Career Woman

How to be the best dressed at work


You want your stellar performance to be what makes you stand out at the office, but it never hurts to punctuate with an amazing wardrobe — just look at the outstanding wardrobes for the hit drama The Good Wife (above), where the clothes broadcast the characters’ strength and skills. Make what you will of it, but the way you dress seriously affects the way your supervisors and coworkers perceive you. If your clothes are too over-the-top, you may struggle to get other people in your office to take you seriously.

If you are sloppy in your style, coworkers may equate that to your personality. However, if you make it a point to keep your dress professional and styled for success, you will garner the respect of your peers, and that promotion may be just around the corner.

Whether your office culture is super chic, or more of a dress-down environment, there are a few simple rules to keep in mind regardless of style. Here are the most important elements of your look when choosing your business wardrobe:

Proper fit

Your clothes should always fit perfectly and be tailored to your individual shape, which is likely the hardest part of shopping for clothes regardless of your size. No two women are shaped the same, yet department store clothes are all cut for the same body, just in different sizes. While this is fine for days off, clothes that sag or pinch in the wrong places makes you look sloppy and unprepared. If you have a fuller figure, you may be especially frustrated with the state of fashion sizing, as most clothes are just not made to fit all of your curves.

If you are extra curvy and have never been able to find clothes that fit right, shopping for high end plus size women’s clothing with a personal shopper—one who can take measurements and help you find clothes that fit just right—may completely change your life. It will definitely cost more than the average business casual dress from Macy’s, but work clothes are worth spending a little more money on. Think of it as an investment. You want to wear clothes that make you feel confident and successful.

Simple and understated

You may love to show off your playful sense of style, but it’s best to save that for when you are out of the office. What is considered flashy obviously depends on the kind of work you do, but you do not want to wear clothes that will distract from the most important part of your job: Your work.

If you are going to wear bright colors, make sure the jewelry you choose is simple and helps balance your look. On the flip side, you may be able to wear a statement piece of jewelry without coming across as gaudy as long as the clothes you match it with are simple and toned down. You want to make sure you strike a balance between style and authority


The fabrics you wear should be durable and opaque. They should be able to withstand a long day at the office without crumpling by lunchtime, and you do not want your bra straps or your panty lines to show through. Preferably, your clothes will also wash easily, in case you spill your coffee.


Even if you have the cleavage of a French Burlesque dancer, do not share it with the rest of your office. Save it for the hot date you have on Friday night instead. You don’t need to wear turtlenecks and maxi skirts every day, but a plunging neckline and short skirt can come across as distracting and unprofessional.

Hair and makeup

Your hair and makeup bring your look together. Hair should be clean and neat, but not overdone. Again, simple and understated is the key. Bangs should be off of your face so you can make eye contact with coworkers, supervisors, and clients, and do not overdo it with the products. A little hairspray or gel to keep things in place is fine, but no helmet head, please. Additionally, bright unnatural colors are generally frowned upon in a professional environment. If you simply must show your flair with the latest hot pink, keep it a weekend trend with hair chalk so it washes out by Monday.

Makeup should also be simple. Do not use dark eyeliner or shadow, false lashes, or severe eyebrows. Avoid glitter lipstick or crazy blush. It is a good idea to stick to lighter, more neutral tones on your face.

Your clients

Dressing for success at work means not only keeping your office culture in mind but also your clients. You may work in an environment where you have a diverse array of clients, and you want to make sure your attire lets them know you understand them. If you have more creative clients, go ahead and give your outfit for the day a little pizzazz. Just remember to tone it down a bit if your client from a local funeral home is coming in right after.

A note on dressing down

Dress-down days do not mean it’s okay to come to work wearing yoga pants, tank tops, or sweats (unless maybe you work in the athletic wear industry). Even on Casual Fridays, you should come to work looking put together and neat, no matter how much money you donated to the office charity.

This does not mean you can’t be comfortable. You just need to remember you are at work. If you are struggling to figure out what to wear, a pair of nice jeans that fit well and a solid-colored shirt, clean sneakers and simple jewelry, is a casual look that keeps things moderately professional.

About Business Woman Media

Our women don’t want to settle for anything but the best. They understand that success is a journey involving personal growth, savvy optimism and the tenacity to be the best. We believe in pragmatism, having fun, hard-work and sharing inspiration. LinkedIn

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