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How to dress for work


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Starting a new job and need to create instant impact?  Or stuck in a rut and want to start moving upwards?  Surprisingly, how you dress could be a major factor in your success!  How to dress for work  is dependent on the kind of organisation you work for, the job you hold and your own personality.  You’re used to dressing for yourself, you already know the styles and shapes which look good on you, so let’s start with a little common sense.  If you hate your legs and think you look terrible in above-the-knee skirts, you don’t have to wear them to work, even if everyone else seems to.  Of course if you have great legs, a micro-mini is still probably not the way to go, unless you’re in the right kind of job.

Work outfit dos and don’ts

  • Appropriateness – Dress for your workplace.  If the work “uniform” makes you uncomfortable there’s a very good chance that the rest of the work environment will as well.  If you hate the whole business look, are you really going to be happy working in a high powered office environment?
  • Whatever you wear, ensure it’s comfortable for you.  Get quality undies that fit.  Don’t wear high heels if you struggle with them.  You also need to be comfortable “in yourself”.  Just because everyone else is in a suit doesn’t mean you won’t be just as smart (and maybe a little bit more individual!) in elegant separates if wearing a suit is just not your thing.
  • Colour – use your judgment here.  A creative workplace, such as a graphic design studio, is the ideal place to test out the full colour palate, but for most offices neutrals accessorised with more adventurous colours are a better bet.
  • Shoes – court shoes are ideal with a business suit or more tailored look, but go for something with a touch of individuality if you can.  With less structured outfits, the choice of shoes (or boots) is wider, although it can be a good idea not to opt for open-toed shoes in general – they may look odd with the wrong kind of tights and it saves you worrying about pedicures!  High heels can of course be worn if you’re comfortable in them and it’s the kind of environment where they are appropriate – in fashion retail or PR, for example.
  • Hair, makeup, nails and teeth – a carefully thought out work outfit can be undermined if you’ve neglected any of these – just keep your routines simple and manageable.

how to dress for work

 A work outfit “template”

If you’ve ever spent so long agonising over what to wear for work in the morning that you’ve barely got in on time, it can be a great idea to take the guesswork (and panic!) out of weekday mornings by putting together a few simple pieces ready for days when nothing else seems right.  For me, it’s an above-the-knee straight black skirt (in velvet so looks smart but with added lycra so v comfy!), black tights or leggings, smart but low-heeled black knee boots and a variety of grey and black-and-white tops/jackets etc.  I add colourful accessories, and this creates enough variety to see me through the week if necessary.  Thanks to the skirt and boots I know I’ll look smart, but more importantly be comfortable, and the tops, jewellery and/or scarves add enough variety to suit my mood.  Find an outfit that fulfils these criteria for you and your job, and you’ll always be just a smart top and pretty necklace away from your perfect work outfit.



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About Phylly Alexander

About Phylly Alexander

Phylly Alexander is a working parent. She’s been doing it for a long time, with number one son just about to turn 21, and by the time the last child (hopefully!) flies the nest she will have been at it for around 30 years! Apart from the first six years at home with aforementioned number one son, she has worked throughout, mainly in secretarial/admin roles for employers including solicitors, the Employment Service and, for the past 12 years, the NHS. She trained as a student midwife and has written for The Practising Midwife. A middle-aged “techie” she is hoping to improve her work-life balance by getting more internet work she can do from home – she enjoys writing, editing and proofreading. As someone who is interested in (and unfortunately has an opinion on) almost everything, she has a wide-ranging general knowledge – an asset for pub quiz nights. More specific interests include cycling, running, midwifery and Shakespeare! She is also currently completing an unfinished degree via the Open University and is finding the study of sociology a real eye-opener. The job that got away? Teaching. Age (aka tiredness!) and family commitments probably mean she’ll never get to do it now but…. she thinks she would have loved it.

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