Tag Archives: business dress

Ten Dressing Faux Pas That Can Tarnish Your Professional Image

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It’s the morning rush hour. I’m not talking about the traffic you might encounter after you head out the door. I am referring to the chaos that occurs before you even cross the threshold. Whatever your morning routine, somehow there are things that manage to go awry.

You plan as much as you can the night before. However, if you have children that you need to get off to school, there is breakfast to prepare or at least supervise. Possibly lunches to pack. Then you need to make sure that everyone is dressed in the appropriate school garb. If you have pets, they have to be tended to as well before you leave for the day.

Whew! If that’s not enough, you have to get yourself ready for work. Waiting until the last minute to decide what to wear to work is not the best idea. If you’re savvy, you decide upon your workplace attire the night before. Chances are you won’t have time to ponder it in the morning.

The goal in choosing what you wear to work is to look your best—your professional best. No matter where you work and what is appropriate for that environment, there are certain details that if overlooked can ruin a good impression.

Here are a few things to check before you make your exit.

  1. If you have pets that shed, check your outfit for cat or dog hair. Fur is not considered office appropriate. Keep a roller brush handy.
  2. Do you see wrinkles? Maybe your colleagues or clients will assume they occurred on the way to work, but don’t count on it. Blow the dust off the iron, plug it in and use it.
  3. Take a look in the mirror—always a good thing—and survey the length of your pants. Are they bunched up with the hem dragging the floor? When you buy pants for work, remember that the hem of your pants should hit at the top of your foot, not below. If they don’t meet the test, visit a tailor.
  4. On the subject of pants, glance at the hem again. If the hem is frayed, put that pair in the donations pile and find ones that are in pristine condition.
  5. Count your accessories. A few pieces of jewelry will dress up your outfit, but don’t overdo it. Wearing a dozen bracelets can be distracting to the person you are trying to impress. And while you have ten fingers, they do not all need to be adorned with rings. One per hand is sufficient.
  6. Hair ties are not bracelets. If you have long hair and want to pull it back occasionally, keep a few ties in your desk drawer or in your purse, not on your wrist.
  7. Check the condition of your shoes. Nothing tells people how little attention you pay to detail as shoes that are scuffed or worn. There are people who check out your shoes before noting anything else.
  8. Do your clothes fit? Are you still trying to squeeze yourself into an outfit you “outgrew” months ago? Looking professional means wearing clothes that fit your body, not that of someone you used to be or hope to be again.
  9. Take time to dry your hair. Showing up for work with wet hair says, “I am running late” or “Who cares how my hair looks.”
  10. Hide your bra straps. (I can’t believe I just said that.) More women are showing up at work wearing blouses or dresses with little or no sleeves. While I am not a fan of sleeveless in the workplace; if you go that route, make sure that you aren’t advertising your choice of undergarments to the office.

When dressing for work, the smallest details count if you want to keep your professional image and your reputation intact as well as be respected by both colleagues and clients.

Clean, neat, pressed and fresh trump grungy every time.

Photo from Savanah magazine

Lydia Ramsey is business etiquette and modern manners expert, keynote speaker, seminar leader and author of Manners That Sell-Adding the Polish That Builds Profits. Based in Savannah, Georgia, she travels across the US and as far away as India and Dubai to work with clients that include universities, corporations, small businesses, associations and non-profit organizations. Her topics range from flip-flops to forks. Visit her website www.lydiaramsey.com for more information about her services and resources. If you prefer to talk, call her at 912-604-0080.

 

Flip-Flops: Are They Appropriate in the Office???

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It’s summer time, and they’re back!  Flip-flops. Maybe they never went away. They simply went into hibernation for the winter.  I suspect you know what I am talking about–those shoes that have nothing to hold them to your foot except a little piece of material across or between your toes. Flip-flops, slides or whatever you choose to call them, are the hottest trend in summer fashion footwear.

If you are wondering when the first shoe of this type appeared, I did a little research and discovered that sandals—which is frankly what we are referring to—came into existence around 2000 B.C. So for those of you who think this shoe is a 21st century creation, think again.  The sandal began as a basic item made to protect the soles of the feet when shoes were not available.  The simple strap between the toes made it easy to wear.  When this shoe resurfaced in modern times, it was still pretty much utilitarian footwear known as a beach shoe or shower shoe.  That’s right, a shower shoe.

So how did the shower shoe become the most popular footwear of the season?  It’s hard to say. One of the morning television news shows recently did a feature story on flip-flops. Several of the reporters were actually touting this as the shoe of choice to wear to work. One of the news anchors, a well-dressed man in a suit and tie, expressed his dismay at the thought of what he called “thongs” showing up at the office. I’m with him.

If you’re looking for shoes to wear to the office this summer and you feel that flip-flops are inappropriate, you may be in for a lengthy search like a business woman friend of mine discovered. She began her hunt for professional footwear online. To her dismay, what popped up on every site when she looked for shoes under “career” or “flats” were flip-flops.

Flip-flops or slides come in every fabric and heel height imaginable.  Once an inexpensive plastic shoe with a flat sole, they are now available in a variety of manmade and natural materials, in low to high heels, in every color and design you can conceive of and with prices ranging from $5 to $500.  (No, that’s not a typo.)

