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Guide for women to dress professionally in a business setting

Guide for women to dress professionally in a business setting

Professional dress makes a compelling statement about you. It is how you package your grooming and clothing together that sets you apart. Getting dressed is not about names or labels, it is knowing what to do and how to do it. What you wear during the day for business is different what you wear at night going out.

Business is not casual and your dress, appearance, and image should never be so provocative that it detracts from your ability to do business or not meet the expected level of dress.

Professional dress should complement your knowledge, skills and abilities, and showcase you as the professional you want others to see.

Clothing is never short, tight or revealing, nor does it show shapes and curves. Undergarments are not defined or show through. Fabrics are not transparent.

This article will serve as a guide of what to do and how to create women's professional dress.


Do update your suit, blazer, skirt, pant and shift dress

It all begins with fabric. Two choices of fabric to build a long-term successful women's professional wardrobe: Merino Wool and Triple Stretch Matted Micro-Fiber. Merino Wool is smooth and has a "smooth or wet" like feel, not dry coarse. It is a two-ply weave, natural stretch and woven in a range of super 100's to 150's weave for high performance wear and little wrinkling to the fabric.

Stretch twill microfiber has a matted finish and good body. It is woven of microfiber, nylon and lycra stretch in a twill weave. The fabric has excellent body, holds it shape, doesn't wrinkle and excellent for mix-n-match with other merino wool or stretch twill microfiber garments.

Navy and black are the core colors for building a professional business wardrobe. It is having garments worn as suits and the ability to mix-n-match. Navy and black suit jackets that will mix-n-match with taupe, grey or charcoal skirts, and pants made of merino wool or microfiber stretch twill. Grey and charcoal are excellent colors, but worn only as suits, not mix-n-match colors.

Best merino wool weaves for mix-n-match are gabardine, high twist and serge. Fabrics have good texture, and not only look great as suits, but also as blazers, skirts and pants, and blazers worn over a shift dress. Choose single-breasted, one, two, three or four button jacket style, in a short style the jacket length comes to the top of the hip bone or a longer style that covers the seat. Typical jacket lengths are 23" to 26" in length.

Do consider a non iron cotton blouse

Point or spread collar, high closure, no plunging neckline, shaped waist, 3/4 or long-sleeve, with a button, convertible or french cuff. Fabric is a 2-ply broadcloth or pinpoint weave, 80s or 100s weave; so the blouse is not transparent. All 8 seams are made with non iron tape so seams will not pucker. Non Iron is Non Iron, holds its shape all day long and looks crisp. For business, choose the following colors: white, blue, melon, pink or lavender.

Micro-Fiber is another fabric, that holds its shape, drapes and doesn't cling. Make sure fabric is densely woven and not transparent.

Do choose a comfortable shell

A densely woven triple stretch microfiber is an alternative to a blouse. Select a long or 3/4 sleeve, high v-neck long sleeve or a crew neck style. Buy for comfort and ones that do not define shapes, or curves, and so undergarment lines don’t show through. For business, choose the following colors: white, blue, pink, melon or lavender.

Do choose shoes that can be rotated throughout the week

Choose a pump close toe with 1" to 1 1/2" heel, glove, aniline or calf-skin leather. Combination soles for comfort and longevity are best. Pick shoes with a padded insole for comfort as well. Have two to three pair of black shoes and rotate. Shoes will last longer this way. When not wearing, store in cedar shoe trees. This will keep shoes blocked and help leather lining from rotting by absorbing foot moisture. Black, navy, charcoal and burgundy are best colors for business and professional dress.

Do consider your accessories, belt, and purse

Purse should be same color and leather as your shoes. Pick a small clutch handbag for professional dress that is classic styled and only carry what you need. Black, navy, and burgundy are excellent purse colors for business.

Belts are optional. If worn, keep color and leather the same as the purse and shoes. Your belt should be classic in design and compliment your outfit. The buckle should be conservative and match your jewelry. Wear gold with gold, silver with silver, etc. If you have jewelry that is a combination of silver and gold, chose the same for the belt buckle. Black, navy and burgundy are excellent colors for professional dress.

Your folio can be microfiber or leather, should be classic style, and only hold the papers you need for business. Color can be black, burgundy, or brown. It doesn't need to match shoes, belt or purse. This you carry, not wear.

For business hosiery, always wear neutral hose with a skirt or pant. Socks are optional with a pair of pants, but keep the color similar to your pants.

Accessories should polish off your professional image, not become the focal point. Limit to a few items. These should be classic and conservative. Glasses, if worn, should be a color frame, such as tortoise shell or black. Style should work well with your hairstyle and shape of face. Earrings should be small and conservative. Pick out one item to wear around your neck, such as a necklace, strand of pearls, or oblong scarf (scarf is optional). No more than one ring per hand. Choose a conservative classic style watch with a leather band, white or gold face, round or rectangular, with a sweep hand. Finish accessories with a light, not heavy bracelet or lapel pin. Anymore is just too much.


Do not pick the wrong fabric

Do not pick linen, it is a loose porous weave, does not hold shape, and looks wrinkled all the time. It detracts from professional dress and image, and is generally disheveled in appearance.

Stay away from cotton suit fabrics that do not drape, look stiff, and wrinkle. Lightweight micro-fibers tend to be sheer, transparent and do not hold shape, and can have a plastic appearance, which tends to wrinkle easy.

Do not wear light or pastel colors for professional dress. Colors wash out, tend to make wearer look anemic and sallow. Light and pastel colors do nothing for your professional image.

Do not wear transparent fabrics

Stay away from sheer transparent micro-fiber and linen fabrics. These fabrics can be transparent and won’t hold their shape as well as other fabrics. Stay away from neon bright colors - these do not work for business. The same for pastels.

Do not wear big heels

No Stilettos or high heels that are more than 2 1/2 " inches high. No open toe shoes or strappy sandals. For business, stay away from neon and pastel color shoes as well. No vinyl, fabric or silk shoes; they do not work with professional dress.

Do not wear an overpowering purse

Your purse should not be overly large. You are not carrying your office with you. It should be big enough just to hold the things you need. No brights or pastel colors. No vinyl, silk or fabric purses.

Do not go bare legged

Never go bare legged when dressing professional. Do not wear white, navy, black or speckled hosiery. you do not want to cause a distraction below the skirt hemline. Always wear hosiery that are neutral in color, without holes, and dark enough to cover your legs well.

Jumping cartoon

Creating a women's professional wardrobe that is consistent and makes a powerful compelling statement begins with picking the right fabrics that hold their shape and appearance, and will mix-n-match with other items in the wardrobe. Garments are classic styled and well made and fit well.

Clothing should never be tight, short, revealing or provocative, and should enhance your image defining you to be the professional you are. Clothing should never be a barrier to your image.

More expert advice about Personal Fashion

Photo Credits: © spotmatikphoto -; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Dick LernerClothier

Third Generation Clothier of local family business started by Grandfather - Graduated from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, BS in Business Administration – May 1973; Certified Custom Clothier from Haas Tailoring – July 1989; Post Certificat...

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