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Vogue & Style

Wearing the right outfit for the office in 2019

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Suit or shirt? Skirt or slacks? Tights or bare legs? Sandals or pumps? These are the questions you might find yourself asking each morning as you select work attire in 2019. And, depending on the dress code your company enforces, you could be spot on – or woefully off-base in your fashion choices.

According to a survey by Salary.com, only 55% of workplaces have a dress code. If your new employee orientation didn’t cover it, contact HR to ask about the official policy. Even if your orientation manual tells you to dress “business casual,” though, what exactly does that mean? What is acceptable – and what isn’t?

Official Dress Codes for 2019

There are typically four types of corporate dress codes: business formal, business professional, business casual, and casual. Here are some general tips for both men and women for each category. Stick close to the basics and ensure that you’re always dressed appropriately in this 2019.

BUSINESS FORMAL

If you work in a law firm, regularly meet with executives, or otherwise hold a high-level position, you might be asked to come dressed “business formal” or in “boardroom attire.” This is the highest level of professional dress.

For Men:

  • A tailored one-, two-, or three-button suit in a solid, neutral color like black, gray, or navy.
  • Ties and other accessories should be both modest in color and style – solid, brighter colors (a red tie, for example), or patterned muted neutrals (a navy plaid tie) – as well as high-end in quality. No novelty ties, such as sports team patterns.
  • White, collared button-up shirts.
  • Shoes should be closed-toe oxfords in brown or black, not loafers.
  • Hair should be well-groomed. In general, short hair is most acceptable.
  • Nails should be clipped short, clean, and buffed. Don’t be shy about getting regular professional manicures.

 

For Women:

  • A well-cut pantsuit or skirt suit in a conservative neutral color, such as black, navy, or brown.
  • White button-ups with a collar.
  • Closed-toe heels in a neutral color such as taupe, black, grey, or brown.
  • Tights, preferably in a dark color.
  • Conservative accessories – for instance, diamond studs rather than chandelier earrings.
  • Well-groomed hair worn in a conservative cut, such as a bob or soft layers.
  • Skirts never more than two finger-widths above the knees.
  • Well-groomed, neutral nails that are either clear coated, or painted with a beige-toned polish.

 

BUSINESS PROFESSIONAL

A step down from business formal, business professional clothing is still neat, conservative, and traditional, if a little more loose when it comes to color or pattern. Business professional is also sometimes called “traditional business.” Expect to present a professional appearance every day, injecting personality into your outfits with your accessories and color choices.

For Men:

  • A one- or two-button suit. Suit colors should still be conservative, but you have more leeway with pattern – a conservative stripe or check, for instance.
  • Pressed, lighter-colored dress pants worn with a sports jacket.
  • Conservative ties, but feel free to introduce colors and patterns. For example, you can feel free to wear a blue-striped, professional tie, but no novelty ties.
  • High-end accessories, such as watches (preferably silver, gold, or white gold) and cuff links, if necessary.
  • Shirts should be collared button-ups, but can be colored, as long as the color is fairly conservative. Blue, burgundy, or gray all work well.
  • Shoes should be conservatively colored oxfords or polished loafers in black or brown.
  • Hair and nails should be groomed, but check with HR on acceptable hairstyles.

 

For Women:

  • A suit or skirt, top, and jacket in a conservative neutral color, such as black, brown, or navy.
  • Collared button-up shirts that may be any solid color.
  • Dark or nude-colored hosiery.
  • Closed-toe pumps in a neutral color such as black or brown.
  • Larger, more noticeable jewelry – as long as it’s not distracting. Think along the lines of one statement necklace or a chunky watch. High quality is preferred.
  • Skirts never more than two finger-widths above the knees.
  • Well-groomed, neutral nails. May be clear coat or beige.
  • Hair should be neat and groomed, but check with HR on acceptable cuts and colors.

 

BUSINESS CASUAL

Business casual is one of the more common dress codes for a certain group, the media and advertising firms, allowing employees to add personality to their workwear without looking unprofessional. In a business casual setting, you can expect a lot more in the way of color and accessories.

Still, the term “business casual” can mean different things to different organizations, so it’s always best to check for guidelines with HR instead of making assumptions. Note that sometimes business casual can also be called “executive casual.”

For Men:

  • Can wear colored, collared button-ups in any color. Conservative patterns such as checks or stripes are acceptable too, worn with or without a tie.
  • Ties should still be conservative in pattern. Avoid novelty ties, and choose patterns like dots, stripes, or checks. Most colors are acceptable.
  • Pullovers and sweaters worn over collared shirt. Choose solid, striped, or another conservatively patterned sweater. Primary and jewel-toned colors are best.
  • Dressy slacks, such as black dress pants or pressed khakis in the summer, worn with or without a sports jacket.
  • More casual accessories, such as a leather-band watch.
  • Shoes can be oxfords, loafers, or another comfortable yet dressy choice, in brown or black. Avoid sneakers.
  • May offer more leeway for hairstyles, allowing for longer hair (check with HR).
  • Nails should be clean and short.

