The 90s Called: They Want Their Power Suits Back

My first job was helping my dad landscape in the summers, and although he violated many a child labor law (totally kidding Child Protective Services—I was 16, able-bodied and got a free lunch every day), he allowed me to wear whatever I wanted. A t-shirt and shorts? Don’t mind if I do.

During my stint as a waitress, I wore khaki pants and a black shirt. The shirt was great, but the khakis were a magnet for pizza sauce stains, garlic bread grease and the metaphorical dirt that comes with trading in fake laughs for bigger tips. On a busy Saturday, I looked like a Dumpster child by night’s end.

When I made the seamless transition into the professional world, I had to trade in my casual wear for…semi-casual wear. Dress pants were added into the daily rotation, but I snuck in Converse on particularly rebellious Fridays. Although there was no specific policy against my giant hoop earrings, I wanted to look more classy, less club, so I sacrificed my jewelry preference for the greater good of both my career and my ear lobes. 

But overall, I was pretty fortunate. No truly unflattering uniforms for yours truly.

Others aren’t so lucky. 

As an onsite associate, Tina Makssour-Mortera endured years of unhappiness with corporate apparel options in the apartment industry. As she moved to the corporate side of operations, she vowed to never ask her associates to wear something she wouldn’t put on herself (masculine blazer, anyone?).

Now, as Senior Vice President of Performance for Alliance Residential, she is keeping that promise.

Last year, Alliance Residential partnered with The Limited to launch “InStyle,” a line of corporate apparel intended to address its need for more stylish clothing and educate its associates about portraying a professional image—i.e., a little less leg, Miss Thing.

Makssour-Mortera says the partnership—and process—were near and dear to her. 

“As we began evaluating partnership options for quality, professional-looking, fashion-forward and affordable apparel, we asked our associates about their favorite places to shop,” she explained. “The Limited was one of the retailers mentioned most often and its ‘Black Collection’ was an excellent fit for our purposes.”

She says the collection comprises Alliance Residential’s staple suit pieces, ensuring associates can buy clothing from the collection that will always be the same fabric and color.

Since the collection was introduced at the company’s national meeting last May and rolled out in October, Makssour-Matera says she is no longer receiving complaints that apparel options aren’t “fashionable or trendy,” particularly with regard to the cut of the garments. Because one cut does not fit all.

Although Alliance Residential has certain apparel guidelines—such as the minimum length of a skirt and the appropriate type of shoes—Makssour-Matera says they prefer to accomplish their desired image through internal marketing, promotion and positive reinforcement, rather than a strict dress code.

So far, Makssour-Matera says associate feedback has been nothing but positive, with one onsite employee saying, “Finally—happiness with the uniforms.”

(Said no fast-food employee, ever.)

For more, check out “Runway Ready” in the June issue of units Magazine, which mailed June 11.