Saturday, January 17, 2009

Stylish and Smart Dressing for the Office

The work place is where you spend the vast majority of your time, where you are most likely to encounter people who you want to make an impression on; whether it be bosses or clients. It is quite clear that the goal to getting dressed for work is to project a professional, competent image regardless of what level of management you are at. Thus, the styles, colors, lengths and fit of your dress will speak volumes about your personality and how serious you are about your job.

In fact, today, what you wear at work and your presentation is very important. But that is not to say that your Corporate Attire has to be boring, or you can't follow fasion or look stylish in your office attire. You can show your personal sense of style without sacrificing your professional image by choosing your threads wisely.

Dressing up for the office actually opens up whole new vistas of style, dress, and fashion opportunities with just a little thought and effort. You can also look sexy in a subtle way. So smarten up your office wardrobe and you’re bound to get noticed more quickly. Especially Let us see how........

Building basics
Firstly, build a basic office wardrobe. Let us call it the 'office staples'. With your staples you can mix and match to create multiple looks.

- Well-fitted White Shirt(s)
- Well-fitted Black (Brown, Charcoal, navy) trousers
- Dark (black, brown, charcoal, navy) pant-suit
- Dark (black, brown, charcoal, navy) skirt-suit
- Fitted Shirts in subtle colours, stripes, checks or subtle dots.
- Cardigan
- Waistcoat
- Closed-toe low-heeled pumps
- Structured handbag

Remember, don't compromise quality for quantity. You are under constant scrutiny from your co-workers, your subordinates and your seniors, and you don't want to tarnish your image.

Smart Dressing

With your basic wardrobe, add some fashion elements and trendy twists to give your office attire an edge. Mix-and-match your tops and bottoms and accessorize with jewelry, scarves and shoes. .
Colours: Colors play a big role in creating a professional image of a person. Traditional career colors include white, navy, gray, black and blue and these colors go well with formal pants and skirts. However, you can even choose feminine colors like light blue, light purple, soft pink and ivory. Bright and loud colors like hot pink are much riskier in the office and should be avoided. But if you are creative and bold you can try them. However, avoid any kinds of prints and patterns – only monochromatic tints will be fine.

Layering: Layering clothes allows you to mix and match a wider variety of different styles, and adds more dimension to your outfit. Sweaters, vest or jacket over formal shirts and blouses creates multiple looks using same piece of garment. It's easy to layer as the weather gets cooler but layering works even during the hot or humid weather by choosing cottons. Put thought into your combinations. Mix and match trendy scarves, casual or formal outerwear, cardigans, waistcoats and sweaters to achieve a fashion-forward look.

Layering will especially be useful when it's 40 degrees outside and your office is 20 degrees. You need to be prepared.
Jacket: It's the workwear essential. Every woman should have a black suit in her closet. A sharply tailored jacket gives a power punch to any outfit. It is apropriate for job interviews, client meetings and corporate functions. This piece of clothing can be worn off-the office also. In fact, a smart suit goes straight from boardroom to bar/party - just add or delete a pretty feminine blouse and mix it with right accessories.

Vivienne Westwood Red Label (Black Jacket) - $835
McQ, Cropped Wool Jacket - $750
Vivienne Westwood Anglomania, Petite Jacket - $1,070
French Connection, My Lady Jacket - £100
All Saints, Nemi Tessimax Jacket - now £52
Topshop, One Button Jacket - £45
Mango, Suit Jacket (ref. 81100179) - £60
MANGO, amongst the high-street brands, has one of the best collections of jackets and pant/skirt suits.
Check the latest Hollywood trend, tuxedo/suit at the red carpet.

Angelina Jolie at Benjamin Button Berlin Premiere

Anne Hathaway at Bride Wars Premiere

Anne Hathaway kept things chic and minimal, at Bride Wars US Premiere, in a tailored tux jacket and skinny trousers, accessorised with blinging diamond earrings, a sky-high pair of Louboutins and a diva-tastic up-do. Her look can easily take transition from the office to the bar and exudes that perfect mix of sexiness and sophistication.
Shift Dress: A shift dress is a very intelligent piece of clothing in your wardrobe. With a formal jacket or a collared shirt inside you can wear it to the office and just the dress with quirky accessory and dressy sandals can be worn for the party straight from the office.

Learn more on layering and shift dress
Accessorizing: Get creative and use accessories to revamp your old office wardrobe.

The easiest and smartest way to look stylish and break the monotonous everyday look is to accessorize. Dress up your office clothing with carefully selected accessories and jewellery and make an impression that's both professional and stylish. A smart belt, stylish bag and minimal jewellery can take any outfit from boring to beautiful.
Use these accessories to brighten up your look and make a chic statement:

- Scarf: most important piece of accessory that can instantly pep-up your look. They add color and style to any outfit and can change the look of an ensemble almost immediately! They look feminine, sophisticated and trendy all at once. Add a splash of colour using a scarf to your simple black and white ensemble.

