I’ve been in the advertising and design industry since high school, and twenty years into this rodeo, I’ve learned that clients have a fantasy about agency life. There is a belief that “creatives” work in an environment that is supremely intelligent, sexy, fun, surprising, and slightly magical. No cubes, no TPS reports, no “grind.” They think that agencies are full of misfits, artists, and heavy drinkers. Everyone is one step ahead of fashion trends, and none of us vacation because we’re too busy traveling.
I love that fantasy (even if I don’t live in it), and I want to dress the part as much as clients want me to – clients don’t want their high priced agency to pitch a million dollar campaign wearing khakis and polo shirts. I’m happy to play the part sartorially.
I’ve broken it down into a few easy guidelines. All of this and more can be found on my Pinterest Designing Women Board!
Your hair should never look overtly glamorous or sexy. It should have a distinct style without looking like you spend hours in front of the mirror. The fantasy: You are too busy sketching to deal with mousse, but too obsessed with beauty to have janky roots.
Absolutely no glitter or shimmer. If you have obvious plastic surgery, you lose credibility. I think that a bold, matte red lip does well in a client meeting (make sure there isn’t any on your teeth.) Feel free to wear glasses. I love a tortoise shell rim. Avoid whimsy. Embrace urban edge.
You have to have a great watch. If you have a dumb watch, don’t wear it to a meeting. Just check the time by looking at your iPhone. Beyond that, stick to one or two statement pieces. I break the jewelry zones into even/odd pairings – earrings = 1, necklace = 2, bracelet = 3, rings = 4. Wear 1 and 3 – big earrings and a great bracelet, OR 2 and 4 – a statement necklace and a cocktail ring. Your jewelry doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should look like it is. Anything that can’t be found at the mall gets bonus points.
Beware overt trends. If you are trendy, the client will assume that you are pitching trendy solutions – Remember when the iPod came out and everything was i_____? like iSocks and iDonuts. and then everyone realized that iDogFood was stupid? Trend-following agencies were to blame. Clients won’t trust you if you come in wearing an outfit straight out of a Limited Express window. Your outfit has to look intentional, curated, tailored, surprising, and flattering. It should combine classic and modern pieces. Your outfit is a metaphor for your pitch.
The Shoes and handbag
You can wear jeans, a black turtleneck and a pair of diamond stud earrings, but your shoes need to kill it. I don’t care if they are converse or Jimmy Choos, they need to be well curated and stylish. Your shoes inform the client about your approach to design. Don’t wear dumpy, frumpy, square toed, chunky heeled “i give up shoes” ever. I would rather that you went barefoot and let the client think you were one of those hard drinking eccentric agency misfits. You’ve got a fantasy to live up to, ladies, and it starts with your feet. Your bag should be streamlined and chic. It should fit your laptop, and that’s it. No fringy, jangly, slouchy bags.
My instinct when I need “Agency Gal” clothes is to go to Anthropologie, but I want to go on record – Anthropologie can be kind of a jerk. the fit of their clothes is awful, and it’s expensive. They have lots of great options that don’t look “off the rack” – but I rarely find something there that is cut to flatter.
I know I’ve got lots of Agency Gals who are kind enough to read this blog, so I’d love for you to weigh in! Comments await!