What to Wear to a Business Meeting in France

Cathleen Kelley is a force of energy and sophistication, the consummate New Yorker marrying high heels with high ambition, effervescent charm with a bullet-proof business acumen – as the “ambassador” of the Palace Hotels in Monaco.

Cathleen Kelley of Monte Carlo SBM-Hotels, Casinos, Spa poses in front of a hand-painted mural in her New York office gracing the Prim & Wilde Spring 2016 Cape and Pencil Skirt with her innate chic and charm.

Cathleen Kelley of Monte Carlo SBM-Hotels, Casinos, Spa poses in front of a hand-painted mural in her New York office gracing the Prim & Wilde Spring 2016 Cape and Pencil Skirt with her innate chic and charm.

She has a “professional home” on each side of the Atlantic and is the sole American in a company of 4500. Dividing her time between her office in New York – with a towering view of mid-town bustle, Monaco – where the mountains run down to meet the sea, and the offices of Fortune 500 CEOs Cathleen's work demands not only a versatile mind, but a wardrobe to match.

She greeted me in her laser-cut leather skirt and wool blazer then we sat down to talk fashion, travel, how to love your job and why French women always looks good. While many of us think of this beautiful location as the playground of the rich and famous, the image behind the scenes is all business.

We asked Cathleen....

Do You Dress Differently in France?

Yes. I have to put it together differently” advises Cathleen, her key rules are “Always a jacket and closed-toe shoes. French women do not show their toes but their heels are higher.

Suit or Well-Coordinated Separates?

Definitely well-coordinated separates, in France you have to show “style” rather than an off-the-shelf look.

How Long Is Your Trip To Europe And How Much Luggage Do You Take?

A trip is usually 5-7 days, with a few extra tacked on for personal travel. I always have one checked bag and one carry-on that has 2 days of business clothes – oh yes, luggage can easily be lost and that is never an excuse for not being dressed appropriately.

What Do You Wear for the Journey?

Business dress. Always. I may go straight to a meeting if my flight is delayed, but equally important, I have also met future clients while traveling so I need to look professional

What Do You Take for Le Weekend?

I take professional pieces that you can work into a weekend wardrobe. Like a suede jacket, a scarf, a white blouse, wool trousers, walking flats, a silk shell. Never jeans – jeans just do not work in Monaco. If it's chilly, I take a trench as a cover up, it looks polished but can translate from business to casual.

What Can You Tell Us About How The French Women Dress For Business?

Feminine, tailored, well-fitting. Practical – you NEVER see them fidgeting with their clothes and the fabrics are always sumptuous. They are not fussy, just stylish.

French women dress for their body type – they know it and stick to it and that is what makes them look good. They are not shackled by trend but are deeply stylish. They live in their own body and that is why they look so good.

What are Your Go-To Pieces?

I have staples that I know are going to work and that I can dress up or down: a wool jacket, a trench, I love working in suede or leather – it breaks up the suited look. Pencil skirts and a shift dress with long, cap or short sleeves – I can change the necklace, add a belt, change my heels and you would not know it is the same dress. I love natural fabrics so they work in different climates. My job is on the move so dresses are less wrinkled – morning meeting; jacket on, afternoon; jacket off, pearls in my bag for dinner. A dress is ideal for desk to dinner.

How Do You Minimize Your Packing?

I love monochrome, black, beige, a pop of red so when I pack I know everything works together. I take Less but add shoes, jewelry and a belt to create new looks.

Do You Have Any Final Thoughts On Dressing For a Business Trip To The French Riviera?

I know that that I am going to be with men who are dressed to the nines, shaved, in a 3-piece suit with handmade Italian shoes, and they dress like this from breakfast to dinner, so I have to match them in elegance and style. They never take their jacket off.

Quality reigns supreme over quantity. I am not expected to have something new everyday. I repeat my outfits but with creative and stylish touches --as do they.

A busy Cathleen whisks around her office demonstrating the view and her ability to juggle interview, phone calls, contracts and to charm everyone along the way.

A busy Cathleen whisks around her office demonstrating the view and her ability to juggle interview, phone calls, contracts and to charm everyone along the way.

I am the physical embodiment of the Monaco Palace Hotels with 150 year history so I feel I need to constantly represent that history, tradition and elegance. I take this part very seriously.

Thank you so much to Cathleen for taking time out of her busy schedule to chat with us and try on some Prim & Wilde classics.