One of my favorite quotes is “Do what you can with what you’ve got.” In the world of fashion, it’s the best way to think about attempting to make your business attire more professional. If you have the luxury of affording new professional clothing, you’re incredibly fortunate.
But if you are still building your wardrobe, revitalizing your current closet, or simply desiring to augment your professional prowess with little strain on your budget, one can make a variety of additions and, surprisingly, most may already exist in your closet.
Start with the Basics
Upstyling your wardrobe to be more professional is actually easier than you may think. One of the easiest ways begins with color choice. Although I am a fan of bold, bright colors, the most professional color options are typically black, gray, navy blue, and white.
These classic color options tend to be more professional, as they don’t show too much wear and tear, hide those pesky coffee spills, and overall are strong and stately. These tones are always fashionable, and when combined, easily complement one another. You can also mix and match these pieces to make more outfits available to you.
Another simple tweak is pressed clothing, although it’s hard to believe one has to inform the masses that pressed, as opposed to wrinkled, clothing is more professional. Dry cleaning can be costly, so get out the trusty iron and get to work.
While walking the streets of Washington DC, where suits are the norm, I continue to be reminded that people don’t take the time to tuck in their shirts. This is the easiest, if not the most obvious, of professional dressing requirements. I understand that keeping one’s shirt untucked may be for the sole purpose of trying to hide those extra pounds you may be wishing away, but regardless of the reason, please put those shirt tails where they belong: neatly tucked into your pants or skirt. This is not only a show of respect, but a major fashion etiquette rule in a business setting.
Now for Clothes Tweaks
Add a blazer. Blazer suit jackets are the epitome of professionalism and, fortunately, are versatile. Adding a blazer with pants, a skirt, or even a shift immediately upgrades your outfit.
Switch up your shoes. I mean this literally. Going from flats to heels immediately elevates your professional stature. Not only is added height a positive factor, but heels provide a dramatic change to your posture, body carriage, and confidence (after a little walking practice for a few of us).
Believe it or not, your type of heel choice also plays a role in adding professionalism. Keep with a closed-toe style. Trust me, no matter how good of a pedicure you have, peep toes or strappy shoes do not command attention. Actually, they may detour attention. And when choosing a heel, go with a pointed toe opposed to a rounded one. The sharp lines elongate the legs and convey a more confident, best-foot-forward appearance.
You can also add professionalism to your wardrobe with accessories. There are numerous inexpensive ways to add more professional “pop” to your outfit. Start with a simple scarf. Adding this extra layer of material, preferably keeping a monochromatic tone and limiting multiple colors and prints, can really finish an outfit.
A scarf can also, due to the weight around your neck, draw the eye of a colleague to immediately see your face. Keep in mind that there are numerous ways to style a scarf. Visit Pinterest or YouTube to quickly find a variety of tutorials that share step-by-step how-to’s on scarf styling.
One of my favorite accessories is jewelry. It further highlights your features and creates that final sparkle to your overall attire. Pearls are a classic choice, but you can also wear more modern options. Jewelry can accent your neck, wrists, or hands. Just be sure to keep these accents understated to not detract from the office environment, such as with jangling bracelets.
In addition to wardrobe tweaks, take an honest look at your hairstyle and your makeup. Is your hairstyle current and styled? Does your makeup convey a fresh look? These two personal updates can make major changes in your overall professional appearance.
How you dress in an office environment is very important. People will often judge you, unfortunately, not just by the work you deliver or the responsibilities you perform, but sometimes simply by the clothes you wear. To best shape these impressions and truly showcase your value, embracing these professional tweaks to your current wardrobe can assist in putting your best foot forward.
Take a good inventory of the items you already have on hand and apply according to the suggestions mentioned. With some effort and attention to detail, one can easily make a big impact to one’s everyday professional attire.