As a woman in a competitive and previously male-dominated profession, you’re probably familiar with the basics of power dressing: dress as plainly and severely as a man in order to convey a man’s level of authority. Now that throws all the fun of dressing up for work out the window faster than you can say “natural breast enhancement”.
Contemporary rules of power dressing now allow for women to be more expressive with their style.
Women no longer need to fit themselves into a man’s mold; they’re now empowered enough to challenge the mold and change the workplace in ways only a woman can, and power dressing today asserts that.
For doctors who power dress, there’s an extra layer of consideration that needs to factor in comfort and urgent physical activity over crisp suits stiletto heels. So what’s a mom MD to do? Today, you’ll find out in this advanced guide to power dressing for mom MDs!
The basic rule on pants and tops: Play it safe and stick to neutrals.
The advanced guide to power dressing for pants and tops: Play with style, but play wisely!
The most important thing is that your pants fit well and the hem doesn’t trail on the floor, gathering microorganisms. But no one ever said pants have to be boring. At the very least, you can pick a cut that’s work-appropriate and practical but still interesting!
If you can get away with it, try skinny-cut slacks. Be sure they fit well (tailored if possible), are not low-rise or skintight, and retain the appropriate breaks and creases. Wear laid-back pants with an extra dressy top and pointy-toed shoes to compensate.
Wide-leg or square pants are good for days when you’re just lounging around, say on a casual Friday or an anticipated slow day at the clinic. Try a pleated pair for added flair.
If your workplace allows it, wear midi pants to shake things up a bit, then pair with boots or heels with straps that go up the ankle to balance the look. Opt for tops that you can tuck in neatly into the high waist—leave the crop tops at home for the weekend.
When choosing tops, err on the conservative side. No midriffs, no strappy sleeves, no plunging necklines. This serves two purposes, one, you’ll be able to focus more on your work than thinking about whether anyone can see down your shirt; and two, you’ll gain the trust of your more traditional colleagues and patients. There’s a time and place to make a stand about clothing choices, and the hospital is not it!
When it comes to color, stay away from too-pale shades that won’t hold up well in case you accidentally splatter yourself with blood, Betadine, or any of the various fluids found in a healthcare setting. Don’t forget to balance your brighter pieces with neutrals!
The basic rule on skirts and dresses: No hemlines more than two inches above the knee.
The advanced guide to power dressing for skirts and dresses: Let style and sensibility flow!
Having established the bare minimum of material that’s appropriate for work, here are a few more pointers to maximize your skirt and dress choices!
As much as possible, choose skirts and dresses with pockets. The number one reason why doctors avoid skirts and dresses in the area is that most skirts don’t come with pockets, lest they ruin the cut of the garment. With a little hunting online though, you can score some great finds from stores that have realized the need for pretty frocks with pockets.
Dresses are fine in the office or the clinic but are generally a nuisance in the hospital because the lack of waist line means you won’t have anywhere to clip your pager. Remedy this by adding a belt! Either dainty leather pieces or wide belts that gather looser dresses into a neat waist will be fine.
As for hemlines, know what is too short to be professional, but also what is too long to be practical. Stay away from maxi dresses and ankle-length skirts that will make it hard for you to run to a code, or trail on the floor gathering and transferring microorganisms. Avoid narrow or restrictive skirts in pencil or tube cuts. Stick to cuts you’d be comfortable power-walking or bending over in, like A-line or circle cuts.
The basic rule on lab coats: It’s not about form, it’s about function
The advanced guide to power dressing for lab coats: Who says you can’t have both?
A well-tailored lab coat for the modern mom MD is three things: it’s made of sound material, serves its purpose, and cuts sharp as a bespoke suit.
The days of lab coats being shapeless as smock gowns are obsolete. Sharp lines send a message of precision, attention to detail, and reliability—all things patients expect from their doctors. Choose a coat that will hug your body in the right places while leaving you enough room to maneuver—with or without the buttons done up. Your coat should fit you well, without the sleeves hanging past your thumbs or the seams falling at awkward places on your shoulders or armpits. For streamlined, tailored fits, check out lab coats by Medelita. Flattering and functional, these lab coats are also made of a fluid resistant performance lab coat fabric that literally repels water, coffee, blood, Betadine, and other liquids you're sure to encounter on the job; it is also hydrophilic on the interior to wick away sweat and keep you up to 7 degrees cooler on average.
It should also have pockets. Deep roomy pockets where you can stuff your coiled stethoscope in one pocket and a pocket guide, notebook, or small tablet (or all of the above) in the other.
Form should always be balanced with functionality. To choose a lab coat that can withstand the stresses of the clinical area, check if it has reinforced stitching. Make sure it’s made of material that repels stains, wicks moisture, and keeps you cool even as it adds an extra layer of protection over your street clothes. And finally, ensure that your coat has been treated with Teflon so it stays whiter for longer and won’t fade easily.
The basic guide to finding your own style: Be yourself!
The advanced guide to power-dressing your own way: Balance being fashion forward with being appropriate.
Your guiding forces in fashion will be the same as your moral compass in the clinical area: your own intuition, preparation, a ton of common sense.
Test-drive all your clothes before taking them to work. Does that knit sweater fit under your coat? Will that top’s collar fall open if you bend over a patient to do CPR? Will your skinny-cut slacks be comfortable to sit and stand in constantly for hours?
Know when to trade your flats up for heels (say for an important meeting or case discussion), and know when to power down your killer footwear into a pair of comfy sneaks (or Crocs dressed up with charms and buttons!). It may be tempting as you climb the career ladder to show off the rocks you may get along the way, but keep in mind that in the clinical area, anything beyond a watch, your wedding ring, and perhaps a simple pair of stud earrings will be impractical and improper.
Being appropriate when power dressing means being considerate of the impression you will make, not just on your colleagues, but also on your patients. It can be as simple as avoiding bright colors and loud patterns when you’re a psychiatrist meeting with a manic patient, or refraining from wearing flashy designer clothing while serving as a public health doctor in an indigent area where your style could alienate your patients.
As a doctor, you’ll need to be compassionate, considerate, and have buckets of common sense, and your style should reflect that.
Power dressing has always been meant to send a message: I’m knowledgeable, I’m influential, I can rock this outfit and shatter gender stereotypes all before I finish my morning coffee. When you’re a mom MD, your challenge will be to juggle the principles of power dressing with the demands of the clinical area. Combine impeccable fashion sense with practicality (and a little bit of human psychology) to send that message, and look stylish as hell while doing it.
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