 

For Women:

  • Business separates, rather than a full suit – a skirt worn with a cardigan or jacket, for example.
  • Colored shirts and blouses, rather than mandatory collared button-downs. Choose solid colors, or muted patterns like stripes or checks, and avoid low-cut shirts or bright patterns.
  • Slacks and khakis.
  • Larger jewelry, such as a statement necklace or large cuff-style watch. Doesn’t necessarily need to be the highest quality – gemstones and other casual materials are fine. Scarves may also be appropriate.
  • Shoes may be comfortable flats and loafers, as well as pumps, but should remain closed-toe. Can be any color, although black, brown, red, navy, and gray are among the most appropriate.
  • Nails should be well-groomed, but there can be a few restrictions on colors.
  • Hair can be more casual, with less conservative colors and even more noticeable (chunky or high-contrast) highlights generally acceptable. It should still be neatly styled, such as blow-dried, or in a ponytail or bun.

 

CASUAL

If you’re fortunate enough to work in a casual office, the trick is to avoid getting too casual or creative with your dress. According to the survey by Salary.com, your coworkers make specific judgements regarding your capability based on your clothes, which may extend to employers as well. By arriving to work in casual clothes that are still neat, pressed, and appropriate for the type of work you do, you can make sure that a casual dress code isn’t holding you back.

For Men:

  • Casual pants and slacks, but never jeans unless stipulated as acceptable by HR. If jeans are permitted, dark-wash, straight-cut only.
  • Collared polos or crew-neck sweaters and pullovers. The majority of colors and patterns are okay as long as they’re not a novelty pattern, such as a sports team logo.
  • Casual accessories, such as brightly colored watches.
  • Shoes that are clean. Sneakers are usually acceptable, as are loafers.
  • Hair and nails can be more casual. Nails should remain short and clean, and casual offices generally allow for longer hairstyles and ponytails.

 

For Women:

  • Nicely fitted tops and blouses, although shirts should never be tight or revealing.
  • Slacks or skirts in more casual fabrics, such as cotton. If denim is permitted, dark-wash only. Avoid overly casual denim cuts, like cutoffs or flare jeans.
  • Skirts should remain at knee-length.
  • Open-toed shoes are permitted. Avoid casual shoes such as sneakers or flip-flops.
  • Casual accessories, such as scarves. Larger rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces are fine, and may be of any quality.
  • More leeway with hair length, style, and color. More adventurous styles and colors are typically fine.
  • Nails can be painted in brighter colors, or with any type of pattern. Avoid novelty characters or designs, or limit “louder” designs to one nail only.

 

In office dress codes, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and dress a little more formally than necessary until you have a better grasp of what is and isn’t acceptable at work. If your business clothing mantra is “clean, tailored, and professional,” it’s pretty hard to go wrong, regardless of the environment in which you work.

What type of dress code does your office use?

 

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Vogue & Style

The rising trend of African wear in the corporate office

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African wear is gradually gaining roots in the corporate offices since the introduction of the National Friday wear program in Ghana. Most companies prefer styling up in their customized African print while others wear general African prints styled to their design. The result of this culture has been the exponential increment of both small and large scale enterprises like boosting the sale of African prints on the market, fashion designers making money and increasing the production of such textiles; not forgetting the unique identity it gives to companies who have customized their African prints.

In spite of the fact that only a day of the week has been allocated for this purpose, the trend of African wear for corporate offices is rising. Some people opine that, African prints are very comfortable to be in and very easy to accessorize and as such, one can always improvise to fit business occasions like meetings, presentations, summits and other business purposes. How then should a corporate worker spruce up in an African print for corporate environment?

Choosing the right Fabric:

  • Texture: One needs to be mindful of the kind of fabric one chooses for the corporate environment. Choose one that sits well on the skin and does not cause any form of irritations to the skin. Avoid very heavy fabrics which do not allow circulation of air to and from the skin, thus producing a lot of heat and sweat. If one also decides to choose a lighter fabric, be sure it is properly lined. And watch out for threads hanging out from any part of your dress or shirt; so it doesn’t look funny walking around.
  • Colour: The temptation of picking something colourful is exceptionally high when one wants to look stylish. Avoid looking like a flower pot by shunning prints with so many colours and broad patterns. It becomes a distraction, especially when interacting with clients. For a suave look, just aim for something beautiful but not so bright. For businesses with customized prints for work, if one could not wear theirs, they should get something similar to what is acceptable so they do not look like a visitor at their workplaces.

Style:

  • Men: Men do not have much to do with African prints except of course their shirts for work. Unless one works with a fashion, a creative or a media company, one needs to kindly avoid using bright African prints for jacket or suit. Stick with the well-fitted short or long sleeve shirt. Shirts should be crease-free and worn with neatly ironed black, grey, navy blue, brown or a dark shade of the most dominating colour of the print trousers, with neatly polished black or brown leather shoes, or a more casual loafer and a pair of socks that blends with the trousers. In a dark coloured suit, an African print vest is simply stunning.
    • Women: The challenges that come with picking a style appropriate for work increases when it has to do with African prints. If one finally decides to wear a blouse, avoid styles that cut low exposing the cleavage. The style should not be ‘wild’ and by all means, make sure the undies are well covered. The blouse should have enough space so that it is not too tight or restricting. One needs to look smart and comfortable at work.

