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What is Modern Business Attire for Women?

When women first entered the workplace, versions of men’s suits bloomed into boutiques and department stores. Those days of scarf clips and shoulder pads are gone. Today’s changing business environment is more regional and nuanced. How you dress reflects who you are, where you work, and what those around you can expect. You may have to dress for clients, or simply to speak volumes to colleagues. Are you the artsy girl in the office or the aspiring executive whose clothing is down to business? There are also those backup outfits you have to have. Your San Francisco open-office chock-full of snacks may loves your fresh capri-and-colorful-cardigan attire. But, business trips won’t let that fly. Traveling for work may entail more traditional, conservative attire like women’s suits and neutral colors. Business hubs like Los Angeles allow for a more casual look. New York is somewhere in between. So, how do you determine the proper business attire for women where you work? Business attire for womenBe Detail Oriented in Your Work and Style

Your first clue in how to dress for your office? Take some pointers by hanging out in the prospective business district you are targeting. Read the mission statement. Look at the people in the companies, positions, or teams that you are aiming for and take note! Dress for the stated corporate culture and the part you want. 

Next, take a few simple, global pointers. Here are some basic tips for women’s business clothing—interviews to every day. 

Clean and In Control

Whatever shoes you fill, people look to you to be good a what you do. Whatever your budget, take a few moments to show you care before you set a foot out the door. Communicate your professionalism by taking care of yourself. The little details communicate that you have good time management and understand presentation. You’ll be more likely to get noticed and be trusted with important people. 

Business attire for womenLook Complete Head to Toe
Business Casual or Traditional, You Look Together

  • Avoid wet, unkempt, or greasy hair. 
  • Make sure your nails are manicured and clean—including your toes if they show. 
  • Arrive wrinkle free and well-kempt. 
  • Keep your makeup professional and neat, but not high maintenance. 

A polished look screams professionalism.

In most cases, you can scrap the suit

Even in the most traditional U.S. businesses, having a suit for every day is unnecessary. You may choose to have one or two for high level business meetings or trips. However, the bulk of your business days should feature modest business casual. 

Business Attire for Women Goes Casual, But It’s No Day at the Beach

Business attire for womenMake Deadlines and Showcase Your Professionalism

Whatever your work culture, looking professional means highlighting your business assets and not your body assets. Wear flattering clothes judiciously. Don’t stir gossip or aim to turn heads by donning you cocktail gear or beach-baring clothing. Here are some basic work place no-no’s: 

  • No shorts. Just no.
  • No flip flops, roman sandals, or little toes hanging out.
  • Avoid crop tops and low-cut blouses.
  • Don’t showcase your nicest undergarments. No transparent material or cutaways. 
  • Anything that shows your bra-lines or all the contours of your tummy is too sheer or fitted.
  • Keep skirts modest, avoiding skin-tight materials and mini’s. You should be able to bend over and ascend stairs comfortably.
  • Wear heels you can walk in, not tip toe around all day.
  • No ripped jeans, yoga pants, or jeggings—even in casual workplaces.

If your grandmother would raise an eyebrow or tug down on your skirt, don’t wear it.

Proper Fits are Fitting for Work Wear

  • Jackets should fit so that you can comfortably have a full range of arm motion.
  • When you bend your elbows, your jacket sleeve should not rise past the bone on your wrist
  • Blouses should be comfortable without stretches in between the button. Windows are for buildings, not buttons. 
  • Wear supportive undergarments. If your undergarments show, your clothing is too tight.
  • No bottoms that fit too tightly. 
  • Check that your cleavage does not show when you bend over. 
  • Clothing should be comfortable, not restrictive.
  • Avoid leggings. Fitted pants should be business-oriented and worn under a long button-down, tunic shirt, or sweater.
  • For form-fitting or sleeveless layers, cover up with a cardigan, shrug or sweater. This also applies for dresses and going from the office hours to happy-hour.

Business attire for womenKeep Your Day Organized from Commute to After-work Social Gatherings
Organizer and Cross Body Bags Are Like a Personal Assistant

What the New Working Woman Wears

  • Color that expresses your beautiful boldness
    Color is totally okay in the workplace, but it can be costly and show wardrobe redundancy. Use accessories to upscale and personalize your business staples. That goes-with-everything blazer can be transformed with a good brooch, signature statement bracelet or necklace, or bold blouse beneath it. Literally, change any outfit in a jiffy—even if you keep your favorite business slacks to a minimum. 
  • Slacks and skirts that are structured
    A little structure goes a long way to fight the frumpies. You can wear more fitted clothing if the material has a little more structure. Look for a flattering boot cut that goes great with heels or boots for all-weather wear.
  • Coordinate don’t commit
    Choosing a few blazers or signature cardigans instead of matching suits is a great way to keep your wardrobe growing. Choose elements that coordinate with one another, especially for the costlier pieces. 
  • Shoes that shine
    A few pairs of versatile pumps, mules, or booties that can keep you on your feet all day is key. Try something that dresses up your everyday without causing pain, like Brighton’s embellished shoes made of quality leather and statement elements.
    Pro-tip for business wear? Coordinate your shoes with your handbag.
  • Keeping your Bags Beautiful and Boss
    Look professional by keeping a bag that consolidates your business day into one place. If you carry around a lot of things, choose a roomy tote or satchel. A cross-body bag with plenty of room is perfect for your commute. If you are a gym bunny, carry your day bag in your bigger sporty duffel or backpack to easily remove before you enter the office. 
  • Accessories for days
    You can absolutely accessorize. Balance any bolder pieces with more conservative choices in other pieces and makeup. If you are into big rings, choose conservative necklaces. When you add your jewelry, lipstick, and eye shadow think about removing one bolder choice. Big jewelry, choose nude lips and a French or buff manicure. 
  • Denim dressy
    More and more workplaces, especially in places like San Francisco, are finding denim acceptable as programmers and graphic designers diversify the work environment. However, if you wear denim, dress it up with powerful pumps, leather mules, and cute blouses instead of tees. Think of them as denim slacks. Spruce up a pair of jeans with a stylish belt and blazer. Be sure to evaluate your workplace before doing denim. It’s always better to be a little better dressed than under-dressed.

Business attire for womenHandle Business Like a Pro with a Designer Handbag

The general rule of advice is to keep yourself as tidy and purposeful looking as possible in any look. How you represent yourself represents the company. Keep your hair, clothing, and overall presentation neat and in keeping with your own mission statement—as well as the company’s. 

Meeting Style – What to Wear for a Business Meeting

When representing a business, you want to be friendlier than you are intimidating. Don’t wear off-putting clothing that screams you are trying to overpower a client. For example, don’t wear a power suit to a casual business lunch. You want your company to be comfortable. Wear clothing that doesn’t embarrass or outshine them. Allow what you say to speak louder than what you wear. 

Traditional Business Attire

Traditional business attire is a safe bet for meetings, small businesses, trade shows, conferences, and conservative places. This includes:

  • Neutral tones including grey, brown, beige, navy, black, white, and ivory in season. 
  • Structured jackets and long-sleeved blouses. Casual or conservative, all jackets should be able to button all the way.
  • Conservative materials and patterns are safe. Avoid bright patterns, shiny material, sheer fabrics, and loud colors. Avoid rayon and polyester blends, sticking to more structured wool and creased slacks.
  • Pants should crease and be wrinkle free. The hem should cover the ankle without puddling.
  • Minimal jewelry
  • Tailored dresses, but not cocktail dresses or short or low-cut dresses
  • Skirts no shorter than two inches above the knee. Any slit should be in the back and very small. All skirts should allow comfortable movement. Stockings should be worn.
  • Conservative pumps or flats that coordinate with your handbag. Pumps are preferable, but nothing too high or open toed. 

Business attire for womenBe Confident and At Your Best
Keep a Pen and Professional Materials Organized in Your Bag

Dressing for an Interview

Wearing the proper business attire for women at a company can be tricky with so many options available. A few tips: 

  • Read the mission statement of the company and look through the website. Choose an outfit that screams, “I am your demographic!” Companies that have casual verbiage are going to look for hip, casual trendsetters and not suit-clad candidates. Companies that are fashion-forward may be more impressed by your high-ticket look. Conservative B2B or traditional industries might be impressed by your business conservative look and power heels. 
  • Look at company photos from events if they have social media or employment pages. They are telling you who they are. Fit the team you’re aiming to belong to—with maybe a bit of a step up. 
  • Dress for the part you want. If you are going for a step up, step up your wardrobe choice. If you are going for an executive sales role, you want to look like an executive. If you are looking to become a UX designer, you can be a little more artistic in your choices. 
  • Carry yourself with confidence. The most important thing you wear is your smile and confidence. Come prepared with printed-out resumes in a professional case or folder. If you are currently employed, bring your business cards for the beginning of the conversation. If you have a portfolio, have it prepared and present it at the start. 
  • Body language that speaks volumes is a definite win. Practice your posture. Stand and offer a handshake with all interviewers and greeters. Leave a positive impression with everyone, being polite, cheerful, and making eye contact. 
  • Consider the space you share with others. Don’t wear overpowering perfume or lotions. Try and be mindful of messes from tea, coffee, or other hosted treats. Show that you care about the comfort of colleagues. 

Business attire for womenThe Brett Work It Tote is Perfect for Everything You Need
Interviews to Everyday

Invited to a Business Event and Unsure What to Wear? 

If you are unsure what to wear for a business event, ask the coordinator or assistant who arranged the meeting. It is their job to know their employer and the venue. 

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