Flip-flops have become versatile, but once again, people are confusing the latest fashion with business attire.  Flip-flops, and their sandal or slide cousins, are not business professional footwear. They are casual to the extreme. It is not simply a matter of appearance—whether these shoes look professional or not—it is also a matter of safety. You can easily trip when you catch your foot on something unexpected. Flip-flops are also a noise nuisance. The sound of shoes slapping around the office can be annoying.

Before you slip into your cool new slides for which you may have paid a small fortune, think about where you work.  Are these shoes suitable for your work environment and type of business?  Do they follow the dress code if there is one?

The owner of a local travel agency came up with a simple rule to help her staff decide if their sandals, slides or flip-flops were appropriate for the office. Her guideline is “If it is designed for or can be worn on the beach, it is not appropriate for the office.”  I think she nailed it.

Photo from Savanah magazine

Lydia Ramsey is on a mission to stamp out rudeness. She is a Savannah-based business expert on business etiquette and professional conduct, a sought-after speaker and established author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her at LydiaRamsey.com to leave a comment, ask a question or learn more about her programs and products. More information on professional conduct is available in her best-selling books Manners That Sell – Adding the Polish That Builds Profits and Lydia Ramsey’s Little Book of Table Manners. Invite Lydia to speak at your next conference or meeting.

 

 

A Man’s Suit Coat: To Button or Not to Button

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Elegant businessman buttoning his suit coat.

To button or not to button is the age-old question when it comes to a man’s suit coat. Some men seem to know when to button, when to unbutton and which button to button under which circumstances. Others don’t seem to get it all. Perhaps you’ve noticed.

There is a high profile figure that I have in mind, but like Meryl Streep, I don’t want to name names. This person, who is seen almost daily in public, wears a suit and tie—that’s a good start—but he never has his suit coat buttoned. The example that he sets is not the one to follow. So I am here to set the record straight.

Now I am the first to admit that this is not the most important question you have to ponder, but if you want to show a touch of class and a bit of polish, you should know when to button a man’s suit coat and when to unbutton it.

First, let me give you a bit of history. How did the habit of leaving one button undone even come about? It seems that we have Edward VII to thank for this bit of fashion. That particular monarch was reportedly rather rotund so he found it difficult, if not impossible, to button the bottom button of his jacket or waistcoat. As a result, he got in the habit of leaving the bottom button undone. His subjects, out of respect or fear, followed suit (pardon the pun).

So today here is what we have for rules that govern a man’s suit coat–when it is correct to button or not to button:

  • When wearing a two-button coat, the top button is always buttoned. The bottom one never.
  • When wearing a three-button jacket, the middle button is fastened. The top one is optional and the bottom never.
  • When wearing a single-button coat, the button is always fastened.
  • When wearing a double-breasted jacket, button all those that have button holes.

Those rules for buttoning apply to when a man’s suit coat when he is standing. When seated, buttons are undone. This is for comfort as well as to keep the jacket from “bunching up” or to keep the bottom button from flying off–should the coat be a tad tight.

Simplified—as if it weren’t simple enough:

The traditional buttoning rule for a three button jacket – sometimes, always, never. That’s top button, middle, and bottom. For a two-button jacket – always, never. Or top button and bottom. And for a one-button jacket – always.

You might be tempted to say, “Who cares about the buttons on a man’s coat?”  Well, if you want to be viewed as someone who pays attention to detail, you do. You’d be surprised who notices and what they think about to button or not to button.

For your added amusement, try counting the number of times I have used the word button in this blog. For those who get it right, I will send you a link to my 21 Commandments of Business Etiquette. Simply email me at lydia@lydiaramsey.com with your response and correct email address. Better yet, complete my “Contact Lydia” form to receive your complimentary article.

While you are at it, let me know if you have a particular topic you want me to address or a question you would like answered.

You can find more information on business etiquette and modern manners in my book, Manners That Sell – Adding The PolishThat Builds Profits.

lydia_sm-e1393277822156Lydia Ramsey is business etiquette and modern manners expert, keynote speaker, seminar leader and author of Manners That Sell-Adding the Polish That Builds Profits. Based in Savannah, Georgia, she travels across the US and as far away as India and Dubai to work with clients that include universities, corporations, small businesses, associations and non-profit organizations. Her topics range from flip-flops to forks. Visit her website www.lydiaramsey.com for more information about her services and resources.

Business Casual Is Still About Business

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Business CasualWhen business organizations instituted “dress-down” or business casual days in the 1990’s, they created a dilemma which lives on today.  Never has there been so much confusion about what to wear to work.

Most companies do not have a clear policy on what is appropriate attire for casual days.  As a result, they watch their employees show up for work in everything from the sublime to the ridiculous.

If your company wants to have a casual dress day, put a written policy in place. Make sure employees are aware of the guidelines you have established.

There are few issues more difficult than trying to explain to employees what’s wrong with their choice of clothing.  If your policy says, “No jeans, tennis shoes or halter tops,” the problem should not arise.

