PR Fashion: Dressed for Comfort and Speed
By Laura Braden
I work in public relations, and the other day I was staffing a client’s news conference when it hit me…What and the heck are those girls wearing?
You see there were two sets of consultants working the event. My gals were wearing flats, tailored/stretch slacks (pockets are a necessity that we’ll get to later), and hair in simple/chic ponytails. The other gals were wearing four-inch platform heels, frilly blouses, tight pencil skirts, full face of make-up, and curled hair. They looked…stunning.
But this wasn’t a red carpet – this was your run-of-the-mill news conference…likely the 3000th one I’ve staffed over the years. And I noticed that my gals were able to dash and squat and help carry things and wrangle a speaker that had strayed from the herd…while the other gals could only shuffle (because of their heels) and pass out press kits.
So new theory: there are two basic types of PR people – those who dress the part and those who dress to get the job done.
Sidebar: This is not meant to sound judgmental or condescending. One camp is not better than the other. If you can herd speakers/attendees, flag down TV crews, squat into crazy positions to get the perfect picture/video, and walk in mud/gravel/cobblestones in a tight pencil skirt and five-inch stilletos – more power to you. Heck, hold a seminar on how to do so, and I’ll gladly sign up.
There are plenty of occasions that require a PR gal to get dressed up – movie premieres, red carpets, receptions – that’s not what we’re talking about here. This post is dedicated to fashion that will help you survive news conferences/events that are outdoors or in odd locations (say an almond farm or wastewater plant or airport hangar or railyard) on three hours of sleep – while still looking professional and chic.
Tips to Keep You Comfortable and Looking Professional
- Wrap dresses are your best friend. Repeat after me – wrap dresses are your best friend. They’re flattering on everyone, can be dressed up/down with jewelry, and are available at every price point – from DVF to Walmart. Stick with dresses made of cotton/stretchy material for easy packing and breath-ability.
- Invest in cardigans and blazers with deep pockets. If you’re doing your job right, you’ll inevitably be juggling: iPhone/blackberry, pens, gaffer tape, chapstick, mints, digital camera and a Flipcam…PLUS press kits, talking points and an event rundown. Cardigans/blazers look great over wrap dresses and allow you to have at least one hand free. I also freeze on planes so this extra layer is an added bonus.
- Pockets are also your best friend. See the above tips. If I see a work-appropriate dress with pockets, I don’t even think about it anymore, I just buy it. See below – I bought this dress from Macy’s (a steal at $24.98) in purple and gray. The gray one has already been on a test drive, and the pockets are just big enough to hold my iPhone, mints, chapstick and a Flipcam without looking like I have 2 softballs in my pockets.
- Wrinkle-free = Stress-free. When I travel for work, it’s usually: catch a 6am flight to whatever town, dash to the news conference, set it up and staff it, dash back to the airport, afternoon flight back to Sacramento or the next destination. With zero time to change, wrinkle-free fabrics are a saving grace, because really – the stretched knee look from sitting on a 3 hour flight is no bueno. Express and the Limited make great wrinkle free/stretchy pants but like the wrap dress, you can find a multitude of options at every price point.
- If a dog could fit inside, it’s probably big enough… Whenever possible, I don’t check luggage – slows you down and I hate paying the fees. The perfect bag/tote has to be large enough to hold my laptop, press kits, pair of heels (just in case), neck pillow, power cords, etc, etc. And wheels can be a plus (saves your shoulder, but you lose a free hand). My favorite is a black Samsonite I found at a TJ Maxx in Robert, LA after my favorite tote bag strap broke. Everyone teases me for it (I look like an attorney headed to court), until I zip past them in the airport check-in line. You can find great bargains from top designers at Loehmann’s (2555 Fair Oaks Blvd) and Nordstrom Rack (2100 Arden Way), or check out CareerBags.com for some really cute options.
- And lastly…flats. These need no explanation. I usually stow a cute pair of heels in my bag just in case, but generally speaking, flats (or flat boots) are my go-to event shoe. But like I said, if you can run around for 8+ hours in five-inch stilletos – more power to you!
Editor’s note:We want to hear from you! From travel to work – what are your tips and advice? Leave us a comment below or email girlsonthegrid AT gmail DOT com.