Business dressing has got a bad rap over the years. For too long it has all been about stiff suits, dry cuts, and cheerless colors, with women in particular having to subordinate their femininity to be taken seriously by their male counterparts in the world of business and politics.
Thankfully, we have moved on from those stale stereotypes. Today, a business wardrobe can be as colorful and as much of a delight to wear as your casual one. Read on to know how to dress stylishly for business without compromising on your femininity or professionalism.
Work With Your Style
Stylish dressing is all about being true to one’s personality. No need to be dressed in a tight shirt and trousers if they don’t do anything for you. Business suits can restrict one’s range of movements and the colors can get repetitive. They also give an impression of being very uptight.
Which is great if that is your general conservative style and disposition but hardly appealing if you are free-spirited.
[pullquote]So How Does One Dress Their Style?[/pullquote]
It’s essentially very simple: choose the correct fits and colors that you like the most (and which also flatter you).
In practice it can get a tad complicated. If you don’t like trousers or if they don’t flatter you, don’t wear them. Stick to dresses and skirts with leggings or stockings underneath. For instance, I despise trousers of any kind. For work you will find me mostly in short-sleeved dresses worn with opaque leggings, which I sometimes team with waist-cinching blazers. I also prefer work-appropriate wedge sandals or boots to stilettos or pumps.
As a result, my work wardrobe is full of dresses in various colors (I prefer the darker ones) and a good assortment of leggings, plain or striped.
If you are like me and prefer feminine clothing, invest in dresses and skirts in work-appropriate colors and comfortable fit – not too tight, not too baggy. Let it reveal your curves in the right places.
Trouser Lovers, Work With Your Height and Curves
A nice round butt is a great asset but you don’t want your pants too be too tight around the area or they will draw a lot of unwanted attention to your posterior, which is the last thing you would want in a business setting.
Also, very tight trousers may reveal your panty line, which is about as unprofessional as it gets.
Tailor-made trousers are always the best, but good fits can be found with some of the better retailers.
Don’t compromise on the style or the fit of the trousers. A straight fit will make your legs appear slimmer and longer if you wear them with heels. Wide-leg trousers, on the other hand, will balance a top-heavy frame (or a big butt).
Before you settle on a pair, the most important questions to ask yourself are:
- Do I feel comfortable in these?
- Can I move around without feeling conscious about how I look?
- Are they giving me a muffin top?
Any discomfort or self-consciousness gets amplified in business attire. So don’t kid yourself in this respect, regardless of how much you may love the garment.
Shirts vs. Tops (or the power of knitwear)
Shirts look very impressive and crisp, and if you love them and look great in them, you’re in luck!
If, on the other hand, they make you feel uncomfortable, particularly in the front or around your love handles, or transform you into something you don’t even identify with, a high-quality woolen top in black or grey can be a great substitute. These two colors look good on almost everybody, and a good fabric will be able to lend them a character that one expects of business clothes.
Knitwear also makes a business wardrobe a lot more diverse (and to some of us, also a lot more palatable). It allows you to experiment with your outfits, thanks to a wide range of colors, styles, and fits. The general perkiness of a good knit can take the austere edge off a power outfit.
Use Knits in Contrasts
If you are an easy-going woman, power suits would not be an accurate representation of your personality, though they may be an unspoken requirement in a room full of marketing execs.
Instead of a black blazer though, a soft red cardigan on top of a white shirt worn with black trousers will balance the outfit rather well, and bring it more in alignment with your personality.
For a very high-profile meeting, swap the cardigan for a soft blazer in a feminine shade. It will look absolutely appropriate for the occasion without being too overpowering.
Some of Senator Hillary Clinton’s earlier dresses are a good example of this. (I’ve always thought she looked far better in skirts than in pants. She has a soft feminine face, which goes best with feminine colors and styles.)
Shoes, Bags, and Accessories
A nice watch and an impressive bag are the best business accessories for women. They can instantly perk up your look without going overboard. You look stylish, ultra presentable, and yet have “I mean business” written all over you. It presents a very intriguing contrast, which can only work in your favor!
Diamonds and pearls are the best business jewelry (if indeed there can be such a thing). They provide a nice contrast to the crispness of a business suit, light up your face, and enhance your femininity.
Hair and makeup
Short, straight hair is a blessing since it requires minimal upkeep, looks great, and goes with almost all types of business (and non-business) outfits.
That, however, does not mean that’s the only style that flatters. You will have to find a cut that suits your hair texture, face shape, and lifestyle the most. It could be short, shoulder-length, or longer. The only requirement is that you keep it groomed. Not necessarily straighten it, but blow dry it with a style in mind, and keep it shiny, healthy, and in a good color.