How to Dress With Flair in the Workplace

    Dress for success! It’s a phrase we’ve all heard, but does it still hold credence in workplaces that have become more casual?

    Absolutely; even more so.

    I’ve always worn ties. To me wearing a tie means business. Ties are accessories that help convey – at a glance – a brand of professionalism which aids me in an industry (entertainment) where personal and professional boundaries often get blurred. In addition to adding flair to my wardrobe, ties also serve as a reminder to not get too comfortable in my work environment (since wearing a tie can be an uncomfortable experience).

    Not wearing a tie doesn’t mean that you are any less of a professional; it simply means that you are not readily identified as one. Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, is rarely seen in a tie; neither is Russell Simmons, President of Rush Communications and founder of Def Jam recordings. They are both well-known and well-respected and thus; do not need the edge that wearing a tie or a suit gives them.

    They are notable exceptions.

    If you are in college, a recent graduate, newly indoctrinated into the workforce, or just want a visual makeover the following tips will help you add flair to