The clothes you wear to the office can make or break your professional appearance. You want to be taken seriously, and looking at the part is half of that equation. There are some basic rules for a business dress that will help you stand out from the crowd, both physically and emotionally.
Here’s what business fashion experts say about modernizing your look without sacrificing your professionalism.
Ditch the Suit and Tie
The traditional suit and tie look is starting to go out of style, and for a good reason. Not only can it be uncomfortable in the summer months, but it’s also become synonymous with stuffiness and formality. If you’re looking to appear more relaxed and approachable, you may want to consider ditching the suit and tie all together.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should show up to your next meeting in shorts and a t-shirt. Instead, opt for a more casual look that still conveys professionalism. A button-down shirt with dark jeans or chinos is always a good choice, and you can add a blazer or sports coat if you need an extra layer of warmth.
Invest in Quality Pieces
When building a versatile and stylish wardrobe, quality should always be your top priority. Cheap materials and poor construction will never look as good as well-made clothing, and they won’t last nearly as long either. It’s better to have a few key pieces that you can rely on than a closet full of clothes that fall apart after a few wears.
Look for natural fabrics like cotton, wool, and linen, which are more comfortable and breathable than synthetic materials. Avoid anything that’s too tight or constricting, as you want to be able to move and breathe easily throughout the day. And take the time to find clothing that fits you well; ill-fitting clothes are always a major fashion faux pas.
Update Your Colors and Patterns
If you’re stuck in a style rut, one of the easiest ways to update your look is to experiment with new colors and patterns. Try branching out into brighter shades like red, green, and purple if you typically stick to neutrals like black, gray, and navy. And if you usually shy away from patterns, now is the time to experiment with stripes, plaids, and other prints.
Of course, you don’t want to go overboard with color and pattern. When in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. A good rule of thumb is to pair one or two eye-catching pieces with more subdued items. For example, you could wear a printed shirt with solid-colored pants or a brightly-colored dress with neutral heels.
Get Rid of Old Clothes
If your wardrobe is full of clothes that are outdated, stained, or simply no longer your style, it’s time to get rid of them. Holding on to old clothes will only make getting dressed each day more difficult, and it’ll make your closet appear cluttered and unorganized.
Before you get rid of anything, make sure it’s actually usable. If an item is ripped, stained, or otherwise damaged beyond repair, there’s no point in keeping it around. And if you haven’t worn something in over a year, chances are you never will. Once you’ve sorted through your clothes, donate anything that’s still in good condition to a local charity or consignment shop.
Go for Business Casual
The business casual look is a great way to appear professional without dressing too formally. A blazer, dress pants, and a dress shirt are all good options for a business casual outfit, and you can mix and match them in different ways to create different looks. Looking at shops like State of Cotton or J.Crew can give you some good ideas for business casual clothing.
When it comes to shoes, avoid anything that’s too flashy or uncomfortable. A good pair of loafers, dress shoes or even sneakers will usually suffice. And if you’re not sure what to wear, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and dress a bit more formally than you originally planned.
If you’re not sure what constitutes business casual attire, check out your company’s dress code policy. Many businesses have specific guidelines on what employees can and cannot wear, so it’s always best to err on the side of caution. When in doubt, stick to neutral colors and classic styles that won’t look out of place in a professional setting.
Building a professional wardrobe doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. You can easily update your look without breaking the bank by following these simple tips. And remember, it’s always better to invest in a few key pieces that you’ll wear often than a closet full of clothes that you’ll only wear once in a while.