Learn more on scarves

- Brooch: A brooch will give a splash of elegance to your office attire or an otherwise ordinary drab and forgettable outfit. For the corporate woman, the choice of brooch should be more sleek and elegant. Perhaps something made out of a precious metal with several semi-precious or precious stones. It can be worn on the lapel of your suit or as something to tie a bow together. It can also be used to tie a scarf. Did you see how Michelle Obama is making fashion statement with Brooches? The central focus of her look is often a bold, jeweled brooch. If you don't want to buy a precious piece, check out Aldo Accessories, they have some good brooches.

- Jewellery: Earrings, bracelets and bangles. Wear simple and elegant earrings at office. Too loud, colourful, funky or street style maybe your choice, but they are a no-no for the office. They should not be too long or too ornate. Hoops and studs are great as office wear as these do not look flashy and still make a style statement. Remember this rule for your office jewellery, less is more.

- Necklaces: a pear or beads string is the best necklace pick for the office. Don't wear anything too extravagant or loud as the office wear has to be smart but subtle, unless your profession demands something 'loud'.
(I have taken it out from jewellery because a necklace can make or break your office outfit, and hence needs different categorisation)

- Bag: Carry a smart bag. A medium-sized tote is always sleek and businesslike. Don't buy anything too small, as your stuff will not fit, or too oversized, as it will look messy. Pick proper structured and formal handbags as slouchy bags give a shabby and a sloppy look.

- Belt

Shoes: Put your best foot forward. Everyone knows that a pair of shoes can either complement your look or kill it. So invest in good quality shoes and keep them buffed and shined. Athletic shoes, tennis shoes, thongs, flip-flops, slippers, very high party heels, and any casual shoe with an open toe are not acceptable in the office.

A smart tip - if you routinely run down your heels or scuff the toes by pounding the pavement, it may be a good idea to wear a pair of inexpensive shoes (a flip-flop or sneakers) during your commute to and from work and change into your formal shoes at the office.

The best item of your office wardrobe, Classic White Shirt, worn smartly can make you look professional, smart and chic.

The white shirt looks great tucked in. Wear it with trousers (any colour) or with a pencil skirt.
Accessorize it with a nice necklace, smart belt and shoes. You can layer it with a cardigan, a formal vest or waistcoat.
Meryl Streep (below) is looking every bit elegant in her White shirt paired with a jacket and worn with great accessories - the necklace and red belt.

You can get Anne Hathway's look by layering your white shirt with a black knitted round neck top or a sweater. Wear a long pearl string, do your hair in a high pony and you are ready to take over the world.
Meryl Streep (left) and Anne Hathaway (right) from a still of Devil Wears Prada
Makeup for office: Go easy on the makeup, of course unless your work demands otherwise (like the aviation and hospitality industry). If you want to be taken seriously at work, accentuating your natural beauty is the best way to go. It should be noticeable but not distracting. Glitter, loud colours are an absolute no-no. Emphasize skin care, and opt for a cleaner, subtle and polished look.

Tips to Remember

1. Fit is everything when you want to look perfect.
- Pants should be fitted, but free of visible panty lines. You can get good quality no visible panty lines (no VPL) knickers from Marks and Spencer or La Senza.
- Skirts, especially straight styles like pencil skirts, should be loose enough to sit down in comfortably.
- Jackets should be able to be buttoned.
- Blouses shouldn’t expose too much of your body.

2. Office is not the place to show too much. You don't want to tarnish your image to just get a few stares. Save your revealing clothing for a night out on the town.

3. Invest in good quality accessories don't buy cheap looking stuff.

4. Don't choose Jewellery that is too bright as anything that attracts too much is distracting.

5. Keep the colors simple, just mixing one or two together. Break up blacks and grays with a splash of color. Try a coloured scarf, beaded necklace or sweater set.

6. Avoid printed shirts in the office.

7. Ensure the proper ironing of your clothes and avoid wearing wrinkled clothes as they present a highly casual and an unprofessional look.

8. Other important consideration should be given to your personal hygiene including clean manicured nails, clean polished shoes, styled and neat hair, subtle perfume and deodrant and applying a light and subtle make-up.

Make sure that everything creates the right look down to the smallest detail. Dressing for the office is all about striking a balance between looking good and stylish and looking competent, organized and ready for business.

Most importantly feel confident, as carrying yourself with a right attitude is what contributes to making the right impression.

Related Posts:
SCARVES - fashion item to pep you up INSTANTLY!!!
Wardrobe Must Haves - all time classics
Smart Dressing - different looks with same wardrobe



  1. good article, and smart tips.
    i was so bored of my usual office wear. wanted some change. thanks and also for the pictures

    hey can i wear a nice LBD to office?
    how to make it look more professional?

  2. This is such a great article! I'm going to bookmark it so I can have it while I'm searching for my corporate attire


Would love to hear your comments!!!! You can also write to me at