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Ask the Image Expert

Sherry Maysonave is the founder and president of Empowerment Enterprises, one of America's leading communication-image firms. Sherry conducts corporate seminars and coaches executives, professionals, and politicians in achieving excellence in communication and image. She is also the author of Casual Power: How to Power Up your Nonverbal Communication and Dress Down for Success

Semi-formal attire

Question: I'm heading up a fundraiser for the United Way on behalf of my company. We are having an evening fundraising party. What should I wear?
Cheryl

Answer: This qualifies as a professional event, although charity related. And with fundraising, inspiring trust is always essential. Because of these factors, it's important that you do not err by wearing ultra-sexy apparel. This means that you do not show a lot of skin with an extremely low cut neckline, with a mini skirt or any ultra short length, or with a strappy back-less dress. I am not saying that you must be so covered that you look like a nun. You could wear a sleeveless dress (if you have good arms), but do not bare your midriff.

With that said, you have numerous options, depending upon your style preferences. Since you did not specify that it's a black-tie event, I am assuming that it is semi-formal. Semi-formal attire is quite dressy, but it does not include heavily sequined attire or the formal ball-gown look. Since we are in the holiday season, you can wear velvet. A sleek velvet dress (long or short) or in black, brown, dark green, or red (or shades of red such as wine, burgundy, etc.) would be very appropriate. If you opt for a velvet skirt or pants, top it off with a sparkly sweater or a dressy blouse or top made of satin, chiffon, lace, or a metallic fabric. Silk and taffeta pieces are also available this time of year. (Avoid billowing taffeta garments with lots of fabric; those are too dressy.) A dressy pantsuit would also be appropriate. A classic tuxedo jacket with pants (made of wool crepe, silk, or satin) would also work well.

Semi-formal can look a million ways. It is dressier than daytime business attire and the apparel appropriate for Sunday church services. You can put together any type of dressy outfit just pay attention to the fabrics (i.e. cotton is too casual).

For these types of occasions, you can never go wrong with a "little black dress," one that is simple in design and one that fits you well. Add pearls or sparkly jewelry and you're set to go.

May your cohorts dig deep in their pockets; United Way is a great cause.

Best of luck to you,
Sherry Maysonave

Also see:

  • The law firm I work for just adopted business casual dress policy. What should I wear?
  • Should I buy new post-pregnancy clothes?
  • Ask your image questions
  • Personal Power: A case study from 'Casual Power'



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