Choosing the Right Clothes for the Workplace

Professional woman with short hair and a white buttoned shirt
Unless you work in a factory or at McDonald's, chances are, you don't have a work uniform. Because the formality of a dress code changes from company to company, it is essential to know what your company expects. Once you are familiar with your company's dress code, use this information to help guide you in your fashion choices.
Strict, Professional Attire
If you hold a high-ranking position such as VP of Finance or CEO, or if you work in certain industries, such as law or finance, your dress code is probably severe to help maintain a high level of professionalism. For this situation, you'll want to own the following:
1. Several, well-fitted double-breasted or single-breasted skirted suits. The suits should be in black or navy blue only. The shells underneath should be white, cream, or black only. The skirt should be fitted, but not tight, and end just above or at the knee. Traditionally, double-breasted suits are considered more formal. The most important thing: these suits should be professionally tailored. Correct skirt length, sleeve length, and fitted waist can make or break this outfit.
2. Closed-toe, closed-heel one-to-three inch pumps in black and navy blue. Stilettos are not appropriate here, and flats are considered unprofessional (though you may want to toss a pair of slip-on gym shoes in your bag to comfortably run between the train and the office building.).
3. Flesh-colored pantyhose. Even when wearing a black suit, black panty hose are not appropriate.
Professional Attire
Thankfully, most companies today, even many law firms, fall under this category. While still maintaining a professional appearance, there are more options available to dress for work.
1. Several well-fitted suits. Here, the suits can be skirts or pants, although, again, the skirt should not be too short. Longer, fitted skirts that match the jacket are acceptable. You have more color options as well, one of the more popular colors being ruby red. Stay away from neon colors for the suit, but feel free to match a sapphire blue suit with a lime green shell. Again, have these suits professionally altered.
2. Mix-and-Match Skirts, Slacks and Blazers. Give yourself a lot of variety by sticking with basic colors: blue, black, white, cream, beige, etc.
3. Colorful Shells. Whether silk blouses or cotton turtlenecks, you'll get the most use out of your wardrobe by having lots of shells to choose from. Here is where personal style and the latest trends can bring fun to your wardrobe.
4. Matching closed-toe, closed-heel, one-to-three inch pumps. Of course blue and black will come in handy, but a pair of red pumps will look fun with your red suit, while still being professional. Avoid lots of straps and sparkles. Also, the rule of thumb when choosing what color shoe to wear: the shoe should always be the same color or darker than your hemline.
5. Different colors of pantyhose. Although flesh colored is always appropriate, you can splurge a little by adding black, suntan, navy blue, and even white.
Office Casual / Dress-Down Fridays
You can always dress more professionally, but never less, so this category offers you the most flexibility and variety.
1. Fun dresses, skirts, and tops. Provided the pieces are not too sexy or revealing, the sky's the limit on the fashionable, trendy things you can wear.
2. Slacks. Besides your staples, black, blue and khaki, you can even get green, pink, white, or whatever color suits your mood. Unless it specifically allows them in your dress code, do not wear Capri's. Most businesses still don't allow these.
3. Shoes. Although some companies for safety reasons may require closed-toe shoes, enjoy the freedom of wearing loafers, flats, sandals, pumps, or even boots. If you're on your feet a lot, don't go for the stilettos.
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