Friday, December 14, 2012

Get It Right Friday: Proper Attire for Business Success

Welcome to my first installment of Get it Right Friday.  I've often been asked to mentor younger women & help direct them in the path of success in their teenage years, through college and even in their professional lives.  I've had successful women to pour into me and set me on the right path and I've been charged with reaching back and helping others & I love doing so.  My approach is very straight up - no chaser.  A true friend tells you what you NEED to know, not what you want to hear.  But remember, it's always in love.  <3
So ladies, let's GET IT RIGHT!  To your success!!

After 15 years in Corporate America, I've seen the shift away from business professional dress to business casual dress.  Depending on the industry in which you work, the styling options can run a wide variety of choices.  Below I will share some do's and don't for most office jobs.  Take these as suggestions, not absolutes.  Some industries could be more conservative or casual than what you see pictured below.

Business Professional  & Business Casual Do's

Casual Dress


  • Do wear skirts that are knee length (no more than 1inch above the knee)
  • Be fashionable but accessorize simply stated
  • The more conservative the industry (banking, law, etc) the more conservative the clothing
  • In your average office setting, separates are appropriate (blouses, or a shell with a cami with skirts or slacks)
  • Layered looks (with a blazer or cardigan cinched with a belt to add a pop of color) are great for offices where temperatures can be unpredicatable
  • Shoes should be nice but professional: flats, dressy sandals, & lower to mid-height heels.  Stray away from thong sandals and flip flops.
  • Jeans are acceptable for a very casual work environment or dress down Friday

Work Attire DON'TS

As a general rule of thumb, remember the above!  If you would wear it to the club or slumming around town to run errands or, if you wouldn't want your dream guy to catch you dead in it, DON'T WEAR IT TO WORK!

I'm a visual person so let's show it in pictures.

 As a general rule, leggings worn as pants, jeggings or extremely tight fitting clothing should not be worn in the office even on casual days. 

Here we have demonstrated several offenses:  the dress that's greater than an inch above the knee
the sweater worn as a dress,
and to the far right, the leggings worn as pants and overstated accessories.  These would pass for running around town or even hanging out with friends, but not for the office. 

Ladies, we all want people to know that we got the promotion because of what's in our heads, not what sits below it.  I know it's hard when you're a member of the "bosomly blessed" club and I am a card carrying member too.  However, let's hide the cleavage in the office.  A well placed cami  fits the bill perfectly here.

 Anything that screams "I came straight to the office from da club." should be avoided at all cost. That includes anything with rouching,  material that has a shiny sheen to it, has rhinestones or sequins, cut out shapes in the back or chest area, one shoulder tops, high/low hemline dresses, spaghetti strapped, strapless, and the like.  If it would be perfect for First Friday out with the girls, it's wrong for the office.

While we're discussing club wear that can't do double duty as work wear, let's talk about shoes.  I am quite the shoe lover and appreciate a shoe that can be worn in multiple situations however, shoes that might make someone think you frequent a pole, should be left at home.  Please see exhibit A & B:  the clear heel, and the heel over 6 inches.  The red shoe is appropriately name the dagger.  Don't try it....just leave them at home for ahem, another occasion.

Foundational Garments

Now let's talk about one of my favorite topics, proper foundation.  This is a fashion tip that not only applies to the office but in life in general.  Ladies, can we be honest here for just one moment since it's just us girls?  Underneath our clothes we don't all look like Halle Berry!  We're not all toned thighs and Coca-Cola bottles at the waist.  But that's ok!!!  It's what makes us unique and thank goodness there are foundational garments that can give us the illusion of sleekness until we get there!  And we are gonna get there right?  Can I get an amen?  Amen!  Ok then.  Let me love.

If your chest looks like the before picture in any of your shirts, please raise your hand.  It's ok, I've been there.  My best friend told me, Nita if you get properly fitted you'll actually look smaller in your tops.  And guess what, she was right.  I won't tell you my bra size but I already told you that I'm in the bosomly blessed club.  It makes a huge difference.  Go to a higher end department store, (i.e. Nordstroms) or a intimates store that specializes in larger sizes & get properly fitted.  They even have cute colors now.  You'll thank me later!

First of all, friends don't let friends go around with their underwear showing.  And ladies, DON'T TELL ME that you don't feel that cool breeze on your backside.  If you are going to wear low rise pants or jeans PLEASE for the love of us all, wear low rise underwear!  Yes, they make them.  I've purchased them.  If you have the body situation that I have which is a round derriere and a smaller waistline which leads to "the gap", buy a belt.  I have to wear one, there is no other option or everyone would know what type of "secrets" I'm wearing that day.  So you should wear one too.  And familiarize yourself with the different types of underwear; boy shorts,  full brief, bikini, and thong.  They all display differently under various skirts and pants.  I have a revolutionary suggestion:  check your rearside in the mirror before leaving the house for the day.  If you see any of the following offenses, change your undies:  panty line print in your pants or skirt, edge of underwear showing above your pants or skirt, bunching or biting (ie. undies btw your cheeks), or the design printed on your undies showing through your clothes.  Gasp!  A new concept I know, but try it out!  The mirror, if you listen to it, will bring you truth that others may not.

And lastly, if you have "situations", a muffin top, a little extra cellulite on the thighs, love handles, etc a Spanx is your best friend.  It smooths & lifts to provide a more sleek appearance to your look.  I recently had to don one for a wedding I went to.  There is no shame in wearing one.  Hey if Oprah wears one, so should we if we need to.

I hope this post was helpful to those of you who may be new graduates from college, been away from the workforce for a while, or just needed a few tips on how to look your best in the office. Unfortunately, I've seen all of these violations at my office.  Remember that how you dress often reflects what you think about yourself and people associate how you look with your level of concern about your work.  The perception will be if you don't take the time to put the best you forward, how could you possibly express a high level of concern about your work? One of the best pieces of advice that I ever received regarding office attire was when I was an administrative assistant.  I was told, always dress for your next position, not the one you currently hold.  Not only does it create the positive perception that you are promotable, but it also puts you in the proper mindset to always be preparing for your next move.

Do you have any work fashion NO - NO's that you've seen around your office? How important do you feel attire is in your work environment?

NaturallyNita is a women's lifestyle blog.  After chronicling her natural hair journey 2.5 years ago, Nita realized that there were many other life  journey's where she could share her lesson's learned with others.  This blog focuses not only on natural hair but also health/fitness, business, finances, spiritual & personal growth.

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