Wouldn’t it be great if jeans and flip-flops qualified as professional attire? The workforce might just become more productive, because people would feel happier and more comfortable all day. In a perfect world, appearances wouldn’t matter at all, and you’d be evaluated solely on the quality of your work. But in our reality, appearances do matter. Dressing professionally influences the way people perceive your commitment to your work and your attention to detail.
Fortunately, by following a few simple tips, you can learn to dress in a way that elevates your professional presence without being a burden. And think of it this way: If you didn’t dress up for work, you wouldn’t have the satisfaction of changing into sweats and slippers when you get home at the end of a long day.
1. Choose essential pieces that you can mix and match.
The best way to maximize your budget is to select a few pieces of clothing that you can wear with multiple outfits. Choose classic cuts and neutral colors that never go out of style. Always check the label for “Dry clean only,” which will add to your costs significantly; choose a washable fabric, if possible. This post by Corporette outlines a few must-haves and includes pictures.
Black Pants: Black pants go with absolutely everything and never go out of style. Pick a cut that flatters your body shape.
Black Dress: Choose a classic cut that won’t go out of style, one that’s at least knee-length. If the dress has a deep V-neck, plan to wear a camisole or tank top underneath so you don’t show too much skin.
Basic Skirt: Read “How to Pick the Best Skirt Based on Your Body Shape” to figure out which style of skirt to buy. Pair it with different tops or jackets.
Basic Jacket: Pair with a basic top and wear with pants, a dress, or a skirt. Try on a few different lengths to see what flatters your body.
Basic Tops: It’s OK to re-wear the same pants and skirt regularly, but make sure at least a few basic tops in different colors to change up your outfits.
Pumps: Black, as usual, is an excellent choice. Choose a close-toed shoe with a heel that’s not too high, three inches at the most.
Flats: Again, closed-toed is best. Select a flexible material that won’t hurt your feet.
2. Dress on the conservative side.
Dressing to reflect your professional presence means not calling too much attention to your clothing, or the body underneath it. Choose outfits that don’t hug your curves too tightly, and button your shirts high enough that your mother would approve (assuming she’s the reasonable sort). Muted colors, such as black, brown, navy, and tan are best for suits, dresses, and shoes. You can add splashes of color through your tops and accessories. Prints are fine, if they’re not distractingly busy. Think: “Would a man in my office wear a tie with this pattern?”
Instead of buying trendy clothing, add a fashionable flair to your classic outfits by accessorizing. That way, you won’t have to buy a whole new wardrobe each season; instead, you can buy a few inexpensive pieces of jewelry, belts, or scarves. Keep your jewelry and watches on the small side.
It’s always a good idea to bring along a friend who has a good sense of style and who will give you an honest opinion about what looks good on you.
What other tips can you share for women on how to dress professionally?