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Snappy dressing for corporate events

"A woman's dress should be like a barbed-wire fence: serving its purpose without obstructing the view." -- Sophia Loren

WHAT you wear speaks loudly and communicates a great deal about you. Before you even open your mouth, the first impression you make is with your clothing, your appearance -- your dress. More than any other time during the year, December is the month of many corporate events/ parties. No matter what you hear about financial cutbacks, we here on the 'Rock' are firm believers in the multi-party system. And because we have to attend and be seen at as many soirées as possible, this leads to the inevitable conundrum of -- what not to wear to these corporate social events.

Entertaining has always been a huge part of business. Corporate deals and network (net worth too) are established in these informal settings.

The company party/dinner provides the forum for you to dress up and make a positive impression on your colleagues and those higher up on the food chain. Because you are still in a quasi-business setting when you attend these events, it is even more important to make sure that your attire is appropriate for the company with which you are employed. Believe it or not, even though you are not in the cubicle or within the four walls of the office, you represent your company and its values, even as you kick off your shoes, 'bruk out and gwan bad' on the dance floor.

Generally, within the first minutes after a business meeting or event, your colleagues should not be able to remember what you were wearing. They should, however, definitely remember that you were well turned-out. Although I find that in Jamaica, on any given day of the week, regardless of what you wear, there are employees who make it their assigned religious duty to, unasked, critique their colleagues' wardrobes. Don't ask them about the specifics of their job description, they will never know. But, trust me,
after a big office 'bashment', said employee can describe down to the last stitch in the garment, what was being worn by Ms Brown from the Accounts Department.

Let me place a disclaimer right here and now: I am not now, nor have I ever been a style guru. Given the choice, a pair of jeans and a shirt worn with a comfortable pair of sneakers or flats would do the job for me on every occasion. Furthermore, if I were not fearful of blundering and taking off a wig in the middle of a function, mistaking it for a hat, I myself would cheerfully wear one every day of the week. I believe in comfort over style.

That being said, the last twenty-five-year span of my life has exposed me both professionally and personally to what works and what definitely does not make the grade in these social settings. You see, I am a veteran of state functions of every type as well as of private or business formal and informal events, whether as 'hostage', willing participant or employee.

First, here are some basic ground rules that have been learnt along the way, but I stand corrected as I know that fashion mores are constantly changing. If the mode of dress on the invitation is ambiguous, one should always ask the host. A well-placed enquiry can save time, face and embarrassment. I will never forget the look on a couple's face when they turned up to an elegant evening function dressed to the 'nines' in tuxedo and flowing gown while everyone else was attired in lounge suit chic -- as the invitation requested. Ever the troupers that they were, they hurried home, changed and made it back to the event before the entrée was served.

So, if you are invited to a formal/black tie event, men should wear tuxedo and the ladies should opt for floor- length gowns. Never wear jeans to a business casual event. Socks and belts are required for men and definitely no flip-flops. Call me a fuddy-duddy, but I do also believe that age-appropriate dressing never goes out of style.

Spilling 'tah-tahs': These days it has become all the rage for women to wear dresses designed to give as much exposure to their breasts as possible. Whether they are Mount Everest-sized or tiny disappearing dots, there seems to be a race to see who can bare the most chest area. Attendees to corporate do's are no exception. Within the last week I have attended two events here 'breast spillage' was the order of the night. Don't get me wrong, I am not Prudie McPrude from Prudeland, but, have mercy! Have we ladies gone stark, raving mad? I have to take a firm (a quality which I daresay was sadly lacking in some of the exposed mammaries I saw) stand on this one. Your wardrobe choice can say a lot about your judgement and the advice you are willing to take in the business world.

Short dress: There is a time and place for every dress, pants or skirt. It is my belief that when you are dressing for these events you should be careful how much the length of your garment reveals. No, I am not advocating nun-length dresses, just make sure you can sit and stand comfortably without resorting to contortions that make you look ridiculous. Ladies, I still believe there should be some mystery to our forms. Further, you should be so dressed that no one is able to fully describe 'your giznick' (my mother's words -- not mine) because their eyes had unfettered access to it.

Nevertheless, have a blessed Yuletide Season.



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