Art of Style

From the Editor: The Fashionista and the Office

Sonya Sawyer on dressing for success

BY April 3, 2015
Sonya Sawyer on dressing for success


One more mission for this fashion issue: Find an acclaimed fashionista and get her to advise on stylish dressing for business, an arena not included in our coverage this month (see pages 142-153). 

Why does Sonya Sawyer come immediately to mind? Well, if you haven’t noticed her tasteful dazzle every time she steps out in Southwest Florida, why not take the word of Kellie Burns, NBC2 anchor and our Scene & Heard columnist? In conferring awards for distinctive achievements during season a couple of years ago, Kellie declared her the best-dressed young professional in gala-land.One more mission for this fashion issue: Find an acclaimed fashionista and get her to advise on stylish dressing for business, an arena not included in our coverage this month (see pages 142-153).

We’ll get to Sonya’s business-wear prescriptions in a moment, but how can you not be impressed by someone who, at age 7, starting writing down what she wore every day “so I didn’t repeat myself. I was very shy in elementary school and I communicated through the way I dressed.” It didn’t go unnoticed. She was named best dressed at Cypress Lake High School in Fort Myers and off she went to Stetson University. “I wanted to be a fashion designer,” she says, “but I couldn’t draw or sew.” So she proceeded to graduate summa cum laude with B.A. and M.A. degrees in accounting (“Numbers are a gift, not a passion,” she says). And after two years at the prestigious Ernst & Young accounting firm in Tampa, she was hired by her dad at Home Tech in Fort Myers, where she is currently CFO.


Dressing for Business Success

Some general principles from Sonya: “Express your personality within the confines of your office dress code. No wearing low-cut dresses or blouses, and that goes for undergarments, too. It’s inappropriate and untidy. Be age-appropriate. I once saw a woman attorney of a certain age in a courtroom dressed in a suit that was too tight, too hip, revealing too much leg and cleavage. Ugh. Accent your best parts and camouflage your flaws. Small women should not wear long dresses that engulf them. Business attire is more casual in Southwest Florida and a shift dress or flowing skirt and blouse will work nicely—along with distinctive earrings or a statement bag or shoe. As for casual Fridays, a polo shirt or blouse with khakis is a good look—but no holes or tears in jeans, no tank tops, T-shirts or football jerseys.”

Personally, Sonya says, “I like to push the envelope. I may be in that black dress, but I’ll have a catchy accessory—say a smart-looking bracelet—or I’ll slick back my hair or go for heavy eye makeup or a slash of red lipstick. Some of my favorite outfits? A shift dress in classic black or navy with a jacket, my white suit with a black camisole, a silk blouse with a knee-length skirt, nude heels (not too high), and diamond or pearl stud earrings.”


Men, Too

Sonya likes a button-down shirt and slacks for men’s office wear, except, obviously, in professions where suits are required. “Suits with no ties are attractive,” she says. Your clothes should be ironed and your shirt tucked in. A bowtie can add a nice touch. And no shorts to work or out for evenings, either.” How would she dress her husband, Brian, a sergeant detective in the Collier County Sheriff’s office (they have two kids, Brandon, 10, and Chloe, 7)? “In a black suit, crisp, white shirt, black or silver tie, and nice black loafers,” she says.


Shopping Secrets

I’d be remiss in leaving Sonya without passing along the places the accomplished fashionista seeks out for her evening wear, too. She reports, “I’m at Saks at Waterside Shops maybe once a month; occasionally visit Georgette’s, a little boutique in Tampa, and Nieman Marcus over in Bal Harbour—and naturally check online sources (like every week or so. Because I love to keep only to new looks, I do consign many of my things—but maintain a dress graveyard over at my father’s place for dresses I just can’t bring myself to get rid of. I can at least wear them if I’m out of town.” So know that it’s five-star show-time when you see Sonya around Southwest Florida. And, guaranteed, you’ll get no reruns. 


Related Images: