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Being the Best Dressed You

Did you know that by the time they reach high school over 70% of girls will have a negative body image. That's a much higher percentage than I would have ever thought, it's just one of many reasons why I believe in supporting young women through programs like Girls Inc. Over the weekend I was a speaker the Girls Inc of Memphis Girl's Summit. This one day event was planned by teens for teens to promote our mission of supporting ALL girls to be Strong, Smart and Bold. The theme was "A Brand Called Me, Discovering my Greatness". My particular workshop was "I am BE YOU tiful" and was about how to look our best no matter the situation.
One thing I really emphasized to the girls is that yes, different situations have "rules" of what to wear and what not to wear its important to always dress true to ourselves within those rules - don't copy an exact look of a mannequin or out of a magazine and don't think just because something is great for your friend it should be great for you. Knowing that I'm talking to girls looking for the first job and heading off to college I also talked about building a wardrobe on a budget - dresses are great multiple type of occasion garments and how to stretch the use of a suit by wearing the pieces separately. Most of all I told the girls that anything they wear should make them feel good, be something they are comfortable in and be something they have a reason to wear.
During each session we discussed different dress codes and what each one might mean, or what it doesn't mean. At the end I presented a little cheat sheet of guidelines to keep that summarized the various situations they might encounter in social and professional settings.

Appropriate Accessories
Make Up
Social Attire
White Tie
Reserved for the most formal of events. Ladies will be in full length ball gowns and gentlemen in tuxedos with tails.
Sparkly jewelry is encouraged but keep it tasteful and don't go overboard. Shoes should be evening shoes that would not be worn in a professional environment
Keep the overall base of a daytime look but add drama to either the eye or lip area. Shimmery shadows and smoky eyes go well during these events
Black Tie
Formal attire of long g dresses for ladies and tuxedos for gentleman. A lady may wear a knee length evening dress as well.
Semi-formal evening events. Ladies should wear knee length dress and men should wear suits.
Sparkly jewelry is encouraged but keep it tasteful and don't go overboard. Either evening shoes or professional dressy shoes may be worn.
Keep the overall base of a daytime look but a slightly darker lip or smokier eye is acceptable.
Dressy Casual
Daytime or evening events without a formal dress code. For ladies a knee length dress, skirt and top or event dressy pants and a nice top are acceptable. For gentleman they should wear business attire without the blazer or a sports coat with slacks.
Have fun with jewelry and footwear, no flip flops or sneakers.
In a social setting, feel free to wear whatever is comfortable to you within standards of respectable attire
Have fun with jewelry and footwear, flip flops and sneakers should be worn as occasionally appropriate
This is your time to experience with fun colors and different styles.
Work Attire
Some professional require a more formal dress code. When in doubt dress in professional attire for a job interview. For ladies, a pant suit or skirt suit is considered appropriate but hose should be worn with a skirt suit.
Shoes should be a low heel and close toed, preferably in a neutral color. For jewelry stick to stud earring, a simple necklace and one bracelet or watch per wrist with in ring per hand. Nothing bulky or makes noise should be part of the ensemble.
The daytime makeup, especially in a professional environment should be simple and neutral. No wild colors. Stay away from smoky eyes and thick eye line. You may wear less makeup if that is your style.
Business Casual
Not quite formal but a professional appearance is required. For Ladies knee length skirts and dresses are appropriate as well as nice slacks. Nothing should be low cut and the shoulders should be covered.
Typically sneakers and flip-flops are permitted at work but other shoes are acceptable. For ladies, some offices have specific rules about open toed shoes and sandals. Jewelry can be fun and fashionable. A stank of bangles is ok as are earrings that dangle but keep things in moderation, don't do dangly earring and a statement necklace and a stack of bangles on each arm.
In a work environment even when jeans are allowed they should be clean and untorn. Keep graphics to a minimum and the appearance neat. Should should remain covered
Proper bras and panties are the foundation to any good look. The purpose of the bra is to lift and separate, Nether should be visible when dressed - watch out for VPL or panties that peek out while sitting
Leg coverings
Depending upon the occasion hose, tights or leggings may be appreciated. In formal settings the legs should be covered but it is not required in casual settings. While leggings are often worn as pants in popular culture it is best to style them as you would a pair of tights in a work environment
Thank carefully before getting a tattoo, it lasts forever! Many work environments do not allow them to be viable at work so consider not only the type of tattoo but location as well
Although not a permanent fixture, piercings also contribute to your personal appearance. One hole in each ear is always safe, other piercing with depend upon the environment and occasion
You hair should be styled appropriate to the event and environment along with your attire. Non-natural colors are typically frowned upon in work environments.

I would like to point out that the teen planning committee asked me to cover the notes on the bottom. Yes, a group of 16 year olds asked me to discuss to their peers how leggings are not pants. I was thrilled! But . . . Ms. Amanda is also not interested in making any young girl feel bad about a decision she has made so I emphasized that in a work environment leggings are not considered pants, but you mature adult readers know the truth. I also told them how I used to have a tongue ring ( take a moment to gasp those of you who didn't go to college with me, I am SOOO not the type) and shared with them the advice my mom gave me "I realize you're 18 and want to tell the world that you can do whatever you want but consider the long term consequences - a tattoo will stay with you forever but a piercing can come out. If you're 25 and still want a tattoo I'll even go with you" - that obviously never happened as it's just not me. They're fine for some people but not for others, my goal was to point out to  the girls that one that is visible could become a problem in some work environments.
But handouts and me speaking for 45 minutes is BORING. So I kept the session very interactive. In groups of five the girls were given a scenario, a whole bunch of clothes to choose from and a dummy "Karen" to dress up. What the girls were dressing in another room we discussed what they thought Karen should be wearing. I was pretty pleased they're were only a few times they got things a little wrong. Over the course of the session Karen wore . . .
A suit and blue top for her Business Professional Interview

A blue dress with tan shoes and purse to a business casual scholarship reception (because she obviously aced the interview)

Jeans with a top and blazer to her internship's casual Friday

And a black and cream dress with a satin black and cream "tuxedo" jacket to her sorority's formal

Overall the girls really enjoyed taking fashion, they asked good questions and even gave me a few ideas on things I can do to mix and match my own clothes. So I'd call it a success!


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