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Unless your job requires you to wear a conservative dark-colored suit and white shirt every day, you can create a versatile wardrobe that showcases your personal style. Attractive accessories complete basic pieces of clothing, so you don't have to buy leopard print slacks or neon-colored ties to make a fashion statement. If your boss allows you to wear business-casual clothes, then non-denim pants, button-down shirts, polo shirts, casual blouses and modest skirts are generally acceptable. Formal office settings usually require dress pants or knee-length skirts, and solid-color, button-down shirts or conservative-patterned blouses.
Opt for a wool pant or skirt suit with a coordinating jacket or blazer if you want to maintain a highly professional image. "Forbes" magazine recommends suits in colors and patterns, such as navy blue solid or windowpane, charcoal gray solid or pinstripe, light gray or tan, earth tones or plain black. If monochromatic suits are too conservative and boring for your taste, spruce up your look by pairing dress pants or a skirt with a different colored jacket. Men can wear tweed or flecked jackets; women have more choices and can wear red, white, burgundy, taupe, ivory, blue, pink, green, purple or yellow jackets and cardigans. According to the newspaper "USA Today," the basic rule is to dress at the same level or one level up from your client or business associate. As long as you don't dress down too much for your title and responsibilities, mixing and matching makes good fashion sense.
Energize your work wardrobe with tasteful accessories that reflect your style and personality. Slightly trendy neckties, designer belts with conservative metal buckles, oversized handbags, leather satchels, elegant scarves and stylish jewelry can turn a boring suit into an eye-catching outfit. Accessories also incorporate pattern into your wardrobe. Choose striped, checkered, geometric or plaid neckties, damask or floral scarves and beaded jewelry to increase the visual appeal of your work clothes. Women can also wear gray, black, brown or earth-tone tights during colder months.
Don't be afraid to add a little texture to your wardrobe. You're not going to want to wear a fur-trimmed blazer to work, but finely-textured fabrics such as silk, linen, angora, satin, lace, cashmere and knit provide contrast to wool and rayon basics. Once again, women generally have a little more latitude in this area. However, men can wear silk ties, attractive jacket hardware and combination-blend shirts to spiff up their wardrobes. Men and woman can also wear fashionable hats and overcoats, even if they have to remove them once they get settled at their desks.
Let's not forget how shoes can express your style. According to "Forbes," black lace-up shoes for men and black pumps for women are must-haves for the workplace. It recommends 2 1/4-inch heels with rounded toes for professional women's footwear -- not too sexy and comfortable enough to wear in a typical office environment. Men can also wear brown or tan lace-up shoes or semi-casual loafers when acceptable. Women have a wider range of options -- colorful flats, earth-tone pumps, slingbacks, dress boots and peek-toe shoes offer versatility and creativity. In some work environments, dressy, open-toed sandals are acceptable, but extremely high-heeled shoes are generally taboo. Both men and women should avoid tennis shoes, canvas shoes, flip-flops and casual sandals, unless their work duties call for them.
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As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.
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