Looking the part of the executive
If clothes make a man (and woman), then what clothes are appropriate for the male and female CEO? And if you’re still on your way up the corporate ladder, what articles of clothing and accessories should you invest in to ensure that you get noticed by the higher-ups for not only your intellect, but also your fashion sense?
Let’s face it. Even if you’re not auditioning to become a movie star, appearances count. As competition heats up in the workplace between two or more equally qualified candidates, it’s usually the one who looks better and dresses sharper who gets promoted in the end.
You may not always win in the looks department, but you can always suit up and look the part while commanding the respect and attention of your peers.
SundayBiz interviewed four authorities on fashion to help today’s young corporate warrior navigate through a wide range of choices as they build their wardrobes and emerge looking like winners.
Dennis Lustico, fashion designer
A men’s watch is a must, as it exudes character and ability to adjust and blend in the hectic corporate world;
Pearl necklace and a pair of pearl earrings since both exude Old World sophistication. These classic pieces could also charm a male-dominated establishment since pearls could remind men of their mothers. The ambitious woman thus earns instant authority while commanding respect;
Killer heels because they instantly convey what the woman wants;
For maximum movement and comfort, it doesn’t hurt to invest in sturdy stretch skirts and pants in dark colors;
Deconstructed and unstructured jackets in double spandex convey the message that she’s different;
To impress upon her colleagues and subordinates a sense of control and direction, she should also stock up on versatile and crisp immaculate white Egyptian cotton shirts;
For a dash of creativity and whimsy, she could finish off the look every now and then with an exquisite scarf and statement brooch.
Off-the-rack suits won’t do unless the man has a model’s build. Made-to-measure suits fit well and make him look impeccable;
He should also be concerned with such fine details as silk ties, which are a true mark of a perfectionist;
Colored socks every so often should underscore a man’s adventurous and casual nature.
Ronald Gonzales, born dandy and head of events, Globe Telecom
Bespoke navy suit for day events and, if you can help it, never those sold off the rack;
For formal evening events, a tuxedo and the right patent leather slippers to match;
White cotton shirts—yes, with an S, because no man can’t have too many white cotton shirts;
A pair each of quality black and brown leather shoes;
A casual blazer or two;
Blue or brown loafers or driving moccasins made of calf leather or suede;
A good leather portfolio
A nice pen, preferably a Montblanc, sends the right message;
Several handsome pairs of cufflinks;
Several silk pocket squares and neck ties;
At least two pairs of watches, an all-steel style and a leather variety;
A signature cologne;
A classic pair of sunglasses such as Ray-Ban Aviators or Wayfarers;
Quality cotton underwear;
Quality leather belts in black and brown.
Basic black and neutral-colored dresses that can easily be accessorized;
Power suits in navy and ivory for those corporate meetings;
Two to three evening gowns and shoes to match;
Leather pumps with at least two-inch heels;
Leave the “it” bag to the impractical fashionista and invest instead in a great, classic-looking leather handbag. If you can afford an Hermes bag, go for a Kelly over a Birkin. The latter has become so last season;
A chic leather clutch;
A leather document envelope/holder;
Understated pairs of earrings made of pearls and diamonds;
A good all-steel watch;
A good pen;
Wide, classic-looking sunglasses a la Jackie O.;
Good silk undergarments;
Ruby Gan, one of Manila’s best-dressed women and COO, Shop Manila Inc.
A classic, nondescript watch;
An excellent pair of diamond earrings;
Enough crisp white shirts and well-cut blazers in red and neutral colors;
Shift dresses with hemlines that stop at the knees;
Smart-looking leather handbags and totes;
Killer heels or even nice pairs of closed shoes with kitten heels;
Pearl or chunky chain necklace to finish off the look;
Colors of key pieces should be basic, ranging from black, white, charcoal gray and the occasional red;
Materials should have enough body to minimize creases;
Spending too much time in the car because of heavy traffic makes clothes prone to creasing, to avoid this all too-common problem, look for dresses with cotton/polyester combination;
Some fabrics are also blended with Lycra, which allows body-skimming numbers to retain their shape and avoid creasing.
Ram Bucoy, men’s wear enthusiast and freelance PR and marketing professional
Invest in suits that fit well and made of quality materials;
Since bespoke articles of clothing are made specially for you, you should always wear them with confidence;
No cotton-blend suits for the office, please. Go for suits made of 100 percent wool in navy and dark gray. With or without pinstripes, these looks mean business. Leave your black suit at home for formal evening events. Ditch the pleats on pants since they add nothing to your look. Always go for slimming pairs of flat-front pants;
The tailor is your best friend. If you can get away with off-the-rack suits, proceed immediately to a professional tailor for alterations. Don’t scrimp on alterations by letting your maid do it;
But as much as possible, go for tailored or made-to-measure suits. Remember, you’re now a CEO who can afford to go for bespoke pieces. If you’re not yet there, then claim the position by trying to look the part. A few loose inches on your trousers or sleeves could spell the difference between success and failure in the workplace;
With fit and material solved, always wear your clothes with confidence. Even the best clothes won’t fall right on a loser. You have to feel good to look good in whatever you’re wearing;
When it comes to shoes, stay away from anything square-toed and stick to traditional pairs like brogues, wingtips, monk straps and cap-toed in tan, black or, if you’re in a daring mood, dark aubergine;
What about accessories? Invest in silk neckties, discreet pocket squares, tie bars, cufflinks and a classic vintage watch in leather strap. Stay away from chunky and colorful sports watches while in the office.
Wear clothing that makes you feel and look powerful. Invest in classic wardrobe staples that you can get a lot of mileage from—trousers, blazers and pencil skirts in black, navy, ivory and gray and Chanel-inspired boucle or tweed jackets a la Cate Blanchett’s character in “Blue Jasmine”;
If possible, have everything tailored. Like guys, women could benefit from perfectly tailored ensembles. They make a world of difference;
Choosing jewelry would depend on your profession and the field that you’re in. Since you’re now on top or almost near the top, you’re afforded certain allowances. Use them! If your industry allows it, look for statement jewelry pieces designed to catch everyone’s attention. Think huge South Sea pearls from Jewelmer or one-of-a-kind statement pieces by Arnel Papa and Bea Valdes.
Wear heels! There’s just something about heels that convey power. But if you have difficulty wearing heels for long periods of time, then opt for a pair of power flats from Chanel or Tory Burch. Splurge on yourself. You’ve earned it!