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Vogue & Style

Adding a creative touch to your corporate outfit

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Dressing for the office can be both a blessing and a curse. Just like our school days when we were made to wear uniforms, corporate dress codes often remove the pressures of having to decide what to dress ourselves in each day. Or, at the very least, it narrows our decision down to a simple shirt and tie combination.

But for some of us, this just isn’t enough. We end up feeling stifled and restricted in our sometimes stuffy work ensembles and strive to find ways of expressing ourselves. This is where adding a creative touch to our corporate attire comes in.

The Difference between Creative & Corporate Dressing

There are not too many things in life that are completely black and white, but when it comes to corporate dressing it is often just that. From bankers to lawyers, a more formal working environment generally calls for less variety in the clothing department. Yet as long as fit, fabric and style are considered, corporate wear can be a suave and sophisticated affair.

The key with corporate dressing is that your overall look needs to be slick, refined and professional. Whether you’re attending an important client lunch or standing up in front of a crowded boardroom to deliver a presentation, you will want to keep the focus off what you’re wearing and on what you’re doing. A tailored monochrome suit is the go-to (and sometimes the be all and end all) for these lines of work, finished off with a well-polished pair of Oxfords.

But when it comes to dressing for more creative work environments, such as jobs in media or advertising, there is often more room to experiment. You’ll still want to maintain a sense of professionalism, but you might be able to try out more relaxed pieces such as unstructured tailoring, a short-sleeved shirt, vibrant colors and even statement prints.

That’s not to say those working in creative fields should get to have all the fun. It is very important to inject some personality into formal attire. Besides, you are often required to think creatively in any job, whether it’s to rectify a business problem or come up with an advertising concept, so why not dress more creatively too?

The ‘Rule of One’

The best way to start incorporating some creative flair into your corporate wardrobe is by focusing on one item in each outfit. This way, you won’t overpower the entire look or ‘go too far’.

Whether it’s including a printed piece, opting for a textured shirt, revealing a bold pair of socks or simply the way you roll your sleeve cuffs, there are many subtle tweaks we can make to our current nine-to-five looks.

The Power of Color

Following this ‘rule of one’ technique, let the power of color work its effortless magic. Of course, we don’t mean a vibrantly colored suit here; the chances of you feeling comfortable and confident in a bright green two-piece – let alone being allowed to wear one – are slim to none. Think subtle yet impactful.

The most obvious accessory to start with is your tie. Bear in mind our advice on shirt and tie matching and then look to build yourself a collection of high quality block-colored ties in a variety of textures and hues that can be combined with your traditional white, sky blue, pink, and striped work shirts. Just remember to keep your choices contemporary and not OTT – anything too thin, shiny, cheap-looking or ‘quirky’ should be avoided at all costs.

Key brands to consider when building your own tie collection include Marwood London, Drakes, Suitsupply and Brooks Brothers, along with high street names such as Reiss and T.M.Lewin.

A pair of brightly-hued socks are a great way of factoring colour into your workwear wardrobe. If you’re wearing a black or charcoal suit, your choices are almost limitless when it comes to which shade you go for. From bright blue to citric orange, a great pair of socks will liven up even the most dreary of office ensembles, with the unexpected flash of colour when you sit down or cross your legs proving even more powerful than an obvious, overt statement.

For those with that are allowed to wear a navy suit to work, try lighter, complementary colors such as pastel pink or yellow or keep it in the same family with an on trend cobalt blue pair. There are a number of great men’s hosiery specialists on the market currently – Pantherella, Happy Socks, Corgi and Falke all produce high quality socks in a variety of contemporary colour ways and patterns.

Another way to introduce colour into your workwear with the ‘rule of one’ technique is through the lining of your suit or overcoat. The lining of your garment might seem like a rather subtle element of your ensemble, but you’d be surprised what difference an unexpected splash of colour makes to the way you look and, more importantly, the way you feel. After all, expressing yourself through your clothing is all about an attitude. It’s a mindset.

Traditional British heritage brands are often your best bet for tailoring with striking inside linings (block-colored or patterned); think Ted Baker, Ben Sherman, Paul Smith and even high street names like Marks & Spencer.

Finally, spectacle wearers have even more room to be creative in a corporate workplace. Ditch your wire-rim glasses for a unique frame shape, which can quickly become a trademark of your personal style, or opt for specs with a hint of colour in the frames – the Ray-Ban wayfarers fit the bill perfectly.

Prints, Patterns and Texture

PPT is no longer just shorthand for PowerPoint in the office. It now stands for Prints, Patterns and Texture. If you’re not quite ready to introduce vivid hues to your workplace, prints, patterns or textures will help add a subtle creative touch to your ensemble without the snarky co-worker comments.

A printed pocket square is the perfect accessory to breathe life into your corporate wardrobe. Folded, tucked or simply stuffed into the top pocket of a well-cut blazer, they instantly add a dandy touch to your city slicker look.

It’s important to note that matching your tie to your pocket square is a sartorial no-no, whether it’s the exact shade or pattern, so bear in mind your colour pairing basics and instead look to contrast them in an elegant and refined way – a burgundy polka dot pocket square with a solid navy grenadine tie, for example.

