“New York City was, by far, where I was most fashionable,” says Nancy Hua, founder of software startup Apptimize.
When Hua moved to San Francisco to start her company in 2013, she quickly pared down her wardrobe. “I had an assistant over the summer, and I gave her my Louis Vuittons–and some of them haven’t been worn,” she says.
Hua now lives in workout clothes–allowing her to easily pop into Barry’s Bootcamp when she has downtime or to run with one of her execs. Her team knows that she has a meeting day when she’s “dressed up.”
If you believe a recent survey, however, Hua is in the minority with her get-up-and-go approach to dressing. Finery, a digital wardrobe platform backed by New Enterprise Associates, Farfetch, and TheSkimm founders, recently surveyed more than 1,000 women 18 and older for its “State of Women’s Closets” study. One provocative finding: Only 10 percent of respondents identified as entrepreneurs, but those who did were twice as likely to spend more than one hour getting dressed in the morning than women in other careers.
Of course, it must be noted that the findings are somewhat self-serving: Finery is a wardrobe service that promises to make getting dressed in the morning easier. The free service searches customers’ email inboxes for order confirmations and uses that data to provide style recommendations. Finery earns revenue by including affiliate links in its suggestions.
Even so, Inc. wanted to know what women entrepreneurs had to say about the results and the topic more generally. The average time it took these founders to get dressed in the morning? The answers ranged from five minutes to 45 minutes. With the rise of “workleisure” and Silicon Valley changing the formality of work culture, the dress code, indeed, has gotten more casual. And many successful women are setting their own rules.
Cathy Huyghe, Inc.com columnist and founder of Atlanta-based wine data startup Enolytics, found the results surprising. “Sure, some of my days are more formal, requiring business attire, but just as many days can be more casual, with calls via Skype or webinars or even visits to wineries and vineyards,” she wrote in an email. “In both cases, those clothing options can be predetermined, in the sense of knowing what to expect and so minimizing time-consuming decision making.”
The total time for her to get dressed? 30 minutes, max.
Vanessa Nornberg, Inc.com columnist and founder of the New York City wholesale jewelry supplier Metal Mafia, says she wears “whatever makes her feel most comfortable in the room” (with the season being the only restriction). Black is a staple, but Nornberg tries to incorporate quirkiness via geometric shapes. She says she never takes more than an hour to get ready.
“What matters when you go into any business situation is that you’re on your power game–you’re the best you can be and you’re ready for whatever is coming your way,” she says. At Metal Mafia, employees and job candidates, too, are encouraged to wear whatever makes them feel most comfortable.
Some founders have figured out a way to streamline their outfit choices, eliminating one more decision in their day. Hua has stopped buying her own clothes, after subscribing to Rent the Runway’s service last year. Last September, Amy Nelson, founder of Seattle-based co-working space the Riveter, started using fashion rental service Armoire, which delivers six curated pieces every month. Although she likes the stylish pieces she receives, the decision was purely about efficiency. Nelson, the mother of three kids, starts her day at 5 a.m. and takes a total of 10 to 16 minutes to pick out her clothes and get dressed (while checking her emails in between). She rotates five dresses in the same cut.
“I spend my day making decision after decision, so I want to standardize my work wear,” she says.
Laura Behrens Wu, Inc.com columnist and founder of San Francisco-based logistics company Shippo, agrees. “I’m not overthinking it–it’s the same thing as Mark Zuckerberg,” she says, referring to the Facebook founder’s uniform of gray T-shirts and hoodies. Behrens Wu says what she wears is the “least of her problems. There are so many more impactful things I could be doing” than focusing on dressing to impress. She says she takes about 10 minutes in the morning to get ready. Her go-to outfit: jeans, T-shirt, and black Rothy flats.
Esosa Ighodaro, founder of New York City-based social media shopping app CoSign, says what’s most important is having a “formula that works for you [and] that makes you feel your most comfortable self. There’s nothing worse than fidgeting with your clothes. When you’re fidgeting with your clothes, you’re not focused on the things you need to do.” Her usual dressing routine, she says, is 30 minutes.
Ighodaro admits she does feel more pressure when it comes to investor meetings–but that it may have to do more with her race and age.
“If I wear all black or jeans and a collared shirt, most people think that I work there or work the events,” the 32-year-old founder says. “So I’m very cautious about that … I think being younger or being an African American woman, I know I have to dress up more than usual.”
Finery’s co-founder Whitney Casey stands by her survey and argues that “women grossly underestimate the time” it takes to get ready. She says that the time spent just thinking about the outfit you’ll wear the next day is “intangible.” Moreover, asking the question is sort of like taking a test in college–nobody is going to admit how long they studied for the test, she says, adding that’s why the survey was anonymous.
“No female entrepreneurs want to say they spend any kind of time thinking about what to wear. It’s just a terrible question to ask them. It sounds frivolous,” she says.
But, as an entrepreneur herself, Casey echoed the experience of the other founders. “When you’re a female entrepreneur … you’re also sort of dancing in between a lot of different businesses. [You] have to kind of be a chameleon,” she says.