Whenever this topic comes up my gut reaction is I don't want to be approachable. I want to be respected. I love what Ms. Mary had to say. I do not have that kind of big personality. I am the one that you slowly learn to respect over time as I keep doing my thing (at least that's my goal). Ideally I would project approach me if you actually have something to say !
Katerina I think you project being a force to be reckoned with, and that is a very good thing.

I view approachability as conveying that you are a warm person who is willing to help others--a win in my book! As far as how to convey it through your wardrobe, I would suggest playful items, which it sounds like you are already drawn to: a fun patterned scarf, a cute piece of jewelry, etc. Dramatic dressing can sometimes be perceived as intimidating to others, and having a whimsical element can let the other person know that you are down-to-earth.

Wow, so interesting to read about everybody's thoughts, experiences and perspectives. Thank you ALL for this. And again - it all makes sense and there are so many points of view.

What I am thinking here again is that approachability is contextual. What I mean here is that it means different things for people in different professions and different professional roles - no doubt about that. But also perhaps in different countries and cultures. Without going into any details - perhaps in some societies it is more important to be "approachable" (whatever the definition) than in others. So interesting to reflect.

So many wise words have been said here by the Forum members. Some of them touched in particular. What Mainelady said - "an earlier version of myself may have spent too much time wondering what other thought of me... unless one verbalizes it, I have no way of knowing ... and I can´t control their thoughts" - great point. Celia, yes of course - approachability relates to being trustworthy and consistent - it is also true, if you look at it over a period of time, not only the first impression. Isn´t it a little what Shevia says as well - you slowly learn to respect her over time as she keeps doing her thing... This is also my goal.

I wanted to thank you ALL for the kind words about my style and what I project. So kind! It warms my heart.

And thank you Rachylou for the tips on the ice breakers, such as scarves and brooches. I have not thought of the aspect of them being a little separate from the body and therefore more comfortable to comment - interesting! Gigi, thanks and I agree - playful items take down the serious "scary" part ... That reminds me that I have an old charm bracelet - collected since I was three years old, it has about 40 charms today. It has been a real ice breaker many times, a kind of conversation piece and a happiness piece at the same time.

I'm back to answer your question, Katerina. YES. I feel authentic in my outfits despite the varying dress codes and moods with clients. They are still the same sartorial choices and comfort levels that make me happy. I don't feel compromised with what I wear, and I'm confident wearing what I do. Like you - I am dressy, and usually the dressiest person around (high five). I never get flack for it though, (probably because I've proved that I can move fast in my choice of footwear). People expect it given the nature of my work, and even Greg likes me dressy. He said I wouldn't be me if I was too casual, and things would feel off.

I DO feel that the weather compromises my style! I wish I lived in a warmer climate.....

Very interesting thread,most of you seem to be talking about work attire in which you have a degree of choice.I worked in the NHS for 14 years there was a uniform ,hair tied back ,no jewellery and minimal makeup.The only things that made you approachable or not were your demeanour ,personality and the way that you dealt with each patient.

Well, that’s kinda interesting, Cardiff girl. Because in a way certain uniforms are meant to identify those who people are supposed to turn to for help - police, fire, nurse, EMT, nun, priest... Also kinda interesting that DOCTORS don’t quite wear a uniform, do they? The white coat is optional.

I am really interested in this topic and agree with all the comments. How we define approachable is interesting and why we want to be approachable - and it does vary for all of us.

I think that like it or not, people judge us based on our appearance - both physical - and how we dress. Some people react to stereotypes - and different generations have differing views on styles such as tattoos, ripped jeans or even hair length. Taller people can be judged differently than shorter people; some people judge on the colour of your skin. It is not right - but it is what happens.

How much we consider this when we dress is debateable isn't it - how much do I be authentic and how much do I cater for others prejudices or perceptions....and for women in many parts of the world it is a very fraught and difficult position.

For me personally, I do dress for my audience - or at least consider them. When visiting my grandmother I would not wear ripped jeans, when talking to a multi cultural group of parents including many Somali, Afghani and Pakistani families (mostly refugees) I wore long sleeves and a longer dress or pants, and there are times I choose to wear clothes that blend in deliberately. There are plenty of times I choose to stand out too - I sometimes wear silver shoes and a faux fur to the workshop and a leopard beret on the rugby sideline.

I have been thinking about this a lot (I actually have a tummy bug at the moment) but I am not sure that I have even communicated what I mean.

FWIW, here are my thoughts. I am powerful and intimidating. I am well educated, I am well spoken and confident in my professional role, and I dress well. To be approachable, means I need to have some quality that people can visually see or that they can immediately sense and recognize when they meet me as something that they can relate to and that puts them at ease. It may sound obvious, but people tend to like people who have some similarity to themselves, they look for some common ground. I don’t think being RATE makes someone more relatable, it’s the careful cultivation of commonality. I definitely dress to look “genuine”. My wardrobe choices include pieces that still allow me to maintain my power as a professional, but also reflect some commonality with the community I serve. The best example of this may be my tendency to wear jeans. Not many doctors I know, besides me, wear jeans frequently to work. I do, and it works for me. If I am wearing jeans, they are going to be nice looking, without rips, and paired with something that is considered more classically formal, or dressy. My clients may also wear jeans, but they will be wearing them with a sports logo tee shirt, or a sweatshirt, etc.

I think that approachable is not useful for MsMary and her profession. I completely agree with her opinion re men and approachability versus women and approachability. And men better not try to tell me what to do, either. However, I have a facet of my life where I do want to be approachable. And that is as a CASA, with respect to the foster children. I have to go to court periodically, and in those instances I want to come across as competent, knowledgeable and trustworthy. But with the children I want to be approachable.

Very interesting indeed, and thank you for starting this post, Katerina. I don't have anything special to contribute here, but it has given me much to think about. I need the people I see in my work day to want to approach me, to want to talk to me, and to feel comfortable doing so. I don't dress to accomplish that though - rather I manipulate my behaviour and personality to further what I want to achieve. My sense of humour and directness has served me well and I like to think I have figured out who needs to be talked to in what kind of way . I like being noticed for what I wear, because I think that that matters too. Showing a sense of style in pretty essential in my line of work.

Hi Katerina this is such an interesting post! I haven't felt I've got to "know" you very well yet as I chose not to do the 30 by 30 challenge: my personal challenge for over a year now is trying to wear as many of my clothes as I can, not limiting them.
I can say that you look imposing to me. I'm a very short ( 5 foot 1) woman who dresses in a relaxed way, not very formally. So your clothing looks conservative and you look a force to be reckoned with, to me. But you don't come across as unapproachable on the forum and probably wouldn't in real life I think. I do think accessories help and could give a talking point. I often compliment my ( female) patients on an item of clothing or an accessory and they do the same for me, it can help break the ice. I don't do that much with my male patients, maybe very occasionally on a nice shirt! I'm more nervous of the gender issue and of maintaining proper professional boundaries with them I think.
The older I get ( now almost 57) the less worried I am about looking "professional". I don't want to look UN-professional but I've relaxed into my slightly more casual style without worrying now that I'm very senior and respected in my field. My dressing style is probably quite approachable anyway as slightly quirky but I feel powerful enough in high-level meetings just being myself. I feel blessed by this, an unexpected advantage of becoming old and grey!

Such an interesting conversation. I’ve always wanted to look less approachable ;). I’m only half joking, I’m the first person people sit down next to when all the double benches on the bus have one person sitting on them. And I like being left alone haha. I think that, sadly, it has a lot to do with looking unintimidating, so it helps if you’re small like me (short and skinny), a woman, dressed inconspicuously, acting quiet. A lot of this is gendered and I’m also pretty sure things like race play a part as well: white people probably think other white people are more approachable than anyone from a different ethnicity. And then context: you will likely look more approachable to someone with similar style because they feel like they have something in common with you. So I would only aspire to looking approachable if it was really important for my job. If not, your general demeanour is probably enough to project the one or the other. I’m rehashing a lot of what has been said before but just wanted to add my two cents...

Continuing with "approachable" as a positive, confident quality, I think it can actually be enhanced by a strong personal style and expressive personality. I'm much more comfortable with people who are open about who they are, even if I don't agree with everything they say, or want to dress like them.

I am impressed with how much you gleaned from the challenge. YAY YOU.

There is so much thought that went into these posts. I agree with everything Ms. Mary wrote. At the same time, I have actually heard me say I want to be seen as approachable. I hadn't realized the disconnect until just this moment. I really need to think about this some more.

Katrina- thank you very much for this post. Your posts and the responses have been a fascinating read. I do not have much to add to the wonderfully thoughtful responses so far.

I do think that body language speaks louder than clothing. I also agree that the context is very important. Knowing that you are a lawyer your clothing seems very appropriate and very approachable. If you were working in a very casual environment the formality of your suits might be initially off putting to some people but those wonderful playful details of yours soften that image.

I've really been enjoying this thread. I work primarily with children and teens, and the degree to which I feel I need to project authority, in a traditional sense, increases with the age of the students. I am relatively young, and look younger than I am, so my approachability is inherent, compared to my older colleagues. As Suz says, age does lend gravitas. Working with middle and high schoolers, many of them are larger and taller than me, so I tend to skew more formal with them than I do with preschoolers and elementary schoolers.

