Professional business attire is all about conveying competence and credibility, while allowing for a hint of your own signature style. There are different ‘rules’ or requirements, of course, for different occupations; what is suitable for one is over-dressed for another and so on. Before you go and splash out on some very expensive business suits, first get to grips with your work situation’s cultural norm. There is a dress code in every work environment so always stay inside those limits to avoid losing credibility. In other words, be very aware that there is a big difference between weekend and workweek clothes and during your workweek practicality is of the utmost importance!
Good tailoring is key to a professional look and very much worth the expense. Classic tailored clothes look good, flatter the body, last a long time and survive through fashion fluctuations, so be prepared to put in the work and money to find them. While the trouser suit has always been top of the list when it comes to a professional look, this year the trouser suit has moved into the social scene too…but in strong, vibrant colours. Investing in one means that you need to take a lot of things into account – it has to fit everywhere; the sleeves need to end at your wrist, not below; the jacket should fit snugly at the edge of your shoulders, never hanging out over them. The length of the trouser is completely up to the individual, some like it longer to always wear with heels, others prefer it to skim the ankle for ankle boots, so choose your favourite. When it comes to closing your suit jacket, buttoned up it should not leave a whole lot of room – extra material looks floppy and dishevelled. The bottom line is that a successful, professional women needs to look exactly the part – successful and professional. No distracting cleavage, no dresses or skirts that are too short and absolutely no underwear on show through sheer blouses or tops. It sounds like I’m stating the obvious but sometimes that is exactly what is required.
Stylish yet comfortable footwear is essential to a professional woman’s wardrobe, as the last thing any busy woman needs is sore feet! If you do prefer a heel, then be prepared to pay a little more for extra comfort – once you put them on you won’t need to time how long your feet will last in them. I must admit that a heel always looks better; it gives a confidence boost and makes you more aware of your posture – in other words, you straighten up. Women always tend to look at each other’s shoes, so scuffed toes and worn-down heels are a big no-no. Take care of your shoes, they will thank you for it and last much longer. I always keep them in their original shoebox and put the inserts back in when I’m not wearing them, it really does make such a difference and I thoroughly recommend it.
A quality leather or designer handbag can, very definitely, take centrestage in any professional look. I suggest one that is large enough to fit a letter-sized document. Choose a bag in a neutral colour – black or caramel or tan will work with everything and won’t show stains easily. Invest in only the best and watch the sales so that you get extra ‘bang for your buck’. Gone are the days when cheap and cheerful would suffice here.
Subtlety is key when it comes to jewellery. A single-strand necklace or a delicate pearl is formal but sweet, and earrings should not be distracting. That said it really does depend on the business that you are in, not every professional woman needs to wear a business suit on a daily basis. A boutique owner, for example, needs to look very stylish and can wear any colour, with a higher heel and more dramatic jewellery.
Smart casual is another word for ‘business casual attire’ and is very different from casual wear in a non-work setting. Quality separates are the foundation blocks for this look; buy classic basic pieces and build on them with fashionable bits thrown in.
It goes without saying that the perfect coat will top off any look and the ideal one needs to tick a lot of boxes; it needs to look amazing, keep you warm, survive the car and not wrinkle and take a good drowning from the rain too! A classic wool coat with a top quality umbrella always works best in Winter, macs are great in the Spring (when temperatures start to rise, not fall, as is now the case). The colour is completely up to you but bearing in mind that dry cleaning is a necessity, choose your colour wisely if you have small kids or dogs that jump up – the darker shades win in this case. Mink, grey, or black are bestsellers and it’s easy to see why.
Always make time for your hair, as a bad hair day can make even the most expensive outfit look scrappy. Perhaps this should have been top of my list? There are a variety of products on the market now to help us cheat with re-growth if we can’t fit in getting our roots done when required and there will always be the option to tie up long hair into a professional bun if you didn’t get the time to wash and style it. This is a good time of the year to ‘feed’ your hair and the best way is through a good multi-vitamin so that it is healthy from root to tip. Stress always shows on hair and nails first, so if you are as busy as a bee then your body needs some extra goodies to keep running smoothly. Good healthy food, lots of fresh air, time with friends, lots of tears (bottling it up has proven to be bad for your health so let it out), lots of laughter (the best kind is when you can laugh at yourself, which I do constantly) and be grateful for everything you have!