By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency
Q. I have been thinking about how to dress for success at work as a woman. The problem is I'm middle aged and about 170 pounds. I cannot wear the really tailored, sharp-looking pencil skirts and snug business jackets. My career is wonderful but leaves little time for exercise. Can I dress for success without being 125 pounds?
A. Yes. Consider this quote on Pinterest: "Mother Teresa didn't worry about her thighs. She had stuff to do!"
I'd like to note that I would never get a letter like this from a male reader. Only women would worry that the lack of a perfect body holds them back from an amazing career.
For reassurance, do an Internet search on photos of Hillary Clinton. She is always dressed in a very roomy, oversize long jacket. She looks comfortable, powerful and clearly not a size 3.
With all the criticism aimed at Clinton, no one seriously stated that her ample figure was a reason to vote against her for president the United States. If you consider other female world leaders, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany for example, you'll also note she wouldn't fit into pencil skirts.
The reality is by the time most women are ready to run the world, they are middle age. The other reality is that middle-aged women are rarely size 3 unless they spend a couple of hours in the gym every day, eat like rabbits and have a lot of plastic surgery. If you're an actress, then your job requires these choices. If you are in politics, you can wear roomy jackets and run a country.
Beauty is a lovely and useful attribute in our image-focused world. There are mountains of social research proving that beautiful men and women get more attention, income and support. However, no man or woman ages without beauty fading.
If we have relied only on our youthful looks to get ahead, our careers will fade along with our attractiveness. If instead we have developed our skills, strategy and expertise, middle age and beyond will be the most powerful years of our careers.
Ironically, beautiful women have more trouble aging than women who were always less attractive. Women who were never beautiful also never relied on their looks, so when they age very little changes.
Older beautiful women have to grieve their youth and embrace their power. My older female clients sagely observe that no one is treating them like a "chick" anymore. When they walk into a room, it is easier to be taken seriously without any man in the room being distracted by sexual attraction.
There is a scene in a Netflix original movie called "Frankie and Grace" where two women in their 70s are attempting to get the attention of a sales clerk to buy cigarettes. The sale clerk is absorbed in talking to a beautiful, scantily dressed young girl. Grace yells at the clerk about ignoring her and they leave. When they get out to their car, Frankie produces a pack of cigarettes and chuckles about her new super power of invisibility.
To dress for success, look at the photos of powerful older women you admire and notice how they dress. Observe how comfortable they are that they have the super power of maturity and the ability to be seen as powerful, not just beautiful.
Obviously, choosing quality fabrics and well-made clothes sends the message you are doing well in your career. You're better off buying fewer outfits that are beautifully made than buying many outfits that are poor quality.
If you need to grieve that you will never be a beautiful young woman again, hold a funeral for the end of your former "pretty power." Your future can contain power, amazing opportunities and the ability to run your part of the world, but it may never again contain a pencil skirt.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.
Printed in the December 11 - December 24, 2016 edition