Education is a fairly informal field to begin with, and my region is rural and quite casual generally. Personally, I don't like to teach in jeans or t-shirts, because I feel like teachers deserve far more professional respect than they receive (particularly in the US), and dressing down only serves to reinforce the notion that teachers are just overpaid babysitters.

I also remember how annoyed I felt in high school when teachers would come in wearing jeans and t-shirts and we were still expected to refer to them as "Mr." or "Ms." -- shouldn't respect go both ways?

When I am out on the street, I do not project much approachability and I'm fine with that: I wear dark clothes, almost always have sunglasses on, don't make an effort to smile unless it's genuine, and walk fast.

Fascinating thoughts and responses! It is so interesting to read how all of you feel about being approachable and what it means to you. Thank you ALL for sharing your thoughts and commenting.

I can identify with many perspectives here. Clearly, there are different demands in our professional and personal lives depending on what we do, what we want or need to achieve, and where we live and who we meet etc. After I have read all the interesting posts, there are many thoughts and questions in my head still... I recognize what Sterling has said - there is some disconnect between in my heart agreeing with Ms Mary and yet - I have been thinking about whether I am “approachable enough”. It is good to at least be aware of that I think

I agree with you, Isabel - I also feel comfartable with people who are open about who they are - that including their style - even if I have a different style and do not necessarily agree with everything they say. I can admire, respect and like such people a lot. Is it that openness what makes a person “approachable”? To me, this is connected to authentic style and being genuine and consistent.

Isn't one's physicality part of it? I can identify with what La Ped says about teaching, a lot. My mother, long dead, was born in 1920 and was teaching in small rural schools in the 1940s during and after the war. She was patronisingly asked by a male visitor if she could please get the teacher, dear. He mistook her for about 12. She was 26 at the time. And she had to say "I am the teacher".
I also looked very young as a newly qualified doctor aged 24 and some of the patients in the hospital would look at me quizzically and ask "Are you sure you've left high school?".
Those of you who are way taller and broader of shoulder will be naturally less likely to have such problems. And becoming grey and 20 kg heavier has helped me to grow into my gravitas. So I think physicality skews it a lot.

Yes, Jenni NZ--I am definitely on the flip side of things in that I'd need to dress more aggressively in order to been seen at all.

I walk into a party where I know no one. I scan the room to decide who I will approach. In any gathering, there is often a "herd" mentality for dressing, a sameness, whether by design or lack of it. Whether trendy, professional, or casual - depending on the group. But then I will see you across the room, Katerina. You are an original. You have obviously given thought to your outfit, it has elegance, whimsy, charm and uniqueness. You are interesting. Whether I approach you will depend on your attitude - are you animated, is you posture straight or relaxed, do you smile with not just with your lips but through your eyes. Because you've taken pains with your outfit, I do not need to work to start the conversation. I can simply smile, and tell you how genuinely lovely you look, what interests me about your outfit, from their we chat about clothes, fashion, dress, even approachability and then if you find me a kindred spirit we may find we have much to discuss.

I don't understand the concept of approachable dressing on a gut level. I'm a physician, a smallish woman, intelligent, and although I always dress with respect to the activity and group I am formal and dressy by nature. I always wear a blazer. I wear a lot of black, I am petite but powerful. To me being approachable is being genuinely warm, as Angie say, a genuine smile that comes from within is the best invitation to approach, soft engaged sparkly eyes, posture that bends slightly toward you when you speak, ears that listen intently to what you say, good manners, politeness, engagement are what make me approachable. The softness is in manner, not in dress. I do wear an unusual piece of jewelry to events where I don't know people. A harmony ball, a unique pin, cowboy boots, a piece of dog breed jewelry. It's an ice breaker for sure and gives a stranger an easy entry line if they need it. But the key to being approachable is being comfortable. Part of being comfortable for me is being authentic. But know if we were at the same party, I would approach you not in spite of your dress but because of it.

Love your response, Gryffin. And also the idea of adding a "conversation piece."

Gryffin said what I was trying to say, albeit in her usual far more eloquent and interesting manner. I'm sitting here thinking , and can't come up with a scenario where I would feel intimidated by someone's style of dress. I might be more likely to make an incorrect assumption based on someone being very dressed down, or very trendy/junior in a business or professional environment, but never intimidated.

Hi Katerina --

I haven't been around too much so just had the pleasure of catching up with your 30 x 30 challenge outfits as well as all the thoughts on this thread.

