Dressing for the Office

You could dress to the office still looking glamorous and not stereotyped and serious. You do not have to be drab and it doesn’t mean leaving out your personal style. The bottom line is that you are polished and look professional; so you have to find out which looks give you these.

Polished and professional

Your goal in getting dressed for work is to look confident and project a professional, competent image, irrespective of your employment level or career path.

Your choice of styles, colour combination, lengths and fit of wears is a depiction of how well you can do your job. If you take your career seriously, you’ll be more concerned with looking professional than looking cute or trendy.

As a general rule you should avoid distracting pieces of clothing or jewellery because they are not suitable for the workplace.

Guiding Tips

  • Jewellery

Jangling and big jewellery such as chandelier earrings, stacks of bangles etc. should be avoided because they could be very distracting. Instead, use gem studs or single bracelets.

  • Colour

Colour is an important part of professional image. Some colours are suitable for the office while some are no-no. Conventional office colours include red (aggressive), navy (trustworthy), grey (conservative) and black (chic). These colours are good for pantsuits, skirts and shoes. They mix also mix well with appropriate softer feminine colours like sky blue, lilac, soft pink and ivory. Hot colours like hot pink and wild prints should be avoided though some rare creative ones could be okay sometimes.

  • Handbags
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Slouchy or soft handbags look untidy. Instead use structured ones that make you look organised.

  • Take care of the details

A polished image is an offshoot of the other details like well-manicured nails, smooth panty-hoses, well-groomed hair and neat shoes

  • Fitness

Generally, your work clothes should fit; they should not be oversized and at the same time not too tight for comfort.  Your pants should be fitted, but free of visible panty lines. Skirts, especially straight styles like pencil skirts, should be loose enough to sit down in comfortably. You should be able to button your jackets comfortably; and blouses should not gap between buttonholes.

  • Designer labels are great, but avoid too loud ones. For a very good professional look choose items that have inconspicuous designer labels.

Imitate your Female Executives

For workplaces that do not have stated dress policies, one of the best ways to go about it is to study top female executives and how they dress.

One of the best clues to company dress codes is what your boss wears. Just study the styles that the top-level women in your organization wear and use them to create your wardrobe. If they wear skirt suits mostly then you know you should wear less pant suits. If they wear panty hose sometimes, then you know it is permitted in the organisation.

If there are not female executive to emulate, then study the men. If they wear suits and ties mostly, then it better you wear pantsuits and skirt suits which are the most formal of business looks.

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Office No-nos

Wearing office no-nos could create a permanent dent in the image of your career and nobody wants that. Generally avoid:

  • Sexy see-through lace, miniskirts, panty-hose, spaghetti straps, cleavage revealing blouses, strappy stiletto sandals.
  • Casual jeans, shorts, T-shirts, hats, sneakers.
  • Wrinkled clothing, flowery, lacy outfits, and too many ruffles, baggy-fit clothing.

Business Dress Codes

  • Formal Business Attire

These include business suits; a matched skirt and jackets or pantsuits;matched pants and blazer. Closed-toe shoes not sandals, blouses, hose and conservative hair, jewellery and makeup are expected.

  • Corporate Casual Looks

These are outfits that you wear in a business environment that are not totally formal. These include dressy pants and a blouse, sleek jersey knits and skirts and tops are all examples of corporate casual.

  • Casual Friday – Depending on the business, this can mean anything from corporate casual instead of formal looks or you could wear your company customised T-shirsts or polo and jeans. It also includes native wears like ankara tops and clothes.

Funmi Thompson

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