Boss Lady

Smashing ‘The Look’ in business


We’ve seen tough new measures against discriminatory workplace dress codes appear and be implemented. Employers were expressly banned from requiring their female staff to wear an item of clothing, including footwear and high heels, which have caused some controversial debate in other countries.

Science has established that first impressions are still incredibly important. Many businesses still rely on uniforms for their workers, and not without good reason.

As an independent businesswoman, what steps can you take to present a professional look without being constrained, or feeling uncomfortable in clothes dictated by ‘best practice’?

Your makeup

Make-up is, of course, entirely optional. You should not feel that it is a necessity, in order to look presentable or form a good impression.

However, many women use make-up to enhance their looks or feel more confident. When applying cosmetics, make sure that you’re playing to your strengths and perhaps even think about your daily application of make up as an extension of your work clothes or uniform.

It is essential to use a colour-matched foundation for your skin. Find a shade that works with the tones and highlights of your skin and doesn’t simply give you a mask like appearance. Test your foundation in good daylight, out of the harsh strip lighting of the store you’re in, or request samples online that you can try at home.

Apply a similar approach to choosing a suitable lip colour. Whether you’re a gloss or a lipstick wearer, a long wearing product in a flattering shade will do more to make you look professional than a high fashion colour which can appear garish or unflattering.

Your outfit

When it comes to clothes, the workforce has been greatly liberalized in recent years.

Even big institutions have taken part in this, with PwC informing staff to simply ‘dress comfortably’. The advice taken from recent research is to dress comfortably at work and make sure you’re not distracted by uncomfortable or cumbersome clothing.

When meeting others to strike new deals or negotiate existing ones, it’s been shown to be advantageous to dress in a formal or semi-formal manner in order to get the best deal.

Essentially, put together outfits that fit the situation you’re going into, but still allow you to be comfortable.

Sadly, for many years it was seen as necessary for women to dress in inappropriately tight clothing and/or heels to make the best of themselves. These outmoded notions and pressures have mostly now gone, but it’s helpful to be mindful to what you’re hoping to achieve in your work day.


The pressure has always been on businesswomen to be perfectly groomed, with hair and make-up perfect, and nails and skin immaculate.

Most employers will expect you to maintain a reasonable level of hygiene – and of course be smartly dressed or in suitable work attire.

Of course, someone who looks very ‘scruffy’ may give a bad impression to outside agencies and stakeholders. Inside the company, however, you can feel free to be comfortable in your own skin.

In years gone by it really was the case that women were forced into much higher standards of dress code and appearance, when compared to men who could get often simply get away with being comfortable.

Liberalizing views of big companies and human rights groups mean that the reality today is different, and women can take advantage of this to make sure they are treated fairly.

About Jackie Edwards'

After taking a career sabbatical to become a mother, Jackie Edwards now writes on matters relating to business, money and family finance. She has, in the past battled problems with anxiety and panic, and in her spare time she volunteers for a number of local charities that support people with mental health issues

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