Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach Victoria Labalme

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Dress to Impress

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Corporate Fashion Runway Show

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In the corporate world, unless they are outrageously bad or in outrageously expensive, we are not distinguished by our outfits. We dress as elegantly as possible. We all look similar: identifiably corporate. We wear suits, ties, smart skirts, and jackets. We keep our skirts appropriately long. We keep our tops appropriately buttoned. We shine our shoes. We wear makeup. The more I think about it the more I realize how much of a costume our attire has become. While it typically goes unstated, we all conform to an overarching cultural expectation and we do it happily. Our clothing should play second fiddle to our work.

I don’t disagree with this point. I have my own corporate-ready wardrobe. I used to work in a bustling professional office. I’m very familiar with sitting at a computer all day in stockings and heels. But it occurs to me that, when we step on stage during a presentation, our clothing suddenly frames our message in a new way. When we stand before a group of rapt colleagues, what we wear says something specific about who we are.

Don Draper, Roger Sterling, et. al. in Corporate-Ready Attire

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I’m love the smart Madison Avenue suits of the 1960′s or even earlier, the anonymous professional blacks of the industrial revolution. Before that, we were dressing like dandys with powdered wigs and white makeup. But I also love the individuality and flair of the carefully constructed costume. In theater, costumes communicate something about a character that words cannot. The cut of a jacket, the ruffles of a dress, the bright fabrics of a pair of gloves, all evoke something. Sometimes it’s a socioeconomic message, sometimes it’s a bygone era, and sometimes it’s simply the quirkiness of a young man expressing himself on stage. Every now and then I think corporate America could really benefit from having a little fun.

An Example of Industrial Revolution Fashion for Men

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Yes, in the day-to-day, costumes may be inappropriate, but on stage (at least on any theater style stage) they are expected. Why not incorporate them into your corporate presentation? If nothing else, a costume will make an impression! Use a costume to illustrate something specific about your message. If you’re talking about the benefits of a new technology, get some laughs with a suit coat made of floppy disks. If you’re talking about solar panels, make a solar paneled hat that powers your laser pointer. That may be more difficult than it sounds… My point is costumes can be used to great effect in the boardroom. The everyday rules don’t apply when a costume is part of a presentation, so take advantage of that. Entertainment is always welcome, even in the stuffiest circumstances.

As a Creative Communications Strategist, Victoria is known for her electrifying Keynote Performances™ and the transformational workshops and coaching sessions she creates for elite executives, high performing teams, thought leaders and entrepreneurs. 

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