Work Style: Dress for Success

work style

A woman’s style, her clothes and accessories, are the core of her professional image. Your choice of clothes, your shoes and your handbag, your makeup and jewelry, all send signals about your credibility, professionalism and trustworthiness – long before you open your mouth to speak.   What does your work attire say about you? To make sure that you like the message, consider these factors when developing your style and choosing your outfits:

Work environment

Your style should be consistent with your profession and your company. Clothes that work well in a creative atmosphere, like an advertising agency creative team, will give a far different impression in the conservative banking industry. Clothes that are perfectly acceptable in an office environment will be completely out of place on a construction site. The same applies to accessories: look for pieces that pull a look together without overwhelming it. Make sure that whatever you wear is appropriate to the situation of the day.


Style and comfort can go together. No matter how gorgeous those spiky heels are, if you are going to be on your feet all day, leave them in the closet. Same for heavy jewelry that makes your neck ache, or a super-slim skirt if it forces you to take short steps. You will be in that outfit for 12, 14, even 16 hours! Pick clothes that let you move freely, and don’t pinch or bind.

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Your Body Type

Some clothing styles just look better or worse on certain body shapes. Whether you are a banana, pear, apple, or hourglass, select clothes that fit you well. Need help with this? Try a professional dresser at a department store (they are often free!), or ask a friend with fabulous taste to come with you. Don’t place too much emphasis on what fashion magazines say about ‘must-have’ items. Go with clothes that work for you, not for someone famous.

Invest in Classics

Buy some classic pieces that fit well, are a good color for you and can anchor your wardrobe. Invest in better quality for these items; that suit may seem expensive, but if it lasts and looks good for several years you will certainly have gotten your money’s worth. For an office job, black, grey or navy pantsuits are always a safe and classic option. Buy the best you can afford. Then mix and match with less expensive, trendier tops and accessories in this season’s latest styles. Use colourful tops and scarves to brighten those dark suits.

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The same goes for shoes: a few pairs of classics will serve you better than a closet full of cheap, one-season wonders. Working in a conservative office? Make sure you have at least 2 pairs of dark pumps on a medium heel, and one pair of dark boots for bad weather days.

If you travel a lot for work, tailored khaki trousers, a sweater set and loafers are comfortable, and you will always look appropriate. That’s so important when the Big Boss sits next to you on the flight!

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”- Oscar Wilde

Be Yourself

No matter what style you choose, make sure it fits the whole you. Develop a look that’s uniquely yours. Find tips and ideas on online sites or in books, or by studying the women around you. If there is someone at work whose look you admire, ask where she bought those great shoes. Then see what those places can offer you.  Most importantly, be yourself!



Image credits.

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Marne Platt

Dr. Marne Platt is the President of Fundamental Capabilities and the author of 3 books (so far): Living Singlish: Your Life, Your Way; Professional Presence; and PREP For Success. Originally a practicing veterinarian, she built a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry. She founded Fundamental Capabilities to ‘pay it forward’ by providing career development workshops and coaching for women. ‘Living Singlish: Your Life, Your Way’ is an ‘older sister in your pocket’ packed full of advice for young women on building their own independent and exciting life. 'Professional Presence' and PREP For Success' help you strengthen your spoken and unspoken communication and leadership presence.

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