What to wear with an African Print?

Depending on the style of the blouse, the usual pencil skirts, trousers or even flare skirts may fit well or not. For a blouse with no exaggerated additions or for a small top, wear a flared skirt or a trouser that is not too skimpy or smallish. For a broad or big blouse, a pencil skirt or a fitting trouser is advisable. But of course, it is subject to one’s stature which varies with every lady.

If one decides to go with a straight dress, shun from bright or loud colours. The style should be simple but classy. Nothing too loose or tight, just well-fitted. There should be absolutely no form of excessive skin exposure either around the chest or the thigh. To allow free and easy movements, there should be an open beside or behind the dress just enough for movement and not as much to expose too much skin.

If one decides to use African prints for the skirt, the same rules apply. A flared skirt will best fit a small top, whereas a print pencil skirt goes with a broad or big top. Do not use African prints for trousers to work unless to a creative, a fashion or a media company.  Wear African print skirt with a simple blouse; not too bright! Preferably the dark shade of the colour with no or small patterns. A nice blazer will switch the look up to another level of class and elegance.

Accessories:

The way one accessorizes can make the look spot-on or clumsy. The latter is not advisable.

Bags: Either as a handbag for ladies or a laptop bag for both genders, a dull colour will best fit when looking colourful or bright, the same way a colourful bag will do the trick when one is in a dull outfit. It’s all about complementing the total look. In case one wants to wear an African print bag even though he/ she is dressed in an African print skirt or top, one must make sure it is the same fabric as the dress or something similar that blends in with the dress. Let’s reduce the wearing of African print straight dress and accessorizing with fully covered African print bags. A black bag or a bag with the darker shade of one’s favourite colour will work perfectly.

Shoes: For a corporate environment, it is not advisable for men to wear a shoe fully covered in an African print. This draws too much attention to one’s feet. A strip of African print on a black or dark brown leather shoe can do the magic. For ladies, either the shoe is fully covered in an African print from the same fabric one is wearing or the bag one is holding or stick with the black or dark brown low heels.

The neck or the area around the neck: Accessorizing the neck for both men and women either with a necklace, a tie or a scarf also comes with its own dos and don’ts. Using an African print around the neck means the brighter the necklace, tie or scarf, the darker and plain (or smaller patterns) the shirt or top but the darker the accessories the brighter the tops or shirt. Let’s not forget African print earrings to be worn should be small but nice.

When we descend on the body, accessorizing the chest area with either an African print brooch or a piece of African print in the breast pocket of our suit, should strictly be on a plain or a smaller patterned shirt or blouse.

Now to accessorize the hands with either African print wrist watch, beads, bracelets or cufflinks, the smaller the better. It shouldn’t be too bright unless of course, the dressing demands otherwise.

Men who would want to use African prints for belts, the less colourful it is, the better. One does not need to draw attention to one’s waist area at work.

Dressing in an African Print for a presentation:

Whenever there is a presentation at work, the presenter aims at gaining some form of attention and cooperation from those listening to the presentation. Captivating the attention and holding the interest of listeners are essential. This is why one cannot compete with his/ her dress for attention during a business presentation. One needs to come off as confident and knowing what he/ she is about, not the other way round. This is why brightly coloured, large patterned and detailed design fabrics should definitely be avoided.

Day, season and weather cannot be overlooked when choosing an appropriate African print fabric or style. The day should inform one on the kind of fabric to choose. In a rainy season, a heavy African print sewn as a long sleeve shirt or blouse is advisable because of the cold weather. So, obviously a summer season will demand the opposite; a light fabric (not transparent) sewn as a short sleeve top. And when the weather is just right, dress right!

Another fact is that all these tips are susceptible to the stature or shape of the individual. Since we cannot go into styling up for all the body types, let’s simply say if one’s upper body is bigger than the lower part, wear a small looking top on a flared skirt or loose trousers rather than a pencil skirt or a tight trouser. Which is to say that if one has a small upper body and a broad down or hip, a broad top on a pencil skirt or a tight trouser will flatter the figure perfectly. It is all about comfort and confidence when styling up to a corporate world. Simply have the image of the company you represent at the back of your mind and dress accordingly.

Men should perform their tonsorial duties as they always do and ladies’ makeup and hairstyles for work should not be affected by the presence of the African print. Go simple, beautiful and neat just as always.

One will notice that most of the tips centres on colour, style and texture of the African print; this is to say that once these elements are not in the right proportion, the look slips into a church look not a corporate look. Walk the fine line with class, confidence and the concept of thin slicing at the back of your mind!

This rising trend of African wear in the corporate offices has gone a long way towards making Ghanaians embrace and accept their culture by creating some sort of positive conformity where they feel left out if they don’t wear made in Ghana fabric on a Friday. The question now remains, should African prints be relegated to just Fridays or should be worn in any day of the week like it is done in Nigeria?

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