Published: September 28th, 2015
Fashion is a part of our everyday lives. As far as I know we all need to get dressed in the morning, unless you’d like to be arrested for public indecency… Be it casual or professional or even pajamas, you think about what you wear. Business fashion is something that we will all come across regardless of where we work. There are rules everywhere to what should and should not be worn, but these rules do not have to kill your creativity. Besides, aren’t some rules meant to be broken?
Part One: Professional vs. Casual
With great style comes great responsibility. Ladies, our business casual is a lot less evident than that of men. Men can throw on a pair of khakis and their entire outfit goes from board-meeting ready to Casual Friday. Many incorrectly assume that women can do the same by switching into flats; but they could not be more wrong. In my personal opinion (supported by many years of following Vogue, countless shopping trips, and attendance of many professional development conferences) it’s all about color. While some ladies are flats- fanatics, I am one to never go astray from my heels so I mellow-down my outfits in color.
Professional conferences call for black, white, and grey primarily. Try a suit- pant or skirt preference is not life or death… at least not in this scenario. This doesn’t mean you can’t make it fun; more on incorporating you into your outfits in Part Three.
Casual meetings, however, cause for a bit more leniency. Feel free to incorporate other colors here. Navy says I mean business but I’m approachable. Red speaks power. Beiges and creams, pops of color, or bright cardigans, are all welcome here.
Disclaimer: Depending on the comfort level and causality of your company, you can play with this. If you work at Vogue, go a little crazy- they love that stuff, and say hi to Ann for me! Conversely, if you work at a finance firm that suggests a “business casual” attire but leans well toward the formal side, please opt to one of former examples per outfit.
Part Two: Fit, Formality, and Color
I don’t think I can ever stress enough the fine line that exists between business and nightlife apparel. Lots of pieces can bounce between a staff meeting and dinner or drinks. It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it. Let’s be real, although the world would be a lot more fashionable if we could all own Givenchy and Prada, we all can’t- especially if we are in college trying to land big-money jobs after graduation. Again, it’s all about how you wear what you have.
Find the proper fit. Yes, I know men have it easy; all they need are a few measurements and they’re set. Trust me, we are in this together and I feel your struggle. With that being said, incorrect fit is completely inexcusable and depending how off your fit is, it can appear sloppy and ruin your entire Vogue-ready look. Blazers should be able to button at the front, even if you plan on wearing it open. Blouses should be loose enough that the buttons directly in front of your chest don’t open up or look strained if you’re simply reaching across the table for your pen. Know the difference between skinny jeans and straight leg suits. Skirts should not be too tight nor too loose. If it looks like it belongs to your little sister or mother, toss it. Finally, be able to walk in your shoes. It looks worse if you’re tripping all over than if you’re owning a pair of flats. Wedges are never okay in a business environment.
Know the boundaries of formality. Pants are a biggie in this category, too. Straight legged or wide bottom pants are perfectly acceptable but it becomes very informal if your pants look like they can take you a rock concert after your meeting. Ladies, be careful with your stockings. They are delicate and will rip. If they rip, please throw them out. I know sometimes we keep them for layering under during the winter, but what if you grab the wrong pair while packing for your conference? That’s a risk I am not willing to take. Sheer blouses are oh-so in now. They are stapled across Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Seventeen but don’t ever attempt to brave one without a tank top under.
I’ve already covered color, so I will be brief. I promise. This is probably one of the most crucial elements, in my opinion. Take a few minutes to study the color wheel and know which color compliments which. Understand what meanings colors give off. I like to color-code my closet (no joke) in order to help me find things easier. This is really not necessary.
My ultimate tip: If all else fails, wear black; it’s polished, elegant, and you can never go wrong.
Part Three: Self- Expression through Fashion
This is the fun part. Up to now, we’ve just been learning the rules. So you’re probably wondering how to add a fun twist in order to personalize your outfits. This is where bending the rules comes in to play. In Part One, we discussed the difference between professional-wear and casual-wear. Personalizing your outfits in a casual workplace is a breeze. Adding your special touch to outfits tailored to a professional society are a bit trickier. It’s all about maintaining the minimalism of your outfit. These are a few of my favorite ways to do so:
- Wear a monotone outfit(you can never wear too much black) and throw on a fun belt. I like thin belts; they serve the purpose of adding a little color or print but it’s subtle enough to pass as business professional.
- Printed silk ascots.Think less Freddy from Scooby Do and more high- fashion flight attendant from the ‘60s, or better yet Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl. I prefer these with skirt suits because they draw the eye away from the leg and toward the face. Whereas, with a pant suit you’ll just have too much going on. These understated accessories can also be tied around your bag for a refined look.
- Monograms.It may be the preppy schoolgirl in me, but I love monograms. Not only are they chic, but they’re a simple way to add a little bit of you to everything. How do you wear a monogram? While cufflinks were created for men, it is the twenty-first century and women wear suits, too. Try it out. If wearing monograms is not for you, try a laptop sleeve or planner cover. Odds are they will be staples to your business look anyway.
While some of these pointers seem so obvious, I promise you will be surprised at what some ladies (and gentlemen) try to pull off as business attire. That is the moment you whip out your iPhone and text me a picture. Jokes! Honestly, be polished, simple, and yourself. Finding the correct business fashion outfit is the equivalence to trial and error in chemistry. Just have fun with your outfits, wear something that follows the rules (for the most part, at least) and makes you feel confident. After all, that is what fashion is all about.