knits are another option; they are extremely functional and can give you a suit look. They are also a woman traveler's best friend.


When purchasing a dress, always replace the self-belt with a fine leather belt in a neutral color that complements the dress; this simple change will elevate the elegance of your dress immediately. As for sleeve length, long-sleeved dresses are more formal and no dress sleeve should be shorter than elbow length, including during warm months. The short-sleeved dress or suit is an especially good choice for a resort property--professional yet informal. Keep a jacket at the office for an instantaneous quick change if you need to raise the level of dressiness during the day or for a go-from-the-office evening event.



Your skirts are a versatile part of your wardrobe. You can create almost infinite variety by wearing your suit skirts with other jackets, and you can also add other solid or patterned skirts to mix and match with your jackets. By selecting solid skirts in the neutral colors of your palette (see page 13 to 18), you will have the flexibility to create combinations with all the colors that complement you.

Since the skirt is such an important element of your wardrobe, be certain it fits properly. A good fit means the waistband is loose enough to insert two fingers, allowing it to turn easily; it does not crease or pull across the break of the leg; and it hangs from the buttocks in a straight line and does not curve under. If you wear pleats, they should lay flat and not pull open. If the skirt has pockets, they must remain closed. Any tightness in your skirt spoils the total look and sends a careless message; it also draws people's attention to your waist or thighs, which is not where you want it in a business situation.


Then comes the critical question of how short is "too short" for business. Most fashion magazines proclaim that the emphasis for working women is not on power shoulders but legs. This is a risky approach. Fortunately, women no longer allow themselves to be dictated to by the fashion industry about how long or short they should wear their skirts. Even the designers them selves have stated that fashion is no longer a matter of hemlines. This freedom allows women to select a hemline that is comfortable and flattering for them. Today almost any length is fashionable, and short skirts do have a place at the office, with some limitations. When the issue of wearing mini-skirts is discussed in our hospitality seminars, I share how the women who wear them are viewed and reviewed by their managers--male and female: "Your outfit is nice and you are going to make a few people happy today. But at the same time, your outfit could set the stage for sexual harassment." In addition, a mini-skirt can be distracting and they are not user-friendly; it is very difficult to sit comfortably at a desk and it is almost impossible to bend over under any circumstances.

When selecting a short skirt, remember that when you sit down, your skirt shortens three inches. Therefore, a skirt that stops around the knee is appropriate for the office. To pinpoint the exact length on you that is both flattering as well as professional, stand up and make a circle with your two thumbs and index fingers and locate it around your kneecap. Any length at the circle, inside the circle or lower than the circle is appropriate. A hemline that is higher than the circle is probably too short and will draw people's attention to your legs instead of to your face where powerful eye contact occurs. When wearing short skirts, combining them with matching stockings in semi-opaque styles gives you a more professional look; sheer skin-colored and patterned hose draw undue attention to the legs.

If your legs are not an asset and short skirts do not appeal to you, you can minimize attention there by wearing longer, flowing hemlines with matching hosiery. Taller women look great in longer lengths if the skirts are not too bulky. Very full, long swirling skirts are too social or casual for the office. If you like this style, try one cut on the bias which will give you the movement without excess volume. Long, pleated or semi-pleated skirts are a better option. When selecting a long, narrow skirt, walk around the store and experience how comfortable it is. If you have a long skirt with a slit, the height of the slit should be measured the same as you do the short skirt, since once you sit down, that is how high your skirt will open.


"In 1990, I gave my first speech to Congress and received hundreds of calls. I thought the response was to my speech, but I had unknowingly become the first woman to wear pants on the House floor," said Congresswoman Susan Molinari. When will pants cease to be grounds for debate? Many companies actively discourage or specifically prohibit women from wearing trousers, while others accept them under certain conditions. In 1989 when I was planning a seminar for a hotel in Washington, D.C., the general manager told me that the female executives were allowed to wear pant suits, and that this new policy was giving his hotel an international edge. It did not surprise me since Scandinavian and German women have a good laugh over the U.S. debate about wearing pants in the office; trousers are widely worn by working women in these countries. At the same time, pants are not yet interpreted internationally as a symbol of a female professional as much as a skirted suit is.


The acceptance of pants as an option for women in hospitality is changing slowly but surely. If wearing pants is not accepted in your company yet, remember that controversial clothing can get you the wrong kind of attention. And, unfortunately, some women have abused a pants-allowed policy by wearing poor quality trousers or stirrup pants with a blouse or sweater. This is one of the reasons why some companies do not want to open the door to include pants as an accepted option. They fear that some women will cross that fine line between comfort and unprofessional attire.


