How to Power Dress in Different Workplaces
Tips on dressing for business formal, business casual, and casual attire for work.
It’s 7am and you’re standing in front of your closet. Today is the big day: this important presentation will show everyone that you are great at your job. Your notes are in order, your visuals prepared; everything is ready.
Everything, that is, but your outfit.
Like it or not, our clothing says something about us. What a person wears to work speaks to their age, industry, experience, and ambition. By presenting a polished, put-together version of yourself, you’re telling people that you mean business.
When it comes to work wear in particular, companies across the United States continue to shift toward business-casual dress codes. Even corporate firms like JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs have embraced the dressed-down trend. But the rise of business-casual has also led to a lot of confusion. Dress too casually and you risk being judged by your colleagues; dress too formally and you might be off-putting to a potential client. How do you pull off a professional, high-powered look when workplace dress codes are evolving?
Depending on your industry, workspace, and company culture, you may or may not have room to stray from a more traditional power look. Here are a few ways to master the art of dressing like a boss in different work environments:
Formal Business Attire
The original power look is going strong in 2018, but contemporary fashion has updated its silhouette and given women some room to embrace their own personal style.
If you’re bound for the boardroom, seek out classic work wear garments such as tailored slacks, blazers, and pencil skirts, but modernize the look by playing with accents and proportions. Nowadays, blazers come in all shapes and sizes: cinch waist belted jackets, peplum blazers, and even long jackets can create a commanding silhouette. You can also get creative by opting for a different collar, switching up the structure of the pockets, or springing for a colored lining to add some personality to your outfit.
Moving away from the standard colors of formal business attire can update your look as well. While you should stick to neutral basics, it’s possible to venture beyond blacks, greys, and navy blues. Channel Jessica Pearson by sporting lighter hues like tan, cream, and beige. A pop of color – perhaps a red or blue blouse – can make a strong, confident statement without straying too far from the norm.
Business-casual dress codes can be frustratingly broad, but one easy way to pull together a powerful look that’s in line with your office culture is by keeping one piece of more conservative business attire – a pencil skirt or a tailored blazer, for instance – and using this piece to anchor your outfit. From there, you’re free to be adventurous with bolder colors and even prints, provided they’re not too busy. Switching up fabrics, too, can make a statement. Materials like velvet, satin, and linen are a simple way to add more individuality to your wardrobe.
This is perhaps the hardest dress code to crack: creating a powerful, confident look is no easy feat in an ultra-casual office. Even if your go-to outfit is jeans and a t-shirt, invest in high-quality pieces. Buy dark-washed denim or black jeans that flatter your frame, and seek out more sophisticated versions of your basic t-shirt that fit properly and aren’t too slouchy.
When you need to look more professional – say you’re meeting a client or the CEO is in town – blazers can instantly upgrade a casual outfit, and relaxed dress codes mean you can be as creative as you’d like with colors and prints. If you’re not a blazer enthusiast, keep your casual top and opt for a skirt. Whether it’s a fitted sheath or an A-line hem, there’s something about a skirt that adds a bit of formality to an otherwise laid-back look.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that clean lines are crucial. This doesn’t necessarily mean form-fitting – these days, even wide-leg trousers and A-line skirts can be part of a power look – but it does mean that fit matters. Stay away from anything that looks frumpy. The same goes for comfort: a garment may look good in the change room but if it’s too tight or uncomfortable when you sit down, you’re better off finding something else. No matter your circumstances, a power look should make you feel comfortable, empowered and ready to take on the world.
WRITTEN BY: DANA FILEK-GIBSON
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