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LIFE REIMAGINED: Changing the Conversation About How We Dress!

My husband works for one of the largest companies in the US. Last week, they received a new directive: beginning on Monday, anyone who wishes may wear shorts to work!  Both of us were surprised . We discussed why any employee would choose to do this.

Even with permission, would it kill individual promotion possibilities?

What message does this send about the employee and the company as a whole?

Perhaps it makes sense for a tech-company, but for a company which wishes to assure its customers that they are professional and competent with everyone’s money? Maybe not a good choice!


All of this had me thinking once again about the messages we send with our wardrobe choices.

I am certain company management wants to assure employees that they understand it gets hot in San Antonio, but it’s always been hot in San Antonio.  I wish I could have heard this discussion in the management meeting.  I often see comments about dressing for our current lifestyle vs dressing for the life we desire…”dress for the job you want and not for the job you have.”  So, what does it mean to those of us in the midst of lifestyle changes?

I contend that like or not our clothing choices each day convey messages and we can select specifically our career path and portray it in clothing which will only give us an advantage in the market place.  Many of us are currently reading Life Reimagined by Richard J, Leider and Alan M. Webber, and thinking about new or reinvented career choices at a new stage of life.  If I want to be confident of my abilities and portray that I practice what I preach, then I want to look my best every day.

My new path includes a role as a fashion journalist, so I need to look it or I will not be taken seriously.   I remember one over-fifty woman who decided she wanted to re-enter event planning after all of her children were grown.  She bought an expensive, fabulous suit and with a well done résumé in hand went to one of the largest local hotels which had an opening and got the job! They told her the way she presented herself sealed the deal…the younger applicants were not doing the same.

We have been discussing how the gorgeous French women dress. In Forever Chic: Frenchwomen’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance, Tish Jett writes:

“Some non-Frenchwomen imagine they’re invisible if they venture out in sweats, shapeless message T-shirts, no makeup, and ponytails, but nothing could be farther from the truth.  We are giving ourselves a bad reputation in the neighborhood, the grocery store, the mall, on vacation, chez nous, wherever. Getting dressed and getting out there garners respect and self-confidence. …Never let it be said that our clothes do not speak to our intentions.  Fashion is not trivial; it is an irrevocable part of who we are.  We can construct ‘instant messaging’ with our wardrobe choices.  I don’t care if I never meet the people I see on the street.  My reputation is important to me.”

Professional Dress Over 50

If we are to be a part of changing the conversation about retirement versus living a more vibrant and productive life, then we have to also be a part of changing the wardrobe conversation.

If we dress for the golf course every day or the yoga class and go out to meetings that way, then we will remain right there on the course and the mat.

If we desire a new career path, we must dress for it and send the message we are ready to own it.

I always run into at least one person I know when I am out and about, so though it’s hot, I dress in such a way to portray confidence and visibility for my new lot in life.  No shorts or tee shirts.  I want clients for my blog and they also must have confidence in me and the image I portray for events and speaking engagements.

It is important we not relax in this area if we are to stay in the game.  What do you think?  Join us at the corner table in our Joy Boutique and let’s talk.

See you next week…have a great one!

midlife boulevard, columnist, midlife women, middle-age, midlife crisis

Pamela Lutrell

Pamela Lutrell began her blog, over50feeling40, July 2010 with a desire to encourage women over 50 to walk in strength, confidence and joy. Of course, head turning style makes each day fun!

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Kay Lynn

Saturday 2nd of August 2014

I work at a tech company and although we dress casual, it's never shorts or flip flops. Also, we do dress up more when clients are in the office. If it's a office where the customer doesn't see you, I don't see the problem with shorts or other casual dress.

Elaine @ Following Augustine

Wednesday 30th of July 2014

Personally, I think it's possible to dress professionally in knee length city shorts, but obviously not in short shorts or workout wear.

I must also take exception to "retirement versus living a more vibrant and productive life". I don't see the two as incompatible. In my opinion, retirement can be a very vibrant and productive time of life. I know that mine certainly has been! I do agree, however, that we need to dress for the kind of life we want and I have learned a lot about how to do that from you! Thank you, Pam!

Roz Warren

Tuesday 29th of July 2014

I believe that people should be allowed to wear whatever they're comfortable wearing to work and that it's how they perform the job -- rather than what they happen to be wearing -- that matters. I'd rather work with somebody in flip flops and cut offs who is smart, creative and hardworking than somebody who looks professional but isn't that useful. That being said, I've never come to work in shorts. And never will.


Tuesday 29th of July 2014

Pam, this is a most wonderful topic, especially for us women over 50. Since I have retired, I have found it easy to fall into the 'stay at home-sweat attire' trap. Although, I also have found when I take the time to dress up for the day, even if it's more on the casual side I feel so much better about myself. I do love my work out clothes but they are for the gym only and I've always kept to this rule. Great article!


Tuesday 29th of July 2014

I remember when Fridays were business casual, meaning men could wear khakis and a sport coat, then eventually they could loose the sport coat. Women, what is business casual has always been an issue but it is never flip flops and shorts and skimpy tops. Just today I had a Starbucks meeting with 2 younger women. I complemented one on her great skirt, and the other on her darling dress, both really were great but I think positive reinforcement is always good.

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