Young business man straightening his tieWhile even “noob” office professionals have a general intuition of what should and should not be considered office wear, new employees often still tend to dress down (and sometimes up) and breach the often unspoken mores and protocols of a given corporate cultural. Given how greatly culture changes from one organization to the next, it can be tricky when determining just how to give the right impression at work. By considering three simple points when creating your job wardrobe, you can simplify the process of fitting in and better cater to your boss’s fashion sense.

In the words of Dr. Randall Hansen, Professor of Business at Stetson University, “The most basic mistake new employees make is under dressing. If unsure, dress conservatively. The best way to avoid a problem is to understand the corporate culture.”

In other words, presentation counts so keep this in mind when selecting your daily outfits for work. Secondly, casual doesn’t mean disheveled and messy. And, perhaps most importantly, dress as you want to be seen; presumably as a serious professional who is perpetually ready to meet clients.

But before you head out for a day of clothes shopping, take a survey of your colleagues and notice how the established senior officers and rising stars of your office choose to dress. Taking style tips from these examples can help you get a clue as to what you should look for as you comb the department stores and the Internet. Also, if your office has an official dress code, you already have a ready-made style guide at your finger tips to act as a step-by-step instruction manual for your wardrobe decisions.

But many offices don’t have any set-in-stone rules of dress-up standards, so you may find yourself on your own when picking your next set of office duds from the rack. So here’s a general tip, flashy (and trashy) dress is always trumped by elegant conservatism in the office space, so don’t even think about relying on “clubbing” styles or the preferences of your favorite rock musician.

You can never fail with traditional outfits for both men and women; all of which should be familiar to most American workers. Traditional attire for men includes a button-down shirt, black shoes (polished), a blue or black jacket (or gray if you are feeling adventuresome), matching slacks, and a conservative tie. Socks should be bought in bulk and all of identical color so there is no danger of a mismatch, no matter how laundry-impaired one may be.

For women, standard fare includes a knee-length skirt, slacks, or even a pantsuit along with a simple blouse or sweater combined with a tasteful selection of simple jewelry. Makeup should be kept at a minimum and perfume should either be absent or only very lightly applied. For shoes, stick with polished flats or moderate heels and those may be combined with pantyhose (an occasional standard in some especially conservative offices).

When it comes to dressing for work, remember that your goal is not to attract attention, but to emphasize your professionalism and level of competence. Your clothing choices are especially important when interviewing and just starting a new job but also run a high chance of affecting your chances of promotion or recognition. Appearance creates credibility so make sure to make the most of the opportunity to display your respect for professionalism and your desire to be taken seriously by your peers and managers.


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