From on trend polka dots and modern geometrics to classic checks and polka dots, Reiss and MR PORTER are great places to start when it comes to finding pocket squares that are full of panache.

Another go-to accessory for adding some character to your corporate workwear is a textured tie. Subtle but effective, a slim tie crafted from a textured fabric is an easy ticket into expressive yet sophisticated formal dressing.

Final Word

When it comes to dressing for a corporate environment, we’ve proven that it doesn’t always have to be so black and white. Adding a touch of flair to your work wear will enhance your creative thinking; before long, colleagues will be relying on you for your out-of-the-box ideas and problem solving skills.

So what are you waiting for? There are so many ways to liven up your nine-to-five wardrobe while remaining professional and refined, just remember the ‘rule of one’ and add a couple of key accessories to your collection. You’ll be surprised by what a big difference it makes to both how you look, feel and work.

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Vogue & Style

Attention to your fashion details

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If you’ve ever watched the rehearsal process of a play, then you know just how powerful clothes are. Even in the very early stages of a project, professional actors will come to practice in certain clothing pieces that make them feel more like their character. Perhaps, in an old pair of shoes, a long and heavy skirt, or a bandana that helps them get just the right swagger, grace, or edge.

A few weeks later, when they’re closer to opening, they’ll have an actual dress rehearsal with their real costumes. It’s pretty amazing to see how the right clothes bring the performances up to a whole new level and transform the actor into the character!

As business professionals, we can actually learn a lot from this.

Like it or not, your clothes and presentation communicate volumes about you as a person. The question is not whether you care about fashion, it’s more about what you’re communicating intentionally or unconsciously through your fashion choices. Just as the actor in the right costume moves and speaks differently, so does the everyday person.

Your clothes tell a story about you. If you want to show that your work is clean, sharp, and to the point, you need to dress in clean lines, sharp creases, and (yes) points on your shoes and tie. Even the way you wear your glasses speaks volumes about you and your work!

 

What Do the Details Show?

Research shows that you can tell a lot about someone’s personality, politics, status, age and income just from looking at a photo of their shoes.

Did you ever notice that when President Barack Obama addressed a crowd of working class Americans, he would speak with no jacket and his sleeves rolled up? That silently and instantly communicated to the audience that he too was a hard worker.

You might remember when a 44 page dress code published by Swiss bank UBS went viral. The obsessive stipulations detailed everything from the sensible (“If you wear a watch, it suggests reliability and that punctuality is of great concern to you”) to the downright invasive (employees were instructed on how to shower and apply lotion, how to wear their underwear, and told not to eat garlic during the week).

They may have been control freaks, but UBS got one thing right: every detail about your presentation communicates something.

When you’re dressing or grooming, consider what it says about you and whether it’s in line with the message you want to communicate. There’s no right or wrong. It’s all about context. A tie can make you look reliable and rooted in tradition. This might be important at an investment firm, where clients want to know that you’re serious about stewarding their capital. But it can also come off as stuffy and resistant to change, which may be inappropriate for a tech startup.

 

Your Clothing Impacts Your Thinking

Of course, dressing smart is also important for your confidence and sense of self-empowerment. But your style does more than just send messages, to your mind or to others. New research shows it actually impacts how you think. Professional dress, one study found, increases abstract thinking and gives people a broader perspective. So that tie might actually be switching on your creativity button.

“The formality of clothing might not only influence the way others perceive a person, and how people perceive themselves, but could influence decision making in important ways through its influence on processing style,” the study says.

Professional attire creates social distance. When we are more socially distant, we tend to think in more distant, abstract terms. In socially distant settings we address people by their title, for instance, rather than the more intimate first name.

“Even after controlling for socioeconomic status, students wearing more formal clothing showed stronger inclinations towards abstract processing.”

 

Thin-Slicing

Usually we process visual details instantaneously through a process called thin-slicing. That’s when the brain makes millisecond judgements based on new stimulus. It often happens without us even knowing. We might just get a feeling that we don’t trust someone, or that someone else is steady and reliable. We might not even know why.

That gut feeling, commonly called intuition or a first impression, is really part of the very fast-paced mental process of thin-slicing. It’s how we continually judge books by their covers, all day, every day.

So choose your personal presentation with care. Presentation includes not only your clothes, but your accessories, hairstyle, fragrance, posture, body language, tone of voice, and the level of energy with which you move and speak. Think of the person that you need to be in any particular situation. Then dress, groom, and accessorize in a way that helps you mentally step into that personality.

Are you marching in there to get things done? Put on something red, roll up your sleeves and speak in a commanding voice. Are you making social connections at a gala event? Go for suave, but not workplace formal. Dress to feel attractive. Speak in a smooth tone, and let one shoulder relax.

If you’re loafing around on a long weekend with half a box of pizza, you can probably get away with breaking out the frumpy comfortables.

Taking intentional command of how you dress and present is a good step in empowering yourself, accomplishing your goals, and living a more lucid life at the helm of your decisions. So pay attention! Remember, all the world’s a stage.

 

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