Five common fashion myths among businesswomen

Vera Kurochkina, Senior Deputy Director of Bazela, uses super fashionable bags – there’s plenty of room for all of your documents. Source: RIA Novosti

Vera Kurochkina, Senior Deputy Director of Bazela, uses super fashionable bags – there’s plenty of room for all of your documents. Source: RIA Novosti

Dressing for business and pleasure at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum.

For many, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (June 20–22) is the event of the year: an opportunity not only for networking and closing important deals, but also for letting your hair down.

The official part of the program, full to the brim with government officials and oligarchs, effortlessly segues into dinner receptions, trips to the theatre and champagne-fueled parties.

The problem is there is so much to do outside of office hours that businesswomen at the forum might not be able to spare a minute to slip back to their hotel and change outfits. So, what is the best way to dress for the forum, without looking like Cinderella at someone else’s ball?

I have been in the investment business for quite a few years now. Before that, I worked as a journalist; balancing a busy schedule with the need to look good comes as second nature to me.

I have also had the opportunity to see how other women dress at public events, and I have come to the conclusion that there are five common misconceptions among businesswomen that keep them from looking their very best.

Misconception 1: At the event itself, you can’t go wrong with a business suit

First of all, a business suit immediately puts you at a disadvantage, as it can rob you of your primary weapon – your feminism.

Moreover, if you wear a business suit in the morning, then there is no avoiding the pre-entertainment costume change; otherwise you will stick out like a sore thumb next to all those less serious businesswomen at the forum.

Unless you are a high-ranking government official – like Federal Agency for State Property Management head Olga Dergunova, who looks elegant even at social functions – there is no need whatsoever to don a business suit.

You would be better off choosing a dress, as VTB Capital Analyst Maria Kolbina does. We are not talking floral prints and flared skirts here, of course. You need to cut a fine figure: a knee-length dress, or slightly longer, with three-quarter sleeves.

If you are feeling particularly brave, you can go sleeveless – it is likely to be hot, after all.

Misconception 2: Evening dresses are black, blouses are white

Black-and-white ensembles are very rarely flattering, as they can give you a pale complexion and highlight your less attractive features. The only people who can get away with wearing black and white are young, rosy-cheeked girls and fiery brunettes.

Olga Dashevskaya, senior partner at PR Inc. Business Communication Agency
Olga Dashevskaya, senior partner at PR Inc. Business Communication Agency. Source: Kommersant

Take Olga Dashevskaya, senior partner at PR Inc. Business Communication Agency, for example – only Monica Bellucci can pull off black and white better than she does.

While we are on the subject of colors you should avoid, steer well clear of Max Mara’s favorite sandy beige (a fashion disaster for blondes in particular) and mousy grey – unless you are a redhead, that is.

For formal events, you cannot go wrong with pearl grey, grey-blue, cream, dark blue and this season’s hit – coral. Almost everyone looks good in these colors, but that doesn’t mean you can’t dress a little brighter.

Even the head of the Presidential Expert Department, Ksenia Yudaeva, has been known to wear a bright yellow dress on occasion.

The biggest advantage of wearing bright colors in the evening is that you will have no problem standing out in the crowd of black-dress-wearing businesswomen.

Misconception 3: There’s no excuse for slipping out of those high heels

There are no two ways about it: Heels are a great idea for just about everyone. They improve your posture and make you – and your legs – look slimmer. But spending 14 hours straight in a pair of Louboutin heels should be outlawed for anyone taller than 5 feet 3 inches.

Taller ladies should bear in mind that, while rich Russian men almost always go for models, they are often not the most statuesque specimens themselves.

So putting on your heels might not be the best idea if you want to do business with these men, as they probably will not appreciate having the woman towering above them, as it were. And you can take my word for it.

Misconception 4: Having two handbags is an absolute necessity

A no-nonsense handbag for work and a shiny clutch bag for play – this is the ideal situation, of course. But time constraints do not always allow for a quick handbag change. So what is the solution? Get yourself one of those super fashionable soft bags.

There is plenty of room for all of your business documents, as well as whatever accessories you might need for the evening – like a pair of light sandals and a bead necklace, for example. This is what businesswomen in New York and Arbat Capital IR Director Darya Timakova do.

You can go ahead and splurge on your handbag, even making it the most expensive part of your ensemble: A well-known brand can make even the most unassuming of dresses a winner.

Misconception 5: You’d better go all out with the jewelry

In actual fact, business forums are not really the place for expensive jewelry. You might be able to get away with a Hermes ring or scarf, but anything more than that could give the impression that you are there to socialize rather than do business.

Forbes Editor-in-Chief Elizaveta Osetinskaya has accessorizing with jewelry down to a fine art. Then again, no one can pull off expensive jewelry quite like Transaero CEO Olga Pleshakova and Bazel Deputy Director Vera Kurochkina.

Yulia Bushuyeva is the managing director of Arbat Capital.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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