For those that watch the new ABC hit series “Scandal” one thing is certainly clear: Olivia Pope is sharp! Take out all the commentary about her character and zero in on her fashion and you’re left with a stunning display of decadence.
While this show draws tons of attention across all social networks about her affair with the President and all the many scandals, you will notice the detail paid to what Olivia Pope wears. On one hand it can be disconcerting to see this powerful woman analyzed for what she wears, but it is clear that her choices are intentional which means it’s worth paying attention to.
Click here to see ABC’s breakdown of the intention behind Olivia Pope’s wardrobe with Kerry Washington & Lyn Paolo.
Kerry Washington says that Pope’s wardrobe is meant to buck the typical D.C. dress code of navy blues and blacks, which confirms her individuality, fearlessness, and stopping power. Wherever Olivia Pope goes she’s going to be noticed. She works the balance of strength and femininity very well and that can be very important for a woman on the rise. From my perspective, the Corporate World can be quite similar. While it certainly depends on the company, you tend to see the same color palettes as you move from cubicle to cubicle or corner office to corner office. The same navy blue’s, crisp white oxfords, and black suits. For those interested in displaying their power or height on the totem pole, you may see the occasional red power tie or a sliver of a red blouse under a black suit jacket, but that tends to be about it.
I think Olivia Pope sends a new message out there to powerful career women. Sometimes your fashion choices at work help you stand out. What you wear may communicate to others before you even speak. I’m not telling anyone to dress outside of their means, or wear things that make them uncomfortable, but bucking your in-office trends could get you added visibility that any ambitious person could certainly use.
I’ll give you a quick personal example: I completely ignore what I originally perceived to be my company’s office dress code. We dress business casual but that same muted color scheme exists here. I wear my 6 inch pumps in a variety of colors, my orange skirt, and I love to color block. My fashion at work is very “live out loud” yet sophisticated and appropriate. Additionally it makes me noticeable in a building with 500 other people, in a good way. What typically happens is a Director may stop me in the hallway and say “I love that scarf!” The next thing you know I’m chitchatting with said Director about my scarf, my time in Milan, and now we have a common link. I would say this has happened quite a bit, and each time I got to work in more information about myself and what I do. Now I easily stop them to talk and show off new shoes or a new purse, and that conversation leads to “so what are you working on now?”
Never underestimate the power of connecting and relationship building. For me, people are always intrigued by my hair or my clothes, and while those things are insignificant to the work that I do, I know how to leverage it. That’s why I’m so excited by what Olivia Pope’s wardrobe represents. Fashion at its finest, but also a woman that stands out in a crowd and serves fierce while doing it! Plus, I know that I feel my best when I look my best. When I have a big presentation I dress to the nines and the air of confidence that I have when I know my stuff and also look like it is immeasurable.
For professional women I think it’s great when we buck the masculinity that drives office dress codes. Whether it’s wearing feisty leopard print flats or high to the sky red pumps, you decide. If like Olivia Pope, you wear white when you’re winning and black when you’re down, you decide. Just be fierce and bold and know that you’re being noticed. When the time is right, use it to your advantage. When the General Manager asks you where you got your purse, speak on it! While you do, mention that it’s your favorite go-to while you’re working on your current project because it’s big enough to fit some of your files.
Men do it all the time in other ways. They talk sports and snuff us when we try to insert our opinion on last night’s game. They have golf outings and bar nights that don’t include us on the invites. While fashion is not just a “woman” thing, talking purses and scarves among the other powerful women in your office may give you an edge over the gentlemen!
Fight on gladiators!
P.S. I may not be able to stick to the light color palettes like Olivia, but I do have my own office style!