Summer PR fashion tips
Daney Parker, Editor, PRmoment.com
It may be getting warmer but that is no excuse for wearing flipflops to the office. We find out what it is acceptable to wear in PR in the summer from some of the snappiest dressers in PR.
Smart-casual is the way to go says Deirdre Murphy, chief operating officer at PR firm Ketchum London: “With summer around the corner, dressing to stay cool – yet work-appropriate – in the warm weather often becomes a heated topic (pun intended).
“For men, I would recommend still observing smart casual attire. The creative type could don a Gucci selvage denim with a pantone colour tee. Cos is ideal for tailored shorts, combined with one of their neat collared short-sleeved shirts. For feet, one option could be adidas Arkyn. No socks and absolutely no flip flops!
“For women, denim is appropriate, and not just for Fridays. Forget stonewash – it’s all about indigo. For a professional look, team it with a crisp white shirt from Céline. How you wear it is up to you! A dress that gives good sleeve, such as one by Balenciaga, Vince or Roksanda (on a dry day, as it’s unlikely to seamlessly slip under a light coat!) and you’re ready for anything!”
The creative type could don a Gucci selvage denim with a pantone colour tee
Ditch the suit says James Crawford, managing director at PR Agency One: “An appropriate dress code is an important part of management. One of the most crucial decisions management can make is how to create a safe and comfortable space for their team to work in. Of course, many things contribute towards creating this type of environment – with the most important being business vision and values.
“Comfortably within the mix of creating a safe and comfortable workspace is a dress code. People perform best when they feel safe and happy. A suit can make you feel more professional, but it also encourages people to be play a role. If we run with this metaphor then the office is a stage and the staff are merely actors.
“I don’t want actors, I want real people. Experts; not imposters pretending to be PR consultants. In French a suit is called, ‘un costume’ and that always struck me as strangely amusing because, in the theatrical sense of the word costume, makes me think of drama. I have no truck with drama in the workplace. Give me reality.
“Suits are just weird. A relic of times past. For many, wearing a suit is alien; it’s a chore, its impractical because suits need dry cleaning and is expensive. Some people like wearing them (who are these oddities?). I don’t like them one bit and I have gone on record in the Manchester Evening News to put on record my hatred of neck ties.
“At PR Agency One people can wear pretty much what they like. For meetings, I encourage the B2B team to wear smart casual. Chinos, shirts and shoes or something of that ilk, or whatever women define smart casual as (because frankly that is a mystery to me).”
For many, wearing a suit is alien; it’s a chore
Shorts are fine says Phil Parker, PR executive at agency Bring Digital: “Compared to other industries that I've worked in I find PR very relaxed when it comes to the dress code. These days, suits and ties have been forgotten and jeans and a T-shirt are the norm. Only when I have a meeting with a new client or one that I know still works in an industry that dresses in more traditional office attire, would I pull a more formal shirt out of my wardrobe in a morning. I think there is some common sense to be used, but in the main PROs have left the corporate uniform behind.
Shorts are fine
“When the temperature changes in the summer, as long as you’re not meeting with clients, I don't see any problems with shorts in the office. I’d much rather be comfortable and cool than overheat just to keep up appearances. Although I draw the line at flip flops. Toes in the office are not welcome.”
What I chose to wear
Separate workwear from weekend wear says Sarah Lee, founder of media engagement platform PingGo: “I enjoy dressing for work and I love planning my outfits, though I must admit I do have a bit of a work uniform so I can move fast in the morning without too much thinking.
“My go-to uniform is a muted colour palette of greys, navy, black and white which I can accentuate with pops of red, orange or yellow.
“I gravitate towards unfussy, classic and fairly utilitarian styles. Lots of pinafores, A-line skirts and cropped trousers worn with plain T-shirts, unfussy blouses and cardis.
“I never wear anything to work that I wear at the weekend. I need that degree of separation. Even down to jewellery and perfume – there is work and there is play – and this helps me switch off and unwind.”
Be creative says Sarah Salmean, account executive at PR firm Porter Novelli: “I tend to try to dress smartly, but not too corporate. Creativity is important in PR so I try to mix traditional workwear with pieces that are a bit more fun so that I look professional but not boring.
“I’ve just moved to London from Edinburgh and am finding it a lot hotter than it is in Scotland so I’ve been revelling in the fact that I can wear a nice, light jacket to work rather than the puffer jacket that I had to wear up north!
“In terms of shoes I choose to wear quite chunky, mid-height heels – these look good but are also comfortable
“My main tip would be to look in charity/second hand shops, some of my favourite pieces have come from there and came at a fraction of their usual price! And good if you want to experiment with your work wardrobe but don’t want to spend too much.”
The team at Staffordshire-based communications company Purple Sprout each have their own take on office fashion.
Social media executive Yasmin O’neill, doesn’t plan her outfits but says looking smart is always a priority. “You never know when a client may come in for a meeting, so it’s always a good idea to keep that in mind. In the winter I go for boots and a fur collar which I can attach to different jackets for extra warmth, and in the summer I go for loose flowy fabrics and comfortable oversized shirts. It’s important to feel comfortable.
“I stick to flat shoes because I only wear heels on a night out, and in terms of accessories I look for neutral coloured handbags like grey, because it goes with everything. I change up my earrings, but I always wear the same gold Vivienne Westwood necklace.”
For graphic designer Tayler Nuttall, it’s all about the shoes. “I have about 50 pairs of shoes, but I mostly wear flats to work. I plan my outfit out the night before so there’s less hassle in the morning, and I can be quite indecisive, so I prefer to put a few things together and choose. It’s a bit like putting together a design, you have to see what looks right.
“I layer up because you never know what the British weather is going to throw at you, and I wear a bit of everything, except for jeans, hoodies or trainers. I’m a fan of huge knit scarves because they can double up as a blanket in the winter. I also love tassled earrings and I like to match my accessories to my outfit. But I always wear the same blue rings, watch and Pandora accessories.
“Being in PR means being ready to be in a photo at a moment’s notice. No day is the same, so you never know when you’ll be pulled into a social media post or have to present a design to a new client.”
Business development executive Sarah Kennerell-Walters definitely has a strategy to her outfits: “I like to be prepared for the weather, so I have a massive coat in the back of my car and a pair of wellies.
“I meet so many different types of clients, so I find it helps to be a bit of a chameleon. I still think people in PR should dress smart, because at the end of the day we are professionals and we are representing the company we work for.
“By making an effort with our appearance, it shows we are likely to make an effort with our work. But working for Purple Sprout also means being creative, so I like to wear things that are bright and colourful and incorporate interesting patterns, teaming that with a black jacket to maintain a corporate style.”
Now you have no excuse for not looking the part next time the sun comes out. Bright, but not too bright, casual, but not too casual, and fun, but not too fun!
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