Clashing at office is cause for concern


April 13, 1995|By Elsa Klensch | Elsa Klensch,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Q: I have an employee who is efficient and attractive. Unfortunately, however, she has a terrible fashion sense. She wears plaids with stripes in colors and fabrics that completely clash. I'd like to help her. Should I?

A: This is a such a touchy question I decided to get the advice of a professional -- Susan Fignar, who heads her own image consulting firm in Chicago.

"By all means, yes, you should help your valued employee.

"It's important for her to create a suitable look for her professional image and business environment, not to mention the possibility of future job promotion. Business clothes should have a well-coordinated look that is more classic than trendy. There's a fine line between overdressing and looking professional."

Ms. Fignar suggests one way to approach the subject is to tell your employee that you rely on experienced saleswomen to assist you when you buy your business wardrobe. "Describe how these women help you select clothes that work with your own style and your position in the company.

"Give her the names of the stores or boutiques and those of the saleswomen. Hopefully she will accept your advice and turn to professionals to guide her."

Q: I hate being short. I'm 23 years old and 5 feet 3 inches tall. I feel everyone towers over me and, more often than not, treats me as if I were still at school. How should I dress to look both tall and competent?

A: I asked New York designer Cathy Hardwick -- 5-foot-4 -- for advice. First, she suggested always wearing high heels.

"I'm not suggesting stilettos," she said, "but comfortable shoes that will raise your height two inches or so. Keep them simple and feminine rather than heavy or clunky."

In the clothing department, Ms. Hardwick advises looking for narrow shapes:

"In pants this means a slim cuffless leg to elongate the silhouette. In skirts, try slim ankle-length cuts or skirts cut just above or below the knee. Shop for stretchy fabrics that will cling slightly to the leg.

"For spring and summer I like a body-conscious crepe dress that's cut to the thigh or ankle with a slight flare."

Ms. Hardwick added that the biggest "no-no" for short women is large shoulder pads: "Look for moderate or small shoulder pads -- if you must wear them."

Ms. Hardwick also advised taking care when choosing accessories: "Avoid large wide-brimmed hats, clunky bracelets, patterned hose and wide belts."

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