Women in leadership positions, as well as future leaders of tomorrow, want to be taken seriously.  One of the first things we notice about a woman is her clothing, and we quickly form a first impression.  The same is true for a man, but men have more of a professional uniform that is relatively easy to identify.  There are so many clothing and accessory choices for women to make, that it’s easy to miss the mark!  Women can easily project something with their appearance that goes beyond attractive into the realm of sexy and desirable.

Back in our grandmother’s generation women were subject to stringent rules regarding what a woman could or could not wear.  Many of our grandmothers didn’t work outside the home, so they weren’t subject to issues of how to dress in the workplace.  My grandmother never wrestled with intractable problems as she stood hesitating in front of a rack of clothes.  Can you wear a sleeveless shirt dress without a cardigan or jacket to cover your arms?  How much cleavage is permissible to show without looking sexy?  How short is too short for a skirt? Is it ever okay to show your tattoo at work?

Here’s the rub:  women still have to be attractive in order to make a good first impression.  However, women must not look provocative because that is sending the wrong kind of attractive signal.  Women should get noticed because they look put-together and because they communicate confidence in their professional skills, ideas, and expertise.

Let’s assume you want to express something of who you are in your clothing, not too trendy as to look like everyone else, while concealing your flaws and accentuating your assets.  Whew!  The good news is you can create a powerful first impression without total conformity or losing your individuality. It’s all about dressing appropriately for your coloring, body shape, and the situation.

My suggestion is, when in doubt, dress like a Parisian woman.  That’s right.  They would never, ever, ever leave the house in sweatpants! Leaving the house calls for dressing up.  If you look like a slob in Paris you let down the whole city.  Take a look at the average Parisian woman….her skirt is the perfect length, her jacket is beautifully tailored, and she spends money on her undergarments to flatter her shape.  Her outfit is pulled together with a colorful, but tasteful scarf.  Her look is brilliantly balanced.  She does this because she believes in good taste — it’s a way of life for her.  She loves to look unique and she loves what she wears.

I’ve put together 7 fashion tips for professional women who want to look attractive, but not provocative.  See my next post for 7 style tips that will keep you from crossing the line between looking attractive and looking provocative at work.