Suyin Aerts about work fashion across industries and the shifts in work fashion
From the media to fashion to managing partner to back in the media. Suyin Aerts has worked in and for various sectors. As a keynote speaker, she is often asked to speak about her ideas on these different sectors. For the Work Fashion Talks, we are particularly interested in how work fashion is present in these different industries.
“It is good that everything is gradually becoming more possible and acceptable, but it also raises the questions “Who am I?” and “What do clothes mean in my life?”
Listen to the Work Fashion Talk episode here in Dutch or read the summary in English below.
Suyin’s definition of work fashion
To me, work fashion means thinking about how to dress for different work-related occasions and doing it in a way that allows you to put your personality into it. Not that you’re dressing in a way to blend in or fit in a certain box, but still with taking into account some of the practicalities that are expected of you in a certain setting.
It is a combination of the external and internal dimensions. If you don’t feel good about what you wear, it will somehow show in how you come across. It is important not to let yourself be pushed into a corner by what you think is expected of you. As an actress, I have learned to feel good in clothes that suit the character rather than myself. Of course, if the role you play is yourself, it is important to think about how you want to come across to others. I myself have rarely had a moment where I have not thought about the clothes I wear when I have to appear in a professional setting. It is not by putting on something beautiful that someone does not feel good in that you are going to empower them. The opposite is true. You have to stay close to yourself.
Work fashion across industries
The company X-treme creations is situated in the advertising and event sector. The dress code is not so strict in that industry. If, on the other hand, I am a presenter or moderator on a stage, I look at the sector or company for which I am going to be presenting. If I am going to moderate a panel of young people, for example, they expect me to look trendy. For a group of CEO’s, it is more likely to wear heels and have a more distinguished appearance. I think that is a way of showing respect. You have to respect some of the conventions that exist. If you don’t agree with the present practicalities, then you have to dare to speak up.
Although, I make sure that I always give it my own interpretation. It must always fit with my own brand. Of course, that is a choice you have to make. Either you choose not to stand out, or you stand out because of the clothes you wear. And if you choose to stand out through your attire, don’t be surprised if people make comments. That’s just part of it. If you don’t like it, then this style doesn’t suit you.
Shifts in work fashion
The shift from rigid dress codes to an open interpretation of business casual is a big challenge for women. It is good that everything is gradually becoming more possible and acceptable, but it also raises the questions “Who am I?” and “What do clothes mean in my life?”. I definitely see opportunities as well as challenges.
The most important tip I would like to give is: be yourself and accept that you will change. It is not because you choose a certain style at a certain moment, that you cannot evolve to another style after a while. Sometimes things come your way that makes you get certain other interests or you end up in other sectors. And it is also normal to think about your clothes. I see surrounding yourself with experts in order to shop more consciously as a possible solution. You cannot be good at everything or have not the time or interest to pay attention to it. Styling advice is no longer just for the happy few. It is a smart investment. Women still think too much that they are expected to know how to dress. And also that others should not judge them on the basis of their clothes. These thoughts should disappear.
The outside needs to match the inside
We are primarily attracted to a certain type of person, which is determined by the outside. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the outside matches the person that you are. You also notice immediately when people have thought about it and their outside is really a reflection of who they are. That is so powerful.
Moreover, we must not forget that we all have biases. Even if you are very open-minded.
If, on the other hand, we really stand in our power, and wear the clothes we like, any comments we get will be less harsh. Of course, a lot of it is also in your head. If you already have certain insecurities, comments can be interpreted as being about those insecurities, when that is not the case at all.
By the way, it would be sad if people stopped commenting about someone’s clothes – in a positive way of course. I like it just as much when someone tells me that I gave a good presentation as when they like the outfit I’m wearing. Both are nice and relevant comments on two things you wanted to do well.
I definitely make it a point to say it when I think a person looks good. And certainly to other women. You notice immediately that you do women a great favour with that. We should really dare to do that among women. If someone looks good, it is a small effort to say so, even if you think that person always looks good. Who doesn’t like a compliment now and then?
In my opinion, we should communicate more about the outside and how someone is dressed. Because apart from perhaps a few exceptions, we all ask ourselves daily or often the questions “What do I wear? What do I buy?”. Role models who find it ok to talk about their clothes in addition to their job would help.
It is also important to get away from certain stereotypes, such as that a lawyer is dressed in a boring way. These are wrong perceptions. That is why it is interesting to look for the people who are different and stand out in their sector and dare to be themselves despite old customs. They are the ones who will also change certain corporate cultures.