By Lee Jonsson
Whether you are just entering the work force or are returning to work, it is important to make sure your wardrobe reflects a professional image.
It is easier to adjust how conservatively you dress once you land the job and have a good idea about what is acceptable in your workplace, but first impressions make a big statement. You want to show that you are not only capable of doing the job, but capable of dressing the part. The following basics are the foundation from which you can build your wardrobe, adding your personal style where appropriate.
Buy the best-quality pieces you can afford. Make sure the clothes fit properly so you can work and move in them easily. Then, once you have the basics, consider adding pieces that work together with what you already have.
The basicsIf you work in a professional environment, err on the side of conservative. Although what is considered acceptable now is more broadly defined, it is always useful to know what will never go out of fashion—good taste.
- A good-quality, flat-front pair of black pants, tailored to fit
Black pants will go from day to evening without missing a beat.
- A two-piece suit in a flattering neutral color
Choose a color that makes you feel comfortable and confident.
- A straight skirt, at or slightly below the knee
Make sure the skirt is not too tight; you should be able to sit comfortably.
- A simple, classic dress that can be worn with a jacket or cardigan
- A white, button-down shirt
This versatile piece works with other wardrobe basics. It can be dressed up or down and accessorized.
- Fine-gauge sweater, short or long-sleeved
Choose a solid color that is flattering on you. This piece can work with pants or skirts, under a jacket or cardigan.
- A great jacket with interesting form, lines, color or details
Make sure it is loose enough to be buttoned.
- Classic, elegant accessories
Make sure any jewelry, scarves or belts aren’t too bold or distracting.
- High-quality, closed-toed shoes
Choose dressy flats or pumps that are comfortable. It is important that your shoes are well-maintained and not scuffed.
- Classic, structured handbag
Avoid a slouchy, over-sized purse.
- Two-piece suit
For the most conservative business attire, the suit is essential. Choose a dark neutral, preferably navy or gray.
- Navy blazer
Although more workplaces are going “business casual,” which means you don’t need to wear a suit and tie, it is good to have a high-quality, well-fitting blazer for business meetings and dinners.
- Dress slacks
A plain-front pair of dress slacks works well for most occasions, day or night.
- A white shirt
Of course. Although there are myriad shirts in different colors, stripes and patterns, nothing is more classic than the white dress shirt.
- A blue dress shirt
A foray into color but still the ultimate in classic.
- A classic necktie with conservative color combinations and styling
A great tie adds style and makes a positive statement. Make sure the pattern and colors are not too wild.
- High-quality dress shoes
Look for classic styles. Pay attention to comfort and quality. Socks and shoes should be darker than your pants.
- The only thing worse than someone who hasn’t bathed or showered is someone who has bathed or showered in perfume or cologne. If someone can smell you from a comfortable distance, you probably have too much on. While basic personal hygiene and grooming are a given, save the perfume and cologne for your personal life.
- Keep your hair clean, cut and carefully styled.
- Keep nails clean and trimmed.
- Don’t wear anything that is revealing, distracting or considered “sexy.” It’s never appropriate at work.
- Don’t wear any clothing that shows your underwear or tattoos.
- Clothing should be well-made and fit properly. Avoid baggy clothes and make sure dress shirts are ironed and tucked in.
- Don’t wear a necktie that is lighter than your shirt. Save the dark shirts for evening.
- Belt should match shoes.
- Don’t wear jeans, shorts, sneakers, sandals or t-shirts.