If pants are an accepted option for business attire in your organization, matched and unmatched pant suits are the styles that will express your professionalism and credibility. Matching trousers and jacket is the more formal option; trousers with an unmatched jacket is less dressy. The best pant suit options are those in elegant neutral colors in good quality fabrics. The more substantial the weight and texture of the fabric the better. Choose gabardine, wool flannel, wool crepe, tweeds and herringbones. Select patterns that look like solids from a distance. Always complement a pant suit with a leather belt and appropriate shoes. A medium heel pants shoe makes the pant suit formal and elegant. A lower heel makes it less dressy. When wearing trousers, always wear earrings and other accessories such as pins, scarves or necklaces. Also remember that when wearing pants you will be noticed more, which demands a high quality trouser as well as impeccable cut and fit. Follow the same guidelines as for the skirt: Pleats must remain closed without pulling, pockets need to remain closed and the waistband should be loose enough to insert two fingers. Adjust the trousers' hem to mid-heel length for an elegant polished look. Avoid too short a hem when you wear trousers.



When combining articles of clothing, you may be able to mix and match to achieve different looks depending on the occasion, or depending on the type of property you work in. In a city hotel, your look may need to be more corporate to appeal to your guests and clients. At a resort, you may need to have a less formal but still professional look. In both cases, in the hospitality industry there are times and situations in which women are expected to wear more casual attire, such as for a barbecue, a patio party or just an outdoor function at which a tailored wool suit would not be appropriate, since clients and guests will be in their khakis and polo shirts, pants and blouses. So, let's look at the different fabrics that make a more corporate-dressy look versus a resort-casual look:


Dressy--solids or small prints in fine weaves

worsted wool

wool crepe gabardine



crepe de chine

satin (evening wear)

cashmere (evening wear)

charmeuse (evening wear)


tissue faille

Less Dressy--solids or medium prints in medium weaves






oxford cloth

cotton pique

raw silk




handkerchief-weight linen

wool flannel


Casual--solids or medium to large prints in coarser, loose








Remember that the finer the weave and the shinier the fabric, the dressier the garment. Matte finish is less dressy. When making combinations, mix: dressy with dressy, dressy with less dressy, less dressy with casual, casual with casual. Do not mix dressy with casual.

Avoid leather or suede for garments since these fabrics are considered sensual and, therefore, send mixed messages in office settings; use them for accessories only--belts, shoes and handbags. Forego shiny fabrics for day; wear them for evening or social events only.


If your position requires a professional resort look, your goal is to select clothes and accessories that will make you look more approachable, friendly and less formal but still professional, without intimidating your casually dressed guest who may be wearing shorts and a T-shirt or resort wear. You can achieve this look by choosing less constructed clothing, separates, sweaters, knit tops in more textured fabrics and by using more color and creating more interesting and creative color combinations.


When we interviewed many resort properties around the country for this book, we found that the clothing options for women managers in resorts is broader than for those in city hotels. Nintey-nine percent of the respondents said that at their properties, besides wearing the traditional suits, dresses and skirts, women wear pants suits. In the resorts located in a warmer climate, pants with no jackets were also appropriate. The walking short--also called the city short--was mentioned by most of the companies as another alternative for the resort look. When selecting this look, which consists of long shorts and matching jacket, be sure that the jacket is long enough to give you a suited look. If you choose to wear culottes, remember that they look better teamed up with smart jackets, so they give you a comfortable but still professional look. When selecting culottes, be sure not to have too much volume, and select a good quality fabric.


When choosing fabrics, select from the less dressy or dressy category (ones with a matte finish) and mix them with fabrics from the less dressy list. For example, pair a gabardine skirt with a wool flannel jacket and a knit top; or, a linen-blend pant suit with a cotton blouse.

Select less dressy accessories such as:

lower heel shoes

colored shoes

matte-finish necklaces, earrings, pins

colorful, discreet accessories

gold, silver, copper buttons

pocket squares


subtle stones





colored leather or patent belts


When completing the outfit described above (gabardine skirt, flannel jacket and knit top), add a challis scarf or an ivory necklace or pin with earrings, a matte-finish leather belt and medium heel shoes for a complete professional resort look.



Shoes, belts, jewelry and scarves can take your outfit from ordinary to extraordinary. When you wear your clothes over and over again, changing the accessories will make them look new. "Every season, I recommend that my clients invest the amount equivalent to one complete outfit in accessories," says my colleague Mary Elizabeth Kaiser. This is the least expensive way to stay fashionably up-to-date.



Select shoes that are comfortable as well as professional; after all, you will be on your feet most of the time. Some women care more about the color than the quality of their shoes, but it should be just the opposite. Buying good quality shoes is an investment that affects your well-being. If you are uncomfortable throughout the day, this discomfort will keep you from performing your work with energy and enthusiasm. A medium heel pump (one-and-one-half to two inches) is a perfect choice. I call the pump your best accessory friend; it is elegant, simple and can be combined with any outfit. Avoid open toes or sandal styles which are too dressy or too casual for the office. The heel of a shoe can alter the dressiness of your outfit: the higher the heel, the dressier the look; the lower the heel the less dressy. When wearing short, knee-length skirts, a medium to high heel is appropriate. When wearing longer narrow or pleated skirts, select a lower heel. Avoid flats, which are too casual for the office.


Replacing the heels or entire soles with quality leather or rubber will ensure longevity. When buying suede, treat them with water-resistant spray before wearing. Store your shoes in a cupboard or closet between wearings using wooden shoe trees to help keep their shape. Resting shoes for two or three days before wearing them again will allow the leather to recuperate and will help your shoes last longer. Your feet will also appreciate wearing a different shoe each day, so they can also recuperate from the sensitive spots that got rubbed during the wearing. And, of course, not only men have to keep their shoes shined regularly. One of the pleasures of traveling for me is getting my shoes shined and reading the newspaper while waiting for my plane. So whether at the airport or at home, giving your shoes a regular shine will give you a polished, professional look.


Select hose in a nude shade, sheer or semi-opaque. Avoid patterned hose and colored hose such as red, burgundy, purple, green and pink. Also, do not try to create the impression of having a tan by wearing "suntan" hosiery. It does not work and makes you look inexpensive.

To confirm this approach of not bringing colored attention to your legs, let me share the result of a poll conducted with professional men and women in 1989. The male professionals listed three things about their female colleagues that they considered unprofessional:

* chipped nail polish

* heavy fragrance

* colored hose.


If you want to know what the women said about their male colleagues, turn to page 49.



While men struggle with choosing the right tie, shirt and suit combinations, women have difficulties selecting the right hose and shoes for a hemline. This is one of the most common questions that we get in our seminars. The main idea is that you do not want to draw attention to your legs in a business encounter. You want your outfit to begin in a flow of color from the bottom going up, without breaking the continuity at the leg area. You do not want anything in your outfit that makes a visual or mental noise. Light hose in the middle of a dark hemline and dark shoes will make a visual noise by bringing attention to it. Follow the Golden Rule for combining shoes, hose and hemlines: Hose must be a nude shade, or same shade as shoes or lighter, never darker.

The following chart will help you select the right shoes and hose for your hemlines. Look at the outfit you want to combine in the column that says Hemlines. Look for the shoes and hose options on the same line.
HEMLINES          HOSE                           SHOES

ivory or light    ivory, cream                   ivory, cream

taupe             taupe, light gray, beige       taupe, gray, beige

camel/golden      beige or golden tone           camel, brown, black

brown             sheer brown                    brown

gray              gray, medium taupe             gray
                  gray or sheer black

navy              sheer navy, gray               navy
                  sheer black

black             sheer black, gray              black
                  almost black

bright colors:    ivory                          ivory
red, blue,        cream                          bone
royal, coral      taupe                          taupe
                  gray                           gray
                  sheer black                    black
                  beige                          camel, golden brown

dark colors:      sheer navy                     navy
purple, rust,     sheer black                    black
burgundy, dark    gray                           gray
green, teal       sheer brown or                 olive
                  charcoal gray
                  sheer brown                    brown

prints in         Select a neutral background color and choose the
medium tones      appropriate hose and shoes. Example: For a gray
                  and yellow print, follow instructions for gray.


When selecting accessories, look for simple, classic styles in medium to large sizes. Well-designed "significant" jewelry will create a look that is individual and distinctive. Invest in a good quality watch and avoid plastic, sport, calculators or alarm watches. Avoid dangling or too large earrings. Dangling earrings or anything that moves or makes noise creates a visual or mental noise which detracts from the eye contact. When wearing strands of pearls, stones or chains, limit the strands to three. More than three becomes too dressy for a business look. One ring per hand is enough for a polished look. Keep bracelets to a minimum. Any bracelets that move or make noise will work against your professional look. Try a single bracelet or a few fine ones together with your watch for interest.

Avoid wearing too many pieces. How many are too many? After you have put on the last accessory and think you are ready, look in a mirror and count points. The 15-point checkup before leaving for work will alert you if you have gone too far. Count each shoe, your stockings, your jacket and blouse and your skirt, if it is different from the jacket. Bright colors count two points and bright nail polish and red hair each count one point. Count all accessories including bracelets, necklaces, each earring, brooches and scarves. If the number exceeds 15, you've overdone it. Also, any time you are not sure about wearing a particular accessory, the answer is probably no!, so leave it off.


Studies conducted in America and Europe confirm that women who wear makeup earn more money and advance faster than their colleagues who don't. In the mid-1980s, one corporation funded a study to find out the effect that makeup and grooming had on women at work. Photographs and resumes were sent out to top personnel officers; in some of the photos women wore makeup and in some they did not. The officers were asked which of the women they would hire and how much would they pay, assuming the need for a professional with their qualifications. The results showed that not only were the candidates wearing makeup more likely to be offered jobs, but they were offered salaries between 20 and 25 percent higher than the women not wearing makeup.


Makeup for professional women is as important as their outfit. The good news is that an appropriate makeup is one that is well blended and looks minimal. Women who wear too much makeup or too garish colors are considered to have as poor an image--or worse--than women who wear none. A natural, blended makeup is one that gives you a fresh look without calling undue attention to it. If you do not like to wear makeup or have never worn it, begin with blush and lipstick. Lipstick affects the look of your eyes. Look at yourself before you apply lipstick and pay attention to your eyes. It is vital that you select a lipstick that is in harmony with your coloring (see list below). Now, apply your flattering lipstick and focus on your eyes again and see the effect it has on them; they will look brighter and sparkling.

Wearing blush and lipstick are essential to achieving a business makeup look. Therefore, be sure that the colors you choose complement your coloring. Have you ever seen a person with golden skin, golden green eyes and medium brown hair with gold highlights wearing fuchsia lipstick? When you look at her all you focus on is the lipstick which, even if her clothes are professional and exquisitely put together, breaks the harmony of the total look. When choosing your makeup, follow your natural coloring and select from the colors listed below. Some common sense applies when choosing shades for a particular outfit. For example, when wearing red, wear the version of red that complements you, either a true, blue red (cool), or a yellow red (warm). If you are in the deep category, wear red lipstick when you wear red, black or green. If your outfit has olive green, maroon, brown, peach, coral or any golden tones, avoid lipsticks in pink, rose or fuchsia, even if you do look good in those shades.

Deep          Light         Warm          Cool

true red      pinks         corals        pinks
burgundy      corals        warm reds     burgundy
              coral red     rust          cool red

rust *
fuchsia **

Deep          Bright        Subtle

true red      clear pinks   corals
burgundy      true reds     rose
              clear         soft reds
              corals        honey

rust *

fuchsia **

* Wear if you have warm undertones (golden skin tone, warm toned eyes
and warm tones in you hair-confirm with an image consultant).

** Wear if you have cool undertones (rose brown, olive skin, brown or
black eyes and you look sallow in golden tones-confirm with an image


* Use the proper tools to apply your makeup. Good quality brushes make your job easier.

* Loose powder or foundation is essential. Select a foundation that matches the color of your skin tone at the jawline. Use powder to set liquid foundation for a natural look.

* Blush should give you a healthy glow and not appear as cheek flames or cheek balls. Apply a small amount with a blush brush, stroking along your cheeks at an angle toward your temple. If you need more color, apply a bit more blush and repeat. Finish with translucent powder.

* An eye shadow base smoothed over the lid before applying eye shadow helps your eye shadow last all day without creasing.

* To keep eyebrows looking neat, apply clear mascara or hair gel to a spare, clean lash wand and brush eyebrows up and into place.

* Lipstick will stay for hours with this technique: first, apply foundation to the lips; then line lips with lip pencil in the same shade as or lighter than your lipstick shade; next fill in the entire lip area with the lip pencil; then apply lipstick--ideally with a lip brush--taking care to stay between the lines.

* Touch up your powder and lipstick a couple of times during the day.


Your hair is considered your most visible accessory. It wraps your face and can complement or destroy the polished look you have carefully put together. One company hired me to coach a very effective female manager who was sabotaging her career by not controlling her long fuzzy hair. It was the focus of attention and the subject of conversation after every important meeting. We suggested she visit a hair "designer" who could give her a stylish cut for her hair type, and then to show the cut the same day to her regular hair dresser so he or she could inexpensively keep up the new style. If your hair is hard to manage, a shorter haircut could be a solution. If your hair is longer than your shoulders, pull it back in a neat style--either bowed or French-twisted --so your face is visible and your hair is not a distraction.

If you color your hair, bring out the natural tones or bring back the highlights that you once had. Any color you select should make you look natural and healthy. When contemplating a new color, it is best to seek professional advice; a colorist will help you select the most natural and complementary color for you. Be sure that the new color blends with your eyebrows and does not make such a statement that everyone will notice your hair first.


Besides the correct makeup, select a flattering hair style and accessories that complement your face. Following are suggestions for hair styles and earrings for each of the seven face shapes. These suggestions may differ from the ones given in fashion and beauty books and articles. My approach to achieving balance and harmony for our personal or professional look is to follow and echo the lines of our bodies and face shapes, instead of trying to change them. I believe that the face shape you were born with is perfect for you. Trying to achieve the so-called ideal oval face is a waste of time and effort. I tried for years and it just did not work. Look at my photo on the back of this book and you'll see I have very obvious facial angles. When I put on round earrings and accessories and got a curved hair style in an attempt to hide my angular face and make it appear rounder, I looked ridiculous. I invite you to identify your face shape with the description below, asking someone else to confirm your determination. Then accept it and celebrate it!

Donna Fujii in her book Color With Style gives the following guidelines:


If your face is oval, the length is longer than the width. Your face is not too long or too wide.

Hairstyle: You can wear most hairstyles. Symmetrical lines work well with your balanced features. Let it flow free with soft waves around your face or pull it back to show off your features.

Earrings: Most shapes work well. Avoid extremely long shapes that can elongate your face.



The length of your face is noticeably longer than the width. Brow bone, cheekbones and jawline are almost the same width.

Hairstyle: Wear bangs and a mid-length style with some fullness at the sides. Avoid long, straight hair, height on top, an exposed hairline or hair pulled back.

Earrings: Wide, curved shapes will create width through the middle of your face. Avoid long, narrow or dangling earrings as this will elongate your face.



The brow bone, cheekbone, and jawline are approximately the same width. The length of the face is short in proportion to the width.

Hairstyle: Add height to the crown, using layered or asymmetrical cuts. Swirly and light waves at the temples and jawline will soften the bone structure. Keep your cut in a medium to short length if your neck is short. Avoid solid, straight bangs.

Earrings: Medium size, angular with soft corners work well. Avoid squares, round and too big earrings.



Cheekbones are wider than brow bone and jawline. The jawline is angular and pointed.

Hairstyle: To balance cheekbones, add fullness at the top of the head and below the ear. Bangs will add fullness to the forehead. Avoid exposing hairline and ears. Avoid a haircut that is too long as it will elongate your face.

Earrings: Wear earrings with angles close to your face. Squares and triangles will work well. Avoid curved, long or dangling earrings.


Jawline is significantly wider than brow bone and cheekbone.

Hairstyle: Keep hairline away from jawline. Either short or neck-long hair works well. Look for fullness.

Earrings: Choose earrings that do not hit the jawline.

Angular shapes that sweep upward are a good choice. Avoid curved shapes.



The forehead and cheekbones are wider than the jawline, creating a prominent V-shaped chin.

Hairstyle: Bangs will break the forehead width. Avoid a top-heavy look and extremely short hair styles. Keep your hair chin- to shoulder-length.

Earrings: Select oval shapes that are broader at the bottom; this will add width near the chin line.



Cheekbones are wider than the brow bone and jaw line. Outline is curved in a circular shape.

Hairstyle: Build hair up on top of the head. Keep it in a medium to short length if your neck is also short. An off-center left or right part above your eye breaks up the face. Avoid very short styles or a center part.

Earrings: Choose earrings with curved lines that are longer than they are wide. Avoid too big or round earrings. Longer or dangling earrings that are not too narrow will also work well.


* Wearing glasses makes you look older and more credible.

* Wear clear, not tinted glasses for easier communication.

* Clear nail polish is the best. Colored nail polish should complement lipstick color.

* Avoid any garment that is too low, too tight or too clingy.

* Use a fountain pen.

* Use a leather attache case in one of the neutrals of your wardrobe.

* It is acceptable to carry an attache case plus a small handbag.

* Choose accessories that do not need constant attention. If you have to worry about something slipping, take it off.

* Your fragrance should not enter the room before you do and should not stay a week later. Less is more!

* Invest in a full-length mirror; it will become a truthful best friend.



Before you leave for work or a social engagement, examine with your best friend--a full-length mirror--the overall picture you present and the details from head to toe. Make the necessary changes, add or remove accessories and be sure your appearance and grooming are impeccable. This daily exercise will take just a few minutes but the confidence of being well dressed will be worth it. If you can check all the points, you are ready to face the world!


* Does not wrinkle across the back or under the collar

* Buttons easily

* Sleeves at wrist bone

* Does not pull across the back

* Pockets remain closed; any pleat or dart must lie flat


* Long sleeve should be at wrist bone

* Buttons must remain closed with at least one inch of fabric on each side of the bust line

* Longer than the hip bone

* Avoid sleeveless blouses


* Pleats should not pull open

* No crease or pull across break of leg

* Skirt should easily turn around your body

* Straight skirts should hang from buttocks in a straight line and not curve under

* Not shorter than "around the knee"

* Loose enough for two fingers to be inserted in waistband

* No visible lines under skirt


* coat dress, shirt dress or two piece

* conservative neckline (2" above cleavage)

* medium to long sleeve

* medium to small print

* avoid floral prints


* Pleats remain closed

* Zippers and closings must lie flat

* Long enough to break in front

* Do not wrinkle across the front

* Fall straight from buttocks

* Waistband loose enough to allow two fingers to be inserted

* Panty line must not show

* Worn with jacket for a professional look


* Select neutral shades

* No sandals or "strappy" shoes

* Avoid too high or narrow heels

* Avoid flats

* Hose color does not bring attention to leg area

* Choose natural color hose that blend with hemline

* Hose color is nude, same shade as shoes or lighter, never darker

* No colored hose (red, purple, pink)

* Avoid patterned or textured hose


* Small to medium earrings, simple styles

* Avoid dangling or large hooped earrings

* Avoid noisy jewelry or pieces that move

* Avoid too many pieces

* No tinted glasses


* Wear blended, natural makeup

* Choose simple, carefree hair styles

* For colored hair, avoid roots showing

* Avoid extreme fashion styles and colors

* If your hair falls below the shoulders, pull it back

* Keep fingernails short to medium length

* Avoid too bright colors (fuchsia-orange-purple) in nail polish

* No chipped nails

* Avoid dark lingerie with light clothing

* No slip showing below hemline

* Avoid high split in skirt

* No slip showing between split in skirt

* Avoid heavy fragrance


1. a Client relates to a competent business look. Reinforces confidence in doing business with company.

2. b Client senses a "sporty," loose feeling about the company. Lack of seriousness to handle his/her business.

3. d An outdated look may reflect lack of innovation in the marketplace.

4. a Client relates to a competent business look. Reinforces confidence in doing business with company.

5. c Client may interpret this as a social occasion, not a business opportunity.


Answer each question with either "Yes" or "No." If you answer "No" then also answer "Why."

1. During the summer months, is it appropriate to wear a white linen suit, turquoise blouse, black shoes and suntan hose to a staff meeting?

Yes -- No -- Why?

2. Is it appropriate to wear a navy suit, cream blouse with a high neckline, bone pumps and belt, ivory hose and medium-sized gold earrings to a meeting where you need to look powerful?

Yes -- No -- Why?

3. Is it appropriate to wear a two-piece, short, elbow length-sleeved dress in a small geometric print of gray, coral and black, with a gray jacket and gray hose and shoes to meet with an executive of your company for an update on a project?

Yes -- No -- Why?

4. Is it appropriate to wear a flower print, silk dress with open neckline, pearl and gold earrings and sheer hose for a regular day at the office?

Yes -- No -- Why?

5. Is it appropriate to wear a long-sleeved teal dress, gray pumps with sheer hose and gold dangling earrings for a staff meeting where you will be making a project or work report presentation?

Yes -- No -- Why?

6. Is it appropriate to wear a red coat dress with a print scarf, a snakeskin gray belt, gray hose and shoes for a regular workday?

Yes -- No -- Why?

7. Is it appropriate to wear a turtleneck sweater with a wool tweed knee-length skirt, shoes that blend with the skirt color, sheer hose and a gold pin with discreet earrings for the first meeting with a prospect who is coming to visit the facilities before booking an event with your company?

Yes -- No -- Why?
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Article Details
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Author:Michael, Angie
Publication:Best Impressions in Hospitality
Article Type:Professional standards
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Previous Article:Chapter 3 Professional dress for men in hospitality.
Next Article:Chapter 5 Casual days in hospitality?

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