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Work Attire: Go with the Flow (with Style!)

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If you are trying to decide what items of clothing to include in your work wardrobe, this is a time when it’s OK to go with the crowd. While business attire is less about the person and more about business, just because you’re headed to the office doesn’t mean you have to leave your personal style behind, however. Here are a few tips to help you project a confident, professional image regardless of your career path.

•    In an office environment, you want to appear professional, not cute, sexy or trendy. The goal of work attire is not to capture attention, so any ensemble or accessory that does this is probably not appropriate. Choose well-made clothing, but steer away from heavily logoed designer items. While the flash may work at a nightclub, loud logos and gaudy bling will appear tasteless in an office environment.

•    Pay special attention to the colors you incorporate into your work wardrobe. Traditional colors such as black, navy blue, gray and red all function well for suits and shoes, and can be paired with shirts and accessories of softer pastel colors. Flashy colors and bold prints are probably less acceptable, depending on your corporate environment.

•    When it comes to work clothing, tailored is always the desired look. Pants and skirts should be fitted but not tight, with no visible panty lines. Jackets should button comfortably. Avoid open-toed shoes and heels that are too high, unless you work in a very casual environment.

•    Grooming should include neat hair, manicured nails and subtle makeup. Always strive for a polished appearance.

•    Avoid jangling jewelry that will be a distraction every time you move. One set of modest earrings, one bracelet or a simple necklace will do the trick.

If there are no hard-and-fast rules in your workplace about what to wear (many companies don’t have specific dress requirements), pay attention to what the higher-ups in the organization are sporting. Suits and ties or casual polos? Pantyhose or bare legs? Pumps or sneakers? Take cues for your own wardrobe from these looks. If you are meeting one-on-one with clients, it’s wise to dress as good or better than your client. If meeting dress tends to be more formal than your office environment, it’s a smart idea to keep a change of clothing on hand.

If your corporate culture is formal, there are still ways you can subtly exude personality in your dress. Try a few of these ideas to freshen up your work look.

•    Add a small splash of color with a bright tie or scarf.

•    Get regular haircuts at a trendy salon to ensure your hairstyle is up-to-date and polished.

•    Buy shoes and accessories with interesting patterns or finishes, such as patent leather pumps or a crocodile-print clutch.

•    Experiment with subtle ways to change your makeup to complement your look. A bit of gloss will add pizzazz to your lips, and coordinating eyeshadow will make your eyes pop. Save the sparkly cosmetics for a night on the town though.

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