Fashion is the perfect way for women to express their personality, attitude and style. So how do women in the workplace incorporate their own stylistic choices while still appropriately representing their company and corporate brand? We spoke to four women in various industries on how their style and wardrobe expressions affect how they are perceived in their roles — and, just as important — how their work uniform makes them feel about themselves.
Anne Marie Merritt
Whitesell Pharmacy, Community Outreach & Relations
Barre East Fitness Studio, Instructor
Anne Marie Merritt works in Community Outreach and Relations at Whitesell Pharmacy in downtown Frederick, MD. She works hard to stay involved in the community on behalf of Whitesell in many different areas, including mental health, homelessness and more.
“I try to represent the message of what we’re doing in the community with what I’m wearing,” says Anne Marie. “I want to be comfortable, look approachable and appropriate, while adding just a bit of my own flare.” She notes that her statement pieces often engage her clients, opening up the conversation, which is one of the most important parts of her job. “I never want (clients) to be hesitant to talk to me; it’s almost like I can use my clothing to build an initial relationship.” Anne Marie says you’ll often find her wearing nude pumps, a navy blue shift dress, and some kind of pop of color. “I use my clothing as a way to enhance the emotions and feelings towards the work we are doing in the community. It’s important to find some sort of commonality with my clients.”
Anne Marie;s use of clothing as a way to build and form relationships extends to her role as an instructor at Barre East Fitness Studio. It’s often a quick transition from one job to the other, but she doesn’t let that stop her from feeling put together and making a personal statement with her workout clothing. “I’m always so match-y, from the top down to the sticky socks!” says Anne Marie. “I really like to use a pop of purple in my outfit, which is also the color for the brand of the studio.”
Anne Marie strives to make others feel invited and welcomed with her chic style and positive attitude. “Looking put together makes people trust you, in any leadership role; it makes me look and feel confident.”
Habitat for Humanity, Development & Marketing Director
Bethany Miller has a style that reflects her desire to be comfortable, casual and appropriate, while juggling various roles depending on the day. As the Development and Marketing Director for Habitat for Humanity, Bethany has to consult her calendar before getting dressed each morning. “What’s on the docket for the day” is often the first question she asks herself before putting on an outfit. Some days she may be setting up for an event or heading to a job site; other days she may be meeting with corporate groups and donors.
“I’m very much a people person,” says Bethany. “I want what I’m wearing to help the conversation flow free.” This means some days Bethany is donning workout pants, sneakers and a Habitat polo while setting up for their latest fundraiser; other days, it means she will throw on her favorite pair of black capris for a business meeting, or a nice dress for an upscale event. “Neutrals are where I live,” says Bethany. “I don’t have too many patterns in my closet, but I do love basics with pops of color.” She stressed the need to have a flexible wardrobe in a job like hers, because each day is something different. “I love the flexibility and change every day,” says Bethany. “It matches my personality and style.”
She has also had a couple of transitions recently that have impacted changes in her style. In a previous job, Bethany sported business suits and business dresses every day to work. She recalls an instance early in her job with Habitat when her boss lovingly said to her, “You know, you work for a construction company now.” This notion not only made her laugh, but perhaps inspired her to keep an extra pair of shoes in the car with her at all times for that quick change opportunity. “It’s not unheard of to leave the house in the morning in one outfit, and come home in another.” Not only did the transition from business suits and heels force Bethany to readjust her style, but becoming a new mom helped that transition along, too. For Bethany, being a mom means having lots of cute flats. While flats are often her go-to for her day-to-day wear, she owns red patent leather heels and black Mary Jane heels she could never give up. For days she’s on the job site, she trades her flats and heels in for steel-toed boots,
“I take my job seriously and I like to look put together,” says Bethany. “Anything we wear should support the mission and the career, not hinder it.”
