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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

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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