Style Guidelines for Female Entrepreneurs
The NextWomen September Food & Fashion Theme.
You've practised the pitch a thousand times, but what on earth should you wear on the big day??
After we spoke with Sharon Haver, style expert and Founder of FocusOnStyle.com, earlier this month for this fabulous interview, we asked her to share her style tips on what to wear when pitching for funding, and for other nervewracking scenarios where the female entrepreneur really needs to look her best!
1) Scenario: Pitching for funding
Style Strategy = SUCCESS
Obviously, you want to look as successful as your business. Nothing attracts money more than money. Dress rich. Now's the time to pull out the most well-made garments you own. A go-to knee-length dress for this occasion is a must have. Don't forget the details, like a good pair of shoes. Opt for simple, well-made modern classics (you should have them in your biz wardrobe anyway) with a great cut, preferably ones that are clean and architectural. Stay clear away from anything too short, too revealing, or too busy. Strong neutrals like red, black, or blue or best.
Personally, the impactful yet effortless lines of Jil Sander, Yves Saint Laurent or The Row work best for me. Price should not be the option, as you can catch these classic pieces for a steal at seasonal or sample sales and tuck them away for that special pitch day.
2) Scenario: Attending networking events
Style Strategy = APPROACHABLE
Your goal for attending a networking event is to meet new people. Therefore, the last thing you want to do is seem stand-offish.
Avoid anything overly contrived, too slick, or crazy trendy unless its a fashion industry event. Go for a more relaxed, yet pulled together look. Separates are key for a dressed down, dressed up look. Roll up your sleeves to not look high-maintenance. Interesting accessories are a great conversation starter. Opt for a shoulder bag rather than a handheld satchel or clutch allowing your hands to be free to hold a drink or reach for a business card
3) Scenario: Social media photos and online image
Style Strategy = ENGAGING
Think of that little avatar as your cover shot and look at magazines for styling examples. So many women freak out on this one and you really shouldn't as the nervousness will transcend into your face.
When I was a stylist I loved styling magazine covers because you had to convey so much in a very limited amount of real estate. Same goes for your social media photo.
Inasmuch as what you wear is critical, so are your hair and makeup for such a tight shot. You want to look modern, not dated and stiff or messy and frantic. This might be a good time to rethink your current hairstyle if zooming in on it gives the impression of an 80s prom photo. Makeup should be natural. Matte is best with dewy sheer lips. Avoid anything overly frosted or goopy. Be aware of the light and how it casts shadows on your face. You can always retouch, but soft natural light may save you the trouble.
As for what you wear, keep to colors that flatter your skintone and tap solids over prints. Avoid boxy cuts. Opt for a few lightweight layers to create textural interest around your neck. Long necklaces are great as they bring the eye down and dangling earrings are distracting. Skip eyeglasses unless they are part of your signature look.
Check your angles to see which way you look the prettiest and avoid a straight-on shot, unless it doubles as the one on your driver's license. Be aware of where the photo will be cropped to see that it is in area that flatters your figure.
And for god's sake, don't stand with your arms crossed because you think that cliché pose conveys power... it makes you look dated and unyielding.
4) Scenario: Speaking at a large event
Style Strategy = POISE
Most of the time, speaking engagements involve travel and not necessarily spending your time with the same people . The advantage is that you can have one or two "speaking event" dresses and repeat them as you go. In my FocusOnStyle interview with keynote leadership and motivational speaker Alison Levine, she talks about her go-to favorite dress, "It’s sleeveless so it works in warm climates, and for colder climates or more conservative audiences I throw a short blazer on top." What you wear should demonstrate self-confidence and fit nicely both on you and in a suitcase. You want to avoid anything that could possibly cause a wardrobe malfunction or need a valise of bodyshapers to fit right. Go for something with pockets to give you a place to hide fidgety hands. A lean silhouette with clean lines will look better on stage or across a crowded room than something with too many details, gathers, or flounce.
Michelle Obama is a terrific power dressing muse for clean chic that looks both sharp and professional on stage.
Style mentor Sharon Haver is an accomplished stylist, style & fashion expert, fashion advice columnist, spokesperson, media personality, and founder & editor in chief of FocusOnStyle.com, delivering can-do chic fashion online since 1999. If you're looking for ageless style, join her free newsletter for expert tips to make the most of what you've got.
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