A few years ago when Kat Griffin, founder of the work fashion blog Corporette, was working as a litigator for a Wall Street firm she noticed a major problem. She loved reading fashion blogs and magazines but she found that the advice they were giving when it came to what to wear to work was really off and not practical. “They were like ‘Here is how to wear gladiator sandals to an interview’ and I was just thinking, what world do these people live in? Or they were trying to get me to spend $80 on a t-shirt that I can’t even wear to work.” Kat said this is where the idea for a blog that would help people who for the majority of their lives have to dress corporately came in. “I just said, ‘Why is no one writing for me?’ When you’re a young working woman, your paycheck primarily goes to clothes for work, clothes for working out and clothes for going out so an $80 t-shirt or gladiator sandals didn’t really have a place in my life. This was not a part of my budget.” And so Corporette was born.
She also said she felt a need to help women in this area because so much of how you are supposed to dress in the corporate world and just basic corporate etiquette is really not taught. It is just supposed to be known. “There are so many things I had to pick up on the fly. It is the little things that can make a big impact.” In the last few years Kat has started giving career advice and speaking not only about your work wardrobe but networking, mentorship and sponsorship. We were lucky enough to get to pick her brain on some of our favorite work fashion conundrums.
The Grindstone: Is there a double standard for professional women? Can being too beautiful or fashionable work against us? Can it make us not be taken as seriously?
There are many studies showing that beauty does help you to a certain point. Makeup can actually make you look very competent. I think when beauty starts to get in your way is when it looks manufactured. When it starts to look like it is your priority and that work is not your priority, it can be damaging. If you are taking an hour and a half in the morning to do your makeup, you may want to rethink it. Conversely women who don’t wear any makeup can also send a message. The older you are, the more you have to be aware. Women who don’t take care of their appearance and look too harried can look like they aren’t doing a good job of juggling everything. But it is quite difficult to find that balance. You need to find the happy medium, which is not being noticed for your fashion but noticed for your ideas. Fashion should not be a distraction from your ideas.
There is also credibility that has to be earned in order to wear certain fashionable items.
The Grindstone: Can long hair ever be professionals?
In the book Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office there is theory of hair that long hair can hurt you in your career. People say if it’s too long it overwhelms you and by refusing to cut it you are perceived as a little girl which that works against you. I have a friend with hair literally down to her butt but she works in a creative field so it’s okay. But it gets a little weird in the corporate world. The other side is women who play with their hair. It doesn’t matter if you’re 60 or 20. Playing with your hair makes you perceived as insecure.
The Grindstone: How do you feel about grey hair in the workplace?
I support women who go gray but it has to be taken care of. You can make it work but there is definitely a double standard when it comes to grey hair and women. I have a male friend who is very intelligent, young guy, super eager. You know he is the let me be the first one to tell you the answer kind of guy. He went gray at 25 and it just gives him so much gravitas. It should be that way for women but it’s not. But you can pull it off if you maintain and take care of it.