Style, like people, inevitably evolves. With changing fashion trends, colors, styles, and even the definition of “Business Casual” varying, keeping up with a professional look, amidst all that noise, can lead to making some bad style mistakes. While at the same time, not evolving with the times can also lead to some bad style decisions as well. There is a fine line between fashion and self-expression versus professionalism at the office. As a Certified Image Consultant and personal stylist for professionals, I believe that self-expression in your look is important; while at the same time there is a base level of style acknowledgement that should be maintained. Professionally speaking, it’s most important to stay classic, tailored and put together. Style isn’t about the fashion (not in my world anyway). Style is about how you carry yourself and how you exude that energy. Don’t feel great in your clothes? That shows! But it’s important to get down to the basics when it comes to style. Master the basics first and that is when you can start adding in the self-expression and multiple pops of personality into your look. Style has changed significantly over the past 20 years and today, more so than ever, it’s important to show your knowledge of contemporary style, while not sacrificing your professionalism, your status quo and your office guidelines. Professional style is all about fit, details, hints of luxury and a pops of personality. Here we go: Get Fit. This is probably the biggest revolution in style for men and women. Fit. It’s the number one thing professionals should acknowledge when it comes to their current wardrobe. For so many professionals you only purchase a suit, so often so if you haven’t updated your suits in the past 3-5 years (or even longer! … 20 years? Yes. I have had guilty clients!), I would take a good look at them right now. Here are some key factors that will outdate your suits indicating that it’s time to update them to a more modern fit. Pleated front pants. Shoulder pads that hover past your shoulder points and shirt sleeves that have more than an inch of fabric that you can pinch in the under arm. (I call this the flying squirrel sleeve and I will let you use your imagination why.) Modern fit is slim, not tight, but slim. The slimmer and more trim your wardrobe fit, the slimmer you will look. It will also give you the appearance of looking taller. Update your classics. Remember classic pieces are your best friends. But as the style revolution continues on, it’s not just about little black shift dress for women, the khakis and blue shirt for men, or the black or grey suit for either. There are new updated classics that will look more contemporary in your professional look as well as give it style. For women: Update your black pump to a nude (flesh tone) pump. This will elongate your legs. For men update the black dress shoe to a medium-dark brown pair. This goes much better with navy suits, grey suits and yes, even black. (Go for a brown belt as well!) Also for women, the tailored blazer is a must but avoid being too boring with black or grey. Try a deep red, or eggplant for a fresh feel. Men, let’s try some new shirt colors other than blue. Try a gray and white gingham or olive and white stripe. A simple switch out of the “obvious” choice can be the difference from old to fresh and new in an instant.
It’s all in the timing. Wear a watch. It’s that simple. Nothing says prestige and professional like a beautiful watch. This goes again for both men and women. Watches, in general, are considered luxury items so it will instantly elevate your look just by sporting one, especially because most people have stopped wearing watches in this digital phone age. For men look for something with a larger face! Go big or go home, that’s what I always say. For women, consider it a special jewelry piece and invest in something that matches your typical bangle and bracelet regimen.
Crisp and clean. A crisp white shirt goes a long way. It can be styled in every way possible, paired with every color, and worn on most occasions. Both men and women should have at least two to pull from inside their wardrobe. And going back to point one: Fit, fit, fit. Having the proper fit will be the difference between looking tired and weathered and looking professional updated. For women, your white button down should have darts and fitted tailoring already built in. Wear it tucked into a pencil skirt toped with a belt or with your favorite suit, topped with a printed scarf. For men think outside of the suit. The white crisp shirt is just perfect for any suit color, but it also looks great in a business casual setting with a pair of grey or navy slacks and a pull over sweater. Pair with dark denim as well for an updated casual perfect for “casual friday”. Remember “casual” still means Professional!
Mind your shoe. Your shoe choice is just as important as your updated suit fit. This goes for both men and women. If you are wearing dated, tired, worn, torn, or scuffed shoes, they will instantly lessen the value of your overall look which in turns can send the message that you are not as “put together” as a professional. We all know first impressions are everything and therefore if your shoes are not well taken care of, it will reflect poorly on you. An instant quick fix is to take old shoes to a cobbler and have them shined, re-soled and given lots of love. Or… you can just invest in some new shoes for your look. A fresh new shoe not only will look great, but that newness is just enough to make you feel great as well. And when you feel great, you look great and that kind of style is priceless.