Are You Wearing the Right Clothes to Get Ahead?
It’s Friday. Janet Lively, vice president for marketing and business development for Schaefer General Contracting, is commanding in her pastel blue and white shirt with ruffled bell sleeves over denim jeans that look like they’ve been pressed.
She steps into the cafe at Barnes and Noble in buff sandal heels and a silver David Yurman necklace and matching bangles, gives a firm handshake, and orders a frappuccino.
“Women want people to know that they deserve the position they are in, that they belong at the boardroom table,” says Janet, 48. “Regrettably, we are still judged by the cover. So we need to pay attention to what the cover looks like.”
Janet handles internal and external marketing and the website for Schaefer, a construction firm that builds senior living facilities for companies like Atria Senior Living and Kindred. The firm just completed an addition at Louisville Slugger Museum and the renovation of the historic Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery at Main and Eighth streets.
“I go out and actually develop relationships with existing and new clients,” she says. “I do proposals and presentations, working with our internal team on how best to position our brand to win the contract. I meet with a lot of administrators and decision makers, architects, and engineers who influence the environment.
“The economy is very good for construction right now,” Janet says, “particularly for aging-care facilities. For us, the exciting thing is the acquisition of a firm in Tampa, Florida, to better serve clients there.”
For her work wardrobe, she selects “outfits that express my personality in a business environment,” Janet says. “I pay a lot of attention to color and fabrics. And try to find pieces that are timeless.
“I spend a little more money on pieces that are foundational — black pants, black shoes. You can lose a look if your shoes are worn-looking.”
Janet goes for versatility. “I pick clothes that can go from day to evening, or can cross over to the weekend. Most of us don’t have the money to buy a Monday-through-Friday wardrobe, a 6-to-10pm wardrobe, evening wear, and a weekend wardrobe.”
She got her fashion sense from her parents and a former colleague. “My father, who is in construction now, started his career in the custom clothing business.” From him, she learned about nice fabrics and how clothes should fit. Her mother was a vice president for an association, and loved to dress and read fashion magazines. “I watched her dress. She always looked amazing — professional and fun at the same time.”
Janet worked with Sally Judah at NTS Development Company when she first started her career. “Sally Judah is a mentor of mine and I worked for her in business. She was elegant and professional — every day. She had a classic style with a modern and sophisticated flair.”
As Janet’s career progressed, “I dressed for the jobs that I wanted…I want to be viewed as appropriate at the table that I sit, and I want to look nice doing it. All along my career, I have paid attention to making sure that I was dressing for my personality and age.”
- Keep your nails and feet manicured, and take care of calluses on your feet.
- Keep your makeup natural. But, red lipstick can go with everything.
- Keep trendy pieces to a minimum. Stock up on timeless pieces: day-to-night, work-to-play. Spend a little bit more for your foundation pieces — pants, jackets.
- Find a good alterations person and have your clothes tailored to fit you. Clothes that are too tight, too short, or too long should be altered.“I see people with sleeves that are too long, clothes that could be more generous. Seams that pull are not good. Clothes should fit the person.”
- For travel, wear sophisticated comfort. Today, it’s a hassle to get through airport security. Ditch the jewelry, ditch the underwire bra, wear shoes that are easy to get on and off. If you have to go straight to a meeting, wear a dress that won’t wrinkle easily. Also, dresses are more compact to pack and you don’t have to worry about coordinating tops. A colorful jacket will take you from day to evening.