I *do* think people with a dressier style who want to be seen as approachable do best when they are creative with color, texture, accessories, etc. Since you check all those boxes....

Just one thought to add to the many above...

I find the way others approach me gives me power. It tells me a LOT about them -- and that's information I will happily file away (and possibly use to my advantage later) or address right there in the moment.

Gryffin, your scenario is so interesting. I’m a loud dresser... and coincidentally, or not, I will play the hostess a lot. That is, I approach others and find them someone to talk to. Find them a place. My mother tells me not to talk to neighbors... I should listen, but I don’t. They will talk to me, and I will talk back... But I digress... The question is, would a really quiet shy person ever try and strike up a conversation with me on their own? I don’t think so, you know. I’m pretty sure I’d have to be much less visually crazy...

Rachy- but you are exactly the person a shy person would approach. Open, engaging, gregarious. They would be less afraid of the dreaded conversational pause. The only work they would have to do is approach, smile, and make eye contact bring almost positive you'd do the rest. Interesting dress and an open temperament are catnip to the reserved. You are the ultimate social catch - they can hitch their wagon to a social star.

This is so interesting and has helped me put words to how I decide what to wear to work. I teach and hold an administrative position in a small college. I choose my outfits to be comfortable and about 1/2 to 1 step more formal than the students outfits.
Much like Suz.
When I was visiting patients in their homes, I did not have a uniform like Cardiff but chose my outfits to be easy to move in but still with a professional appearance. Flats but not sneakers. Dark trouser no jeans. No flashy jewelry.
I felt it was important to dress a bit "up" out of respect for the patients. But not so formally that they would feel uncomfortable. Much like what Rachylou was saying.

Katerina, your style is perfect for you and your profession. I expect attorneys to look very put together. You could represent me anytime!

I read Liesbeth’s, La Pedestriennes, Gryffins, and Jenni NZ’s responses with much interest. I suspect stature plays a big role in how powerful or authoritative someone looks and in how approachable one may then appear in return. I was the “tall girl”growing up, and even once I wasn’t the tallest girl in the room, I still carry the tallest girl mentality and posture. People see me as taller than I really am, and respond to me as such. Unlike Liesbeth, people would not chose to sit next to me if there were multiple empty seats, and they would move out of my way if I was approaching them on a sidewalk too! My stride is long, strong and purposeful. I make myself large, not small. The children I work with forever stop me in hallways, look up and say, “you’re so tall!”! My question is can someone tall be approachable? I’m certainly not an extrovert, despite my height, and confident bearing, I am not the one who is going to work a room at a social gathering. Cardiff Girl brought up the point of uniforms as a great equalizer and how personality needs to play a role, but even before one can assess personality from a conversation, there are physical signs of what is underneath ones facade. That is what I mean by trying to use some softness in my style. More importantly, and similar to what Griffin pointed out, how we carry ourselves and our posture plays a huge role in how people assess us, as does our facial expression. Body language - are we open or closed, angry or anxious, relaxed or stiff, etc. Do we smile, do we look warm and friendly, do we have laugh lines or furrows in our brow? La Pedestrienne nicely talks about how she differentiates her posture and facial expression in different situations for specific effect. I think we all do this, whether we recognize it or not.

I am fascinated by La Pedestrienne’s thought that approachability when working with younger children, or children of any age, has anything to do with ones age. In my experience, children respond to the same factors as adults. They can suss out when someone is genuinely interested in them or not. They respond to people who listen, are calm, stable, consistent, warm, friendly and caring regardless of their age. I see repeatedly that some young school staff members are highly effective and relate well with children, and others that are in the same age group, with the same training fail. This makes me conclude personality plays more of a role than appearance or age.

Jenni NZ brings up the experience factor. I relate to her thinking because it has also been my personal experience. I am not sure if it is unique to medicine, but I suspect that as people advance in their careers, or find themselves in positions such as ours, the ability to relax, and yet still maintain power, and garner respect is somehow a part of the package. It may be unique to fields in which the entire knowledge base is not contained in books. Medicine relies on having someone with more knowledge and experience mentoring those with less knowledge and experience. I’m sure Jenni NZ is a respected mentor in her community, and people come to her because of her wide range of experience.

What an interesting thought about the field of medicine. My hobby career here of baking, a bit like medicine. I wonder if it’s because they’re both old arts. But as with baking, you get a $75k culinary degree and probably aren’t even fit to wash dishes. The traditional way is an apprenticeship, and you need it even after schooling. And as I suspect it is with medicine, you get some who can make masterpieces but their kitchens are a misery to be in... You learn, but maybe it’s harder than it has to be.