Dress for Success
On Monday, August 7, more than 30 women came to the Leadership Institute (LI) to network, shop, and learn how to dress for success.  Partnering with the Independent Women’s Forum and the Ladies of Liberty Alliance, LI gathered enough professional clothing for each attendee to take home at least one outfit. 

In addition, attendees heard from Sonya Gavankar, former Miss D.C., and multimedia host and content creator. 

Her lecture was filled with great tips and tricks to help young ladies navigate professional fashion without being overwhelmed. She broke down a lot of misconceptions about office fashion choices and entertained the audience with her anecdotes.

Here are three key lessons learned about professional dressing for women.


Be honest with yourself about what looks good on you.

Sometimes what you think looks good may not, in fact, be the most flattering.  Wearing tight clothes runs the risk of not being taken seriously in the workplace.  Whereas wearing baggy clothes runs the risk of looking sloppy.  You should find clothes which are work appropriate and also give you confidence. 

While shopping, surround yourself with friends who are honest and frank with you.  Take turns trying on new work outfits and giving feedback. 


You don’t have to sacrifice personal style to look professional.

As long as your clothes are work appropriate, certain liberties can be taken to tailor clothes to your style.  An excellent example of this is to dress professionally but look for ways to incorporate a splash of color into your outfit.  This may be an accessory or wearing a brightly colored jacket.


Don’t dress for work how you’d dress for the weekend.

Dress codes are more relaxed at organizations than they used to be, which means there’s some ambiguity about what women can wear.  Because you never know when a meeting may be sprung on you, make sure you don’t overstep the boundary between smart casual and casual.  If in doubt, look for a female executive at your organization who you admire, and who dresses well.  Use her for inspiration.

Attendees were grateful to hear Gavankar’s advice.  They were especially thankful for her time as she stayed during the “shopping” period and reviewed the ladies’ outfit choices as they tried on clothes.

The unclaimed clothes were donated to the not-for-profit organization, Dress for Success, which provides professional development and attire to women.