When it comes to workwear, a good balance of form, function, style, elegance, femininity, and professionalism is essential. The key is to find just the right mix of these elements and deliver an appearance that is tailored, focused, polished, and appropriate. Regardless of the setting, your appearance always makes a statement and these guidelines should help you demonstrate not only who you are, but also show that you mean business!

Women’s Professional Attire (The Basics)

Developing a good business wardrobe is an investment in your professional future. When thinking about business attire, the most important thing to remember is that one wants to convey a respectable, professional image. This shows others you respect yourself and deserve to be respected as a business professional. For those who believe appearance does not aid in one’s success, they should give that viewpoint some additional consideration.

It is important to realize that one’s appearance also reflects on others within the organization or on the team. Personal appearance and the all-important first impression should not be undervalued by anyone. When meeting with clients or other business associates, whether in your office or theirs, you should dress appropriately. If they wear suits, you should wear one as well. When in doubt of your client’s dress policy, traditional business attire is appropriate.

Most companies and organizations have a formal dress policy that should be followed but ultimately, it is up to your own good judgment to decide what to wear. If you are just entering the business world, take note of how others are dressed around you to get a better idea of how to dress yourself in the future. If you are unsure about what is appropriate, politely seek the advice of others.

First, business clothing is not a reflection of the latest fashion trend. A woman should be noticed for who she is and her professional skills rather than for what she wears. Her business wear should be appropriate for her industry and her position or title within the industry. Always dress with elegance, sophistication and style.

In general, ladies should select their professional business attire from a choice of suits, dresses, blouse and skirt, or blouse and dress slacks, along with appropriate shoes and accessories. Dress should be conservative and not overly call attention to the individual. Keep in mind that much of what is seen in the media that is portrayed as professional business attire is actually inappropriate in a real professional business environment.

My 10 Rules For Professional Attire

Always consider these ten important guidelines when dressing for success.

RULE #1: Dress for the position you want not the one you have – emulate the success you see around you and emulate the dress of those who are successful in your chosen field. Seek advice from those around you who dress well, and avoid the mistakes you see others make.

RULE #2: Fit is always more important than fashion – ensure your clothing is well fitted and tailored to fit your body type. Pay attention to the fit of your clothing, having garments tailored is a worthwhile investment.

RULE #3: Pay attention to the details – always ensure your clothes and shoes are clean, pressed, crisp, and in great condition.

RULE #4: Quality counts as much as style – build your work wardrobe around a core of high quality suits and separates. It is better to buy one good suit than several inexpensive ones.

RULE #5: When in doubt, leave it out – always err on the side of good judgment. If you’re unsure if something is appropriate, opt to leave it out. Usually if you have to ask yourself “Can I?” then don’t.

RULE #6: Err on the conservative side – when in doubt, dressing up is always better than dressing down. If you’re unsure of the dress code, opt to be more, rather than less professional. Plus it never hurts to be the best dressed person in the room!

RULE #7: Take proper care of your work wardrobe – a good suit or pair of shoes will last many years if they are properly cared for and maintained. And, with this in mind, one can generally purchase higher quality pieces because they will last longer.

RULE #8: Take proper care of yourself – the human body is elegantly designed, unfortunately it’s not made to last. Keep yourself healthy and in good shape so you look as good as the clothes you wear.

RULE #9: Less is more – never clutter a polished outfit with a myriad of jewelry or accessories. A hint of color is fashionable, an abundance can be overwhelming.

RULE #10: Elegance, elegance, elegance – if your workwear says only one thing, it should always be elegance!

Business Attire 101 (aka Aubadegirl’s Guide to Dressing for Success)

The material that follows provides a good, conservative foundation of guidelines that will accommodate most any situation or setting requiring professional attire. For convenience, separate sections for the different aspects of women’s attire are included. As with all my posts, click the images to move through to the material…

Section 1: Business Suits

BA101-01 Nothing says you mean business like a great business suit. We have to play with the boys, and if they’re going to suit up for battle, you can bet we’re going to do the same! Here you’ll find everything you need to know about selecting a great suit. Plus, I’ve included a handy “Women’s Suiting Guide” covering selection, fit, style, fabrics, options, and occasions (and it’s downloadable!)

Section 2: Blouses & Tops

BA101-02 Your blouse is one of your most important foundation pieces. It ties everything together, in essence it’s the centerpiece of your whole outfit. After stockings, your choice of blouse is the next best way to give a fresh new look to a suit or skirt. And, bows or ascot collars are a wonderful way to add a feminine twist to a classic men’s style.

Section 3: Jackets

Jackets add the statement of formality and they are your armor. Whether with a suit, skirt or trousers, or a dress, jackets are the finishing touch to accentuate the formal. Given the almost unlimited choices available, they also offer an avenue to dramatically expand your wardrobe as jackets can be extremely flexible and versatile pieces. They protect and shield you like armor!

Section 4: Skirts

Skirts are the part of your outfit that most balance form & function. They can also be used to define your shape. You have almost unlimited alternative colors, lengths, and styles to choose from whether you opt for a suit, or pair a skirt with separates. And, the most important characteristic of a skirt is of course the ability to incorporate hosiery into your outfit.

Section 5: Trousers

Worn correctly, trousers are a great workwear option. Without a doubt, this is the one area where I see more women make more mistakes than with any other element of their professional attire. There are rules for proper trouser fit, tailoring, and style and violating them is the easiest way to ruin your outfit. Follow them, and you can confidently strut around in style.

Section 6: Dresses

Dresses can open up a whole new dimension in workwear. For days when you opt out of a suit, a tailored business dress is the perfect substitute. Dresses can be paired with a fitted jacket, a wrap, even an elegant sweater. This can offer a nice twist on a classic formal business look. There are so many options available, and ways to show your individual style. There are also lots of rules!

Section 7: Shoes

Shoes are always the best part of any outfit. They’re also the easiest way to ruin a great one. If my 10th rule “Elegance” applies to anything, above all it should be to your shoes. Following that, my 4th rule “Quality” should never be ignored. If you can only afford to invest in one area, start with your shoes. Remember what they say, “shoes make the woman“.

Section 8: Stockings

When it comes to stockings always remember three things. First, always wear them! If you’re legs are showing, wrap them in nylon. Second, never opt for anything flashy. Stay with the basics and apply the “Elegance” rule. And third, immediately swap them out when they ladder. Carry spares, and keep at least one in your bag, one in your desk, and one in your glove box. I really, really hate ladders!

Section 9: Lingerie

Lingerie is the most fun and the most functional part of your outfit. Different outfits, clothing styles, and fabrics require different types of lingerie. Lingerie can accentuate your outfit and should therefore form the “foundation” of what you’re wearing. In the end, it should make you feel good, be functional, and be visible to no one… unless you choose to reveal it!…

Section 10: Cosmetics

Cosmetics must blend quality, elegance, simplicity, and context. Correct makeup application can give your appearance a more polished look. You should invest in high quality cosmetics and learn how to apply them properly, to accentuate your natural features. As a general rule, aim for a conservative application that is above all things, elegant.

Section 11: Jewelry & Accessories

Think of jewelry as the finishing touch to your work outfit. Like perfume, your jewelry shouldn’t overwhelm. Don’t embellish, it’s always better to opt for a single statement accessory than overdo it with too many pieces. Stay way from anything bold or flashy and avoid anything overly colorful or large. Whatever you choose to wear shouldn’t be distracting.

Section 12 Grooming & Hygiene

A great outfit won’t work if you’re not healthy. Eat right, exercise, and sleep properly! With most professional attire, at most, people will see only your face, hands, and legs. This makes your grooming and hygiene all the more important. Your hair, skin and hands should always be well kept, neat and tidy. Hairstyles and nail finishes should match your attire, and be conservative and elegant.

Section 13: Women’s Business Casual Attire

Business Casual is simply a less formal version of your ordinary regimen. A good word to keep in mind when considering your look, is softer. A good way to achieve this without violating the guidelines, is through the use of different colors and fabrics. Business Casual doesn’t give you an excuse to throw out any of the rules for professional dress. You should apply them all just the same.

Section 14: Building The Professional Women’s Wardrobe

Your work wardrobe is a lifetime endeavor. Be aware, buy consistently, and shop smart! If you keep an eye on what’s available each fashion season, and when they change, you can find the right times to buy top quality pieces, very affordably. You can also discover different brands, designers, and styles that fit you. Fashion is timeless… if you buy quality, it never goes out of style!

Section 15: Women’s Business Travel

The keys to easy travel are to always be prepared and stay organized. Traveling can be a wonderful adventure and by following some simple guidelines, your can ensure your business trips are as easy and comfortable as they can possibly be. With a little preparation and the right outlook, you should arrive in better shape then you left in.

Section 16: Women’s Business Accessories

I’m working on it… Chill!

Section 17: Fit & Care

I’m working on it… Chill!