Professionally Dressed or Looking a Mess–What’s Appropriate Business Attire for Women?
In chapter one of Business Networking and Sex, we discuss how to manage people’s perceptions of you through a professional wardrobe and we found two standout web pages which serve as fantastic resources in defining appropriate business attire (CLICK HERE to read more about professional attire for men).
The web resources for women are:
1) An article titled “Appropriate Work Attire for Women” by Crystal Stemberger which is posted on the website Money in the 20s: Plan Now or Pay Later (http://www.moneyinthe20s.com/appropriate-work-attire-for-women/)
Pasted below are Crystal’s fantastic tips on appropriate attire for women . . .
Women’s Work Attire Tip #1–Skirt Suits
Skirt suits are appropriate for any business function. Darker colors are seen as a winner for interviews and business meetings while lighter colors can be worn by the brave to brighten a day. The recommended outfit for any occasion is a darker colored skirt suit with a white shirt. Colors like dark navy, charcoal grey, and black are among the most popular and well-received options.
Women’s Work Attire Tip #2–Business Slacks
I highly suggest that every professional woman invest in pantsuits and business slacks. They work well in both business professional and business casual environments like mine. Business slacks with the right shirt can project an image of style and professionalism in the workplace without breaking your budget.
I personally wear black or dark grey business slacks with brightly colored blouses so I can look crisp yet energetic at work. It helps that slacks only cause me to spend $25-$30 a pair. Plus, the bright colors in the shirts that pop against dark-colored slacks help me feel a little better about getting dressed in the morning.
Women’s Work Attire Tip #3–Shift Dresses
Shift dresses are perfect for the business professional because their designs are elegant and professional at the same time. These dresses can be worn in the office and at working dinners as well. Shift dresses are growing in popularity among younger females who want to add a splash of their own style to their wardrobe. I wouldn’t suggest them to anybody needing to hide a little extra padding though–they make my tummy look pregnant.
Women’s Work Attire Tip #4–Dress for the Job that You Want
I know it sounds cliché, but you really do need to dress for the job you want instead of settling into the more casual appearances of the job(s) you may want to escape. People really do make a bunch of workplace judgments based on your business clothing choices.
A good place to start is to investigate the attire worn by people in the positions that you desire. Look at the daily dress of executives and top management personnel. Following their lead will help you present yourself as someone appropriate for that position.
Women’s Work Attire Tip #5–Choose Wisely
Sweaters, cardigans, and dressy knit tops can spruce up any outfit. Brighter colored tops can accentuate an outfit and demonstrate a youthful appeal. Low cut clothing, club type attire, and tight outfits are simply not appropriate outfits to wear to work. They scream “party” while you are hopefully trying to project complete control. I’d also suggest avoiding heavy perfume since that is a silent annoyance for everyone in your vicinity. I personally avoid the heavily perfumed individuals in our office as much as possible.
Below is an excerpt from the Salisbury University website, outlining what defines professional attire for women . . .
- Suit–(navy, black, or dark grey)–Wear a two-piece matched suit. Tailored pants suits are appropriate for women. Pants suits can be an excellent choice for site visits, particularly if the visit involves getting in and out of vehicles and/or if the site is (or includes) a manufacturing plant or industrial facility. If you wear pants, they should be creased and tailored, not tight or flowing. If you are in (or pursuing) a conservative industry and are in doubt, observe well-dressed women in your industry on the job, at career fairs, at information sessions, etc.
- Skirt Lengths–Much of what you see on television shows that masquerades for professional attire is actually inappropriate for a work environment. Your skirt should cover your thighs when you are seated. Showing a lot of thigh makes you look naive at best, foolish at worst. A skirt that ends at the knee when you are standing looks chic and professional. Longer skirts are professional too; just make sure they are narrow enough not to be billowing, but not so narrow that you can’t climb stairs comfortably. Don’t purchase a skirt or decide on a hem length until you sit in the skirt facing a mirror . . . Ask yourself whether it will be distracting or reinforce your image as a person who looks appropriate for a business environment or gathering. High slits in skirts are not appropriate. On a calf length skirt, a slit to the knee to facilitate walking and stair climbing is appropriate. The suit skirt should be long enough so you can sit down comfortably.
- Coordinated Blouse–Underneath the suit jacket, wear a tailored blouse in a color or small print that coordinates nicely with your suit. A fine gauge, good quality knit shell is also appropriate underneath your suit jacket. Don’t show cleavage.
- Conservative Shoes–Should be leather or fabric/microfiber. Shoe styles and heel heights come and go. Keep your choices simple and leaning toward conservative. Avoid extremes of style and color.
- Professional Hairstyle
- Neutral Pantyhose–Should be plainly styled (no patterns), sheer (not opaque), and in neutral colors complementing your suit. Avoid high contrast between your suit and hosiery color.
- Light on the Perfume
- Cosmetics–Keep makeup conservative. A little is usually better than none for a polished look.
- Neatly Manicured Nails–Nails should be clean and well groomed. Avoid extremes of nail length and polish color, especially in conservative industries.
- Portfolio or Briefcase–Pad folios preferred over a bulky briefcase. A small briefcase is also appropriate. If you have no reason to carry a briefcase, don’t; you risk looking silly.
- Purse/Bag–If you carry a purse, keep it small and simple, especially if you also carry a briefcase. Purse color should coordinate with your shoes. You may choose to carry a small briefcase or businesslike tote bag in place of a purse. Leather is the best choice for briefcases; microfiber or fine woven materials are also acceptable.
If you are a woman in business, check your wardrobe against the tips and the list shown above. How does your attire measure up? . . . Are you professionally dressed, or looking a mess?