Here are some general tips for dressing for success describing the basic guidelines for business formal and business casual attire that are generally suitable for business settings. You should always be dressed professionally and be well-groomed in all business settings.
- Color and Patterns: Conservative colors (black, dark gray, or navy blue) and fabrics (wool, wool blends, synthetics, and other kinds of blends) are very important in business formal attire such as suits, skirts, and dresses for women. For many business formal settings, pantyhose is a requirement especially in colder places in the Northeast part of the United States. In many warmer places such as Florida, women typically do not wear pantyhose even in business formal settings. Whether pantyhose is required or is optional is highly regional throughout the United States. Business formal atture is usually used for important meetings with clients, customers, and other important events at the workplace such as when giving presentations.
- If the attire is business casual, there is much more flexibility in the choice of clothing to wear including the colors and patterns that are acceptable to wear. For business casual attire, you can wear khakis, linen, silk, or cotton clothes of a variety of colors and patterns. You would still want to avoid extremes in colors and patterns, but most of the common colors and patterns are generally acceptable. Business casual attire is typically used for everyday work situations where there are no important events that are scheduled.
- Wear Tailored Clothing: In the case of business formal attire, tailored clothing always looks better on you since the clothes are much more well-fitting and made to fit the specific measurements of your body. It is well worth the money to invest in several high-quality well fitting suits, skirts, and dresses that are interchangeable with each other rather than in purchasing a large and wide range of poorly fitting outfits. The use of tailored clothing projects your best professional image and makes you look very sharp, which is especially important in business professional and formal settings where you are trying to impress your clients or customers. You want to look your very best when meeting clients or customers, attend conferences or meetings, and give presentations.
- Avoid color and pattern extremes. It is important to make a professional statement about your career or business, and not so important to make a personal statement expressing the latest wild fad in fashion that you find captivating. Opt for the former over the latter in both business formal and business casual settings and this will go a long way in preserving your professional image. Plaid clothing and very subtle patterns that appear plaid from a distance are generally the safest to wear in business formal settings since they are very conservative. Wide horizontally or vertically striped clothing and high sheen fabrics that reflect a lot of light are too distracting for business formal attire. These types of clothes should never be used since these types of clothing distract from the professional image that you are trying to create. These rules are much more flexible in the case of business casual clothing with much more variation in color and pattern extremes that are acceptable compared to those in the case of business formal clothing. Even in business casual settings, one should avoid extreme colors such as orange and yellow clothing as well as distracting patterns and high sheen clothing.
- Dresses: The right color (navy blue, gray, or black) and material (wool, wool blends, synthetics, and other types of blends) are important but the right dress length is also very critical. You should always aim for pencil (just above the knee) or knee-length skirts and dresses since this is the length that projects the best professional image of you. If you sit in a chair and can see too much of your thigh with your legs either crossed or uncrossed, it is very clear that the outfit is too short and you should select a different outfit with a longer hemline along the lines of pencil or knee-length. Under no circumstances should you wear a minidress for either the business formal or business casual settings since this dress length projects a very unprofessional image of you. Also, avoid dresses that have a deep V-neck or wide scoop neck that reveals too much cleavage. This is simply not acceptable for business settings. Again this rule goes back to always trying to maintain the most professional image you can for your clients and customers as well as in important business conferences and meetings.
- Bras and Panties: Undergarments such as bras and panties should support your body shape and figure and should not show through your clothing. Make sure that you wear a bra of the proper size and cup and professional underwear. If your underwear or bra shows through your clothing, then you might need to wear a slip underneath your clothing so that your undergarments do not show. Another possibility for why your undergarments are showing through your clothing is that your clothing may be too tight in which case you need to wear looser and properly fitting clothes.
- Shoes: Closed-toed heels in a color that compliments your outfit are best and generally black works for most occasions. In warmer climates such as the southern part of the United States, open-toed heels are also acceptable for business professional and formal settings. Avoid flat soled-shoes, chunky heels, shoes with too much height, or stilettos. Make sure that your shoes fit well so you can walk comfortably. The shoe color should also match with the color of your purse. For example, if you wear a black outfit with a black purse, you should also wear black shoes to match the outfit. This will give you the most professional image possible for business professional and formal settings.
Again, the rules are much more flexible in the case of business casual settings. In these settings, flat-soled shoes, chunky heels, and other types of shoes are certainly acceptable. In the spring and summer, sandals are also acceptable in business casual settings.
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