The Muse, Owner
For Whitney Dahlberg, owning The Muse in downtown Frederick means her wardrobe matches the duties of her job: “a little of everything.” You can often catch her in conversation with customers at the store, recommending different pieces and items – though her job is much more than customer service. She often spends time in New York picking out new items for the upcoming season, meeting with new artists, and she’s even the one to unpack and handle all the boxes and shipments coming into her store. So how does she dress for that ‘little bit of everything’? “Pants with stretch are a must,” says Whitney. “I strive to be comfortable, but also stylish.” Whitney says she likes the “tunic look,” a loose fitting shirt or dress over a pair of leggings or stretchy jeans. “Tights give some support and compression,” says Whitney, who is on her feet all day and needs the added comfort. That also means you’ll only ever catch her in flats, or very comfortable shoes.
It’s Whitney’s accessories, though, that really make her look stand out. As the owner of a shop filled with local jewelry and other accessories, she’s intentional about the pieces she adds to her outfit. “I like drawing attention to the local items I have in the shop,” says Whitney. “I even put on things that aren’t always my style just to highlight the pieces.” That way, when a customer compliments her jewelry, says Whitney, she can direct them to that item in the store to support the local artist/jewelry maker.
While she tries to wear what she likes and show off local jewelry, she admittedly doesn’t internalize her style. “I can’t think that early in the morning!” she jokes. “I like to have and wear stuff that other people don’t know about.” That’s the allure of The Muse – you can walk in and find something rare that you love, and learn a unique background story with that piece, too. Whitney hosts at least one trunk show per month where customers can meet the artist and see their pieces. On occasion, she’ll even wear some of the clothing that she has handmade herself, but mostly likes to emphasize other artists. “I have t-shirts, jewelry and scarves that are all locally made,” says Whitney. “It’s all about highlighting the artists by wearing their pieces, and having them in the store.” Whitney’s comfortable look and easy-going style is a way to make her customers feel just as comfortable.
Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Frederick County Program & Events Coordinator
Barbara Wagner of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce does her best to bring good vibes with her style. “If you don’t dress right or don’t feel comfortable, you’re wrapped up in not feeling right, and you give off a bad vibe,” she says. Barbara is the Leadership Frederick County Program and Events Coordinator, and enjoys her evolving role with the Chamber of Commerce. “The job is different every day.” Her duties include but are not limited to organizing speakers for the program, scheduling a bus and handling logistics, working with alumni and current class members and more. This means her wardrobe evolves with her day-to-day tasks. “Business meetings I’m more free to dress up, while during sessions I’m focused on dressing appropriately for the agenda,” says Barbara. “Though I’m almost never in jeans.” Because her day-to-day tasks are so diverse, Barbara has to be prepared for anything. “I always have a little duffle bag with me, with a nice extra shirt and sometimes a summer dress that I can roll up,” says Barbara. “And I always tuck in a curling iron.”
Though Barbara stays flexible with her clothing style, she enjoys sticking more to the dressier side of the spectrum. “I do get a lot of compliments, ‘oh that’s a great dress’ or ‘oh I love the fabric,’” says Barbara. “And my dresses always have pockets!” She’s learned a few tricks along the way, such as keeping an extra layer handy for those cold conference rooms, and wearing shoes with quiet soles so she doesn’t disturb presentations.
She likes to incorporate classic accessories into her wardrobe as well. “I’m traditional with my jewelry, studs in my ears, and a simple necklace,” she says. “For main events I dress up the jewelry, but other than that very traditional. As for a unique accessory that was added to her wardrobe because of her occupation: a pair of Michael Kors wellies. “Every year we host an Agricultural session, and the day I schedule the Ag day, I always know it’s going to rain!” she jokes. She combatted this unfortunate case of Murphy’s Law with a stylish pair of MK rain boots for walking the towpath and visiting the pumpkin patch during that specific session; a wonderfully stylish solution.
When she does go more causal, Barbara is all about stretch pants that come in fun colors. She says during fall, she especially loves to add a ‘spark’ of orange. “Fall colors are my favorite. I like to send a fun message with my pops of color!”
Barbara uses her style to share positivity. “I want to be a friendly face every morning,” she says. Barbara calls her style, “business comfortable,” with one of her most important accessories being her smile. She wants her colleagues and class members to see her as a “welcoming presence.” “I don’t know if it’s simply how I feel when I am well dressed, but it makes me feel good to look professional and competent,” says Barbara.
What’s YOUR work uniform? We’d love to know!