What to Wear to Work When You’re a Microsoft Designer and Treasure Hunter

You’re familiar with the term “life/work balance,” but what about “work/work balance?” Designer and entrepreneur Felicia Williams didn’t necessarily invent it, but she sure is living it. Check out how she manages to flex style and grace on the Microsoft campus and when she’s out hunting in the world’s coolest bazaars in this brand-new interview series designed to inspire and inform that daily conundrum, What to wear to work?

Wearing: trompe l’oeil tee, patent leather skirt, Enzo Angiolini pumps

Born and raised: Norman, Oklahoma

Currently located: Seattle, Washington (when not out canvassing the globe)

Wearing: caftan from Marrakech by designer Norya Aryon. “I was so stunned by her talent, her beauty and her poise that I told her she was the Coco Chanel of Marrakech. She laughed and replied that her good friend Mos Def also said this.”

Occupation: Senior design lead for Microsoft’s HoloLens, and curator, world traveler and photographer for my personal brand, Black Hound.

Okay, but how would you describe what you do? My average day for HoloLens includes leading and designing holographic experiences as well as collaborating with partners on the all-up vision and experience branding. For Black Hound, I tend to follow local tips to find makers and designers, browse artist markets and photograph my journeys for feature stories on the site.

Wearing: sheer quilted vintage dress from Marrakech

Your idea of “dressing professionally” in the modern world: It’s no secret that technology is a male-dominated industry; working as a designer, producer and then creative director, I worried over the years (rightly or wrongly) that my mostly all-male teams would take one look at a skirt or a dress and think weakness or “otherness.” I dressed very casually, almost in a masculine way, to play down the fact that I am a (wait for it) woman. And not just any woman. A woman of color. My standard work uniform was a T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. Messy, pulled-back hair and simple makeup.

After a combined 11 years in NYC, Montreal and Paris, moving to Seattle had a big impact on me and how I perceived professional work dress as a woman. Microsoft is a huge global company with a diverse set of people and, along with that, a diverse set of styles. My own team is quite balanced with both intelligent men and women from many different backgrounds and industries, and I felt the stigma of dress conformity lift. I knew that I didn’t lose my ability to be a great designer and partner when I wear a dress. It was time that I started to trust others to know that, too.

I’ve embraced my own thoroughly feminine personal style while enjoying my casual, cowgirl roots. I’ve always been a creative person, and part of my self-expression is in the clothing I wear and how I carry myself. It doesn’t mean I need to wear ultra-expensive threads or be hip to the latest trend, though damn if you can’t go wrong in a Nicole Miller dress! I know what looks flattering on me, how I can appreciate and accentuate the things that make me feel good, and say to hell with anyone who believes being proud of my femininity equals my being lesser than the opposite sex. I hope to be an example for other women that work in technology, and proclaim long and loud that being fashionable and working in this field—and being good in this field—are not oil and water concepts.

Best outfit comment from a coworker or colleague: Anytime I wear a pencil skirt, I get compliments. It’s my not-so-secret style weapon. On the days I come into work particularly stylish, I get lots of kind compliments, but the best come from my team’s visual lead. Once I came into work sporting a mid-calf, peasant style dress with long feather earrings to compliment. “It’s like you’re Disney princess! Two birds flew to your shoulders, and when they left, these earrings were magically in your ears!”

Style spirit animals, professional or otherwise: I love the creativity and daring of Solange Knowles and Kerry Washington. When it comes to a more corporate look, I can’t get enough of Robin Wright’s character Claire from House of Cards. She’s stunning!

Favorite after-work spots for cocktails, dinner or happy hour snacks: When I’m downtown and looking for a great late-night cocktail, Damn the Weather in Pioneer Square is an awesome spot. The cocktails here are on point, with the barmen and women hailing from some of Seattle’s most famous restaurants. If Damn the Weather is packed, I sometimes try my hand at the back bar of E. Smith Mercantile, a few blocks down. The legendary Murray Stenson is now a special guest bartender there on Sundays and Mondays. Time for you to taste The Last Word as it was meant to be crafted!

Ever since I spent a week in Austin as a speaker at SXSW, I’ve been a sucker for great tacos. For a fix, I go no further than The Saint up on Capitol Hill. I’ve been a fan and friend of Chef Alvaro since meeting him while he took over Sitka & Spruce as a special guest chef on Monday nights. I highly recommend at least two orders of the suadero tacos and a round of the trout tacos.

Wearing: button-up shirt with jeans and Sperry Top-Siders. “Well-fitting jeans will take you from Seattle to Seville.”

All images courtesy Felicia Williams for Black Hound

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—Laura Cassidy