The Rules of Workplace Style
Fashion Tips for Men and Women
By Robert DiGiacomo, for Yahoo! HotJobs
The power suits for men and women may no longer set the style standard in today's business-casual workplace, but how you dress for the office still matters.
"People who dress better are typically treated better at work," says David McKnight, a New York City-based image consultant. "They are usually given more responsibility and are shown much more respect."
Here are tips on what to wear -- and what not to wear -- so you can make the best impression on your boss, colleagues and clients.
The Big No-Nos
Business casual isn't a fashion free-for-all, says Susan Bixler, president and founder of the Bixler Consulting Group.
The Atlanta-based consultant has created guidelines for business-casual dress for those just starting out, workers at mid-career and those eyeing the executive suite.
The "baseline" look starts with three no-nos -- no flip-flops, no jeans and no visible tattoos -- and calls for tailored trousers and long-sleeve shirts or tops for men and women.
The "midstream" look is similar but with an emphasis on higher-quality fabrics. The executive version ups the sartorial ante by recommending jackets for men and trouser-style suits for women.
"Any time you want to add authority, put on the jacket," says Bixler, the author of seven books, including The New Professional Image: From Business Casual to the Ultimate Power Look.
All Suited Up
If you're unsure about the dress code -- or lack thereof -- for a prospective employer, ask in advance. But McKnight believes you really can't go wrong by donning a jacket or wearing a suit.
"A suit is a nonverbal way of communicating to the employer that you really want the position and that you are taking the interview extremely seriously," he says.
Bixler advises women to avoid too much of a good thing, whether it's clothes that are too tight or too much makeup, jewelry or fragrance.
Men often make the mistake of showing up in casual clothing more appropriate for poker night with the guys than the office, or showing up at work unshaven or with dirty, unpolished shoes.
"There's an expectation [for both sexes] to look professional," Bixler says. "Women have more opportunity to make mistakes because there are more options for women. For men, it's more straightforward."
Too Much Skin
Edgy looks, especially those involving the baring of cleavage, skin or tattoos, rarely cut it at the office, unless you happen to work in a trend-conscious field like advertising or fashion.
"When you're not sure whether something is appropriate for work, then there's a 98 percent chance that it's not," McKnight says.
The Whole Look
Choosing the right clothing is just one component of your professional look, which includes good grooming and hygiene, as well as being well-rested and mentally ready to face the day.
"There are so many things we don't have control over, but what we can control is the image of professionalism we show to the world," Bixler says.
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