Women in business: Look the part. Live the part.

As business leaders, it’s important to remember that we set the tone for our team. Not only is our guidance looked for on best business practices, but we also set the tone for the environment and how individuals personally represent themselves in that environment.

The way that we choose to represent ourselves trickles down to those around us, which is why it’s important to create a culture where maintaining a professional appearance is a priority.

If you look the part, you live the part. A professional makeover isn’t just about vanity, having the best haircut or giving the perception of trendiness — it’s about building your own brand and taking that much needed time for yourself.

As busy professionals we frequently allow ourselves to fall to the bottom of our list of priorities. It’s so critically important not to let this happen.

Possessing a professional appearance is a confidence builder, whether you recognize it or not. If you feel good, you’ll be even better at doing what you need to do.

Where to start

Committing to take this time for yourself is one thing, but you may find yourself uncertain of where to begin.

There are so many things to consider when it comes to being both professional and stylish — styles, colors, comfort, fit and seasons. Fortunately, the times have changed and professional dress doesn’t have to mean a pantsuit.

Your style should be an expression of who you are and how you feel. If you reflect your personality in the clothes you wear, you will feel more comfortable and confident.

Have fun; invest in yourself

Eight years ago, when I was named president and CEO of The Charles Penzone Salons, I felt the need to step up my wardrobe.

I’d worked in the corporate office in various roles for many years and always maintained a professional appearance. Because I’m a woman with a small stature, I felt like I had to wear a suit to fit in with other professional businesswomen.

But my professional wardrobe world changed when I connected with Elizabeth Bean Smith of Wardrobe Therapy, a local fashion-consulting firm. Elizabeth, a female business owner herself, empowered and enlightened me to merge my desire to maintain a professional appearance, but also look trendy, express my creativity and have fun!

Sure, a pantsuit is occasionally in my daily lineup, but now, with dresses and unique accessories, I can be myself and am confident in my role and with my team.

An updated wardrobe will get you on your way to looking the part, but of course, your hair is the only accessory you never take off. Invest in it. Work with your professional to find a style that suits you — and one that you can maintain during the hustle and bustle.

The New Year is a great time to recommit to being the best you. Consider upgrading your professional appearance for that self-confidence boost personally, professionally and to lead by example for your team.


Debra Penzone is the President and CEO of The Charles Penzone Salons. Debra’s expertise as a business leader, hair professional and her avid philanthropy have earned her the respect of the salon industry and the nonprofit community.