When employees dress inappropriately, don’t ignore the problem. Most people want to do the right thing. It is unfair not to tackle this sticky issue head on. For those who take umbrage with you, perhaps you don’t need them in your employ.

“Business” is the key word in business casual.  Be sure that you and your employees know the difference between business casual and casual. They are not one and the same.

Your business apparel should always be what your clients expect to see. If you have to explain or apologize for what you are wearing, it is not appropriate.  When your client comes to your office and you find yourself saying, “Oh, by the way, today is casual day,” rethink what you wore to work.

If your organization already presents itself in a dress-down mode, you may not want to have a special casual day. That will only open the door to even greater challenges.

What you wear not only tells customers what you think of them; it also says what you think of yourself.

If this is a tough topic for you to address, Lydia would be happy to work with your employees on your behalf!  Call 912-604-0080 today.

Your Business Etiquette IQ: Are You Hireable? Referable? Promotable?

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I recently received a newsletter from my friend and colleague Mark LeBlanc of Small Business Success. The title “Are You Referable” immediately caught my eye.  Mark  began his article by telling about a conference that he had attended and where he noted that most of the attendees were not referable.  He gave three reasons why he said he would not refer any of these people to anyone else he cared about.

  1. Poor dress
  2. Poor communication skills
  3. Poor behavior

Mark’s observations struck a chord with me.  As a business etiquette trainer, these are exactly the issues I address in my keynotes and seminars delivered to business people at all levels from new hires to experienced executives, from large corporations to small businesses.  Mark makes the point that most of these individuals knew better when they started out in their careers, but somewhere along the way they became complacent. They lost sight of the importance of good manners and basic etiquette skills in the workplace.. I have to agree.

In many of my business etiquette presentations, I find that those people who have achieved a certain level of success, decide that the soft skills aren’t so important after all. They believe that because of their expertise and experience that they can dress as they please, communicate as they please and behave as they please. And it is not only those who have made it, so to speak, but the newest generation entering the workplace has a “whatever” attitude.

In today’s tough economic times, that is dangerous thinking.There is too much competition to overlook the importance of professional appearance and conduct.So think about it. Are you hireable, referable and promotable? Do you look, speak and act like someone who deserves to be hired for the job, referred to other clients and promoted to the next level? If others are getting hired instead of you, if they are getting more new client referrals  or if you are being passed over for promotions, it is time to assess how you look and sound to other people.

It is all in perception. It is not how we see ourselves; it is how others see us.It is not how we feel about ourselves; it is how others feel about us. Basic business etiquette skills and good manners matter.

So what can you do about it?  Look into my business etiquette training courses, executive etiquette coaching and the many resources available on my website Manners That Sell.. From the way you dress, speak, write and eat (yes, I said eat), every detail counts. Now may be the time for you or your organization to consider adding the polish that builds profits.

professional speaker

Photo from Savannah magazine

Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at lydia@lydiaramsey.com or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website, lydiaramsey.com.

Summer Business Dress – A Hot Topic

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Summer officially arrives on June 20th, and once again what to wear to work is a hot topic.  Understandably, we all want to be comfortable in the heat of the summer.  However, in their desire to cool down, some people forget that, regardless of the temperature, what they wear to work should always be professional.  Summer business dress is not to be taken lightly.

Now is a perfect time for every organization that wants to relax its dress code for the next couple months to put in place a clear policy for summer business dress.  Left to their own devices, many employees show more creativity in their attire than in their job.

Business dress is determined by four factors:   

  1. The industry in which you work.
  2. The job you have within that industry.
  3. The geographic region in which you live.
  4. What your client expects to see.

 If you want to implement a casual summer dress policy, make sure it fits your industry.  It’s a lot easier for the owner of the bike shop to dress casually in the heat than it is for the manager of the brokerage house.

Dress appropriately for your job. The person who works behind the scenes with minimal customer contact has more freedom with casual dress than the person who sits at the front desk greeting the public.

Geography plays a role in style of clothing and choice of fabric.  It’s not just temperature, but overall lifestyle, that affects clothing decisions.  Where you live affects how you dress from colors to fabrics to styles.

The most important factor to keep in mind when deciding what is appropriate business dress for the summer months is your client. What your clients expect to see when they come to your office or encounter you out at lunch on a workday is critical when you choose your summer business dress.  When bank employees come to work in polo shirts and khakis or sundresses and sandals, their customers may wonder if the organization has relaxed its approach to handling their money as well.

If you are a letter carrier or a UPS employee, shorts are the norm for summer. If you are a life guard, flip-flops are a natural.  Think twice before you or your employees shed your traditional attire and bare your flesh in the office. Does it fit your industry, your job and your clients’ expectations?

Business etiquette rules apply all year long. When you decide to adapt your appearance due to heat and humidity, make sure your summer business dress continues to reflect your professionalism.

Chapter Four of  my book, Manners That Sell-Adding the Polish That Builds Profits, deals specifically with business dress–everything from business formal to business casual attire. Order your copy today so you can be sure that what you wear to work sends the message you want your clients to receive.

Stay cool!

professional speaker

Photo from Savannah magazine

Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at lydia@lydiaramsey.com or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website, lydiaramsey.com.