Workplace wardrobe rules

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Every day, in the homes of Americans everywhere, it happens. A question echoes through closets and off bathroom mirrors: “What do I wear today?” The choices can quickly be narrowed down by what’s clean, what’s wrinkle free and what your company dress code allows, but sometimes that may not be enough guidance. What you wear to work should empower you and communicate to others that you’re ready for the day.

So how do you choose the right look? Simon Kneen, head of design and creative director at Banana Republic, has some work wardrobe suggestions that will have you looking professionally chic.

Know your workplace and the people around you
Your work environment and company culture are important factors to consider when determining work-appropriate attire. “Know your workplace; as you transition into your job, get a feel for how others dress, and keep your wardrobe appropriate to who you interact with,” Kneen says. “For example, when meeting with clients, dress business professional; when just with co-workers, try business casual.”

Aim for tailored outfits that fit your body type
Great style is an attainable goal for anybody, regardless of budget and body type. It all comes down to fit and proportions. Altering clothing is an option that any budget can accommodate, but buying pieces that already have a slim and tailored fit is a smart move. “It’s especially worth the extra time and money to ensure you get the right fit for your body,” Kneen says. “Accentuate your assets with proper fit and lengths, especially during the warmer months when you tend to show more skin. This is true in the colder months as well, when tailored coats and pants are essential to avoid looking bulky in heavy winter items.”

The proportion of officewear is an important concern. Remember, you don’t want to be fussing with the length of your pants instead of giving your time to something more important. Kneen says the rules of fit apply to both genders. “Men typically confuse comfortable clothing with items that are ‘oversized,’ and additional tailoring may be needed to achieve just the right fit. Women often don’t know how to dress for their body type. Accentuating curves and hiding problem areas are important when dressing for any event. Cinching a dress at the waist really is forgiving on almost everyone.”

When warmer weather approaches or you’re just looking to let your skin breathe a little, take into consideration what’s appropriate. “Some office environments are of course more casual than others, but the general rule of thumb is never to show too much skin,” Kneen says. “If you’re sporting a shorter hemline, be conscious of proportions and wear a higher neck or long-sleeve blouse, and if you’re going sleeveless or strapless, keep your hemlines on the lengthier side.”

Add classic pieces to your wardrobe
Whether you’ve been building a professional wardrobe for years or are just starting off, there are several staples that can make any office outfit shine. When looking at what to include, Kneen suggests, “You can’t go wrong with a well-tailored white shirt, because it is both eternally classic and incredibly versatile.” What else is essential? “No wardrobe is complete without a blazer,” Kneen says. “Blazers add instant polish and are effortlessly chic. Throw one on to elevate any look — modern tailoring at its best.”

Don’t forget to infuse some personal style
What are some ways to tailor an office look to your own personal style? Kneen advises, “Accessories are a fun way to experiment with trends without breaking the bank or looking inappropriate in a work environment.” Both men and women can add accessories to an office look. “For women, necklaces, rings and cuff bracelets work year round; however, don’t pile them all on at once. Minimalism is still key in an office environment,” Kneen says. And for men, “A simple silk tie or leather belt can take a plain outfit to the next level, perfecting the fit and focus of an outfit. A pop of color in a scarf or sock can also pull a man out of a basic polo and khaki rut.”

Follow this office dress-code guide
Most successful office outfits – regardless of the environment — are tailored, polished and appropriate. Your look should make you feel good and empower you to do a great job. To look and feel your best, Kneen offers these style tips for different office dress codes:

  • Formal: A formal office setting requires slim-fit suiting pieces with heels for women and nice loafers for men. Minimal accessories are best.
  • Business casual: In a business casual setting, you can ditch the tie and aim for smart trousers, collared shirts, blouses or skirts.
  • Smart casual: Smart casual might allow for you to add chinos or denim into the mix, but keep it clean by forgoing denim with holes and choosing chinos with a slim fit.
  • Relaxed/informal: A relaxed office environment gives you more license to wear what is workplace appropriate while remaining conscious of your body type and proper tailoring. Never show too much skin or wear torn garments or flip-flops.

Check out this video for workplace wardrobe do’s and dont’s:

3 Comments
  1. Interesting article! Dressing your best is important in the workplace, but it’s even more important in an interview setting! Whether your interview is in person or through online video, you should look to these wardrobe rules. Dress formally and conservatively like you would for any big meeting. Remember you want to put your best foot forward, so make sure you’re looking your best from head to toe.

  2. @CareerBuilder @bananarepublic Good advice. I appreciate not wearing oversized clothing. I’ve lost 40+ lbs. & now buy clothes that fit.

  3. @jennyweigle @CareerBuilder I think that piece about “heels for women” is outdated as whole, but this is helpful for those that need insight

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