Professional Attire

Professional Attire

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  1. What Does Professional Attire Look Like?

    Say the words “professional attire” to a man, and a precise image comes to his mind.  It includes a suit, a tie, and a freshly laundered shirt, either white, pale blue or beige.  And he knows not to forget well polished shoes. This “uniform” hasn’t changed for decades.  

    Women Have More Choices

    However, a woman has a lot more freedom to choose the clothes she wears to work.  Certain industries are more formal than others:  For example, women who work in banks and law offices are likely to be required to wear suits and pantyhose.  No bare legs in those offices please!   But the past decades or so have seen loosening of standards even in the most formal of offices.  Women can now usually also wear well tailored pants, but not jeans.  Except on dress-down Fridays.  

    But fortunately the Dress for Success look of the 70’s and 80’s has gone the way of all flesh.  That was a matchy-matchy look where shoes, stockings, handbag and outfit were all conservatively coordinated.  Today even formal offices allow more leeway in teaming up accessories and clothing.  A tailored pair of slacks can go with a sweater jacket, a satin blouse can peek out from under a boyfriend jacket and huge rings can be worn with everything.  

    Where to Shop?

    One of the best ways to select appropriate clothing is to go to an elegant department store, such as Saks or Nordstrom’s and look around at the displays.  You don’t have to shop in those stores, as they are rather pricey, but certainly you can look to them for inspiration.  Then march around in Macy’s or JCPenney, and look for similar outfits you can better afford.  

    JCPenney also has a wonderful catalog from which you can order so you don’t have to tire yourself out going from store to store, if that isn’t your thing. 

    If you’re starting from scratch, it’s best to choose a few good pieces, such as a skirt or pants, and a jacket, in coordinating but not necessarily matching colors.  Fill in with blouses or sweaters.  You just need a few outfits to start, and then as you go along, and as your budget permits, you can add more groups of similar clothes in different colors and fabrics.  

    Shoes and Handbags Should be Top Quality

    Beach shoes and shoes that go flop are not welcome in offices.  While you don’t have to wear shoes that cost hundreds of dollars and were lusted after in Sex and the City, they should be stylish if not necessarily six-inch heels.  Top quality handbags always make a statement, and that statement is that you, too, are top quality. 

    But just as there are formal offices, with strict dress codes, there are also informal businesses where dress is highly individualistic.  For example, the music industry, the movie industry and certain retail stores are far more tolerant of informal dress. 

    It was Thoreau who said “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.”  So if you don’t have the means to finance a brand new wardrobe, don’t worry.  Just wear the clothes you have with confidence and a warm smile.  Provided they are clean, that should get you through! 

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