Fashion comes and goes with the whims and moods of the moment—often with little or no concern for the results in the mirror. Thus, being in style is not the same as having style. Having style implies that one is a creature of natural refinement and elegance. Being in style suggests that a person is dressed in the colors and styles of the moment—whether they are flattering or not. With fashion victims abound from both sexes, it’s no surprise that image consultants arrived on the scene!

Coco Chanel once said, “Fashion passes. Style remains.” Dressing “deliberately” with an acute awareness of the effects that every element of one’s persona will have on the observer is, very simply, the clever implementation of style. A command of powerful, yet subtle, image tools enables a person to control the reaction of others. Self-awareness and self confidence also dramatically increase because it is empowering to know that one will always be seen as classy, professional, and polished.

Most of the fashion magazines I subscribe to have featured alluring young Hollywood stars in lingerie-style, décolleté clothing. Thinking this to be “in style,” hoards of young women throughout the country have taken to wearing lingerie-style tops to the office “as is” or under a business suit with the lace peeking out. Distressed clients have reported to me that some employees have begun wearing the lacy tops “as is,” without the jacket. Though “in style,” both looks are far from being professional. They are quite provocative and should be reserved for recreational activities.

A distinction has always been made between “sexy” and “cheesecake” within the world of fashion and image. What is the basic difference? One is classy and the other is not. What looks sexy and classy on the cover of a fashion magazine does not translate to classy in the office. On the contrary, it looks suggestive and provocative, and it can destroy a person’s credibility. According to Palm Beach psychotherapist, Carol Waldenburg, women must leave sexiness at home or for after work activities. She says, “Provocative dressing has no place at work and only demeans you, in the eyes of both men and women, without your even knowing it.”

When young female employees show up to work with exposed navels, lacy camisoles, and tight jeans with stilettos, managers are often speechless. “Don’t they know that kind of attire is totally unprofessional?” one executive exclaimed. “If we permitted it, it would cause us to lose all credibility with our clients,” he continued. “We’ve had to send several young women home to change clothes.”

For the first time in decades, what is “in style” and “with it” bears no resemblance to what is suitable for a professional office environment. There has always been a need for separate wardrobes, one for the office and one for casual activities. After all, until the revolution and the Casual Friday phenomenon, no one expected to be able to wear jeans and a T-shirt to the office. The problem is that wearing casual clothes often means employees are likely to take their work casually. Also, those in provocative attire appear to have something other than business on their minds.

Dressing professionally produces increased success in business. On the other hand, the outcome of dressing provocatively is an enhanced love life—two entirely different goals with entirely different “tools.” Gen-X and Gen-Y may balk at the idea of having two separate wardrobes, but that’s just the way it is. Simply stated, you won’t be taken seriously unless you look like you are serious about your career.

Author's Bio: 

Sandy Dumont, THE Image Architect is a fashion and image coach based in Norfolk, with 30 years of international and national experience helping individuals and Fortune 500 companies improve their image. She conducts customized Branding for People™ image workshops on a regular basis.

For more information, visit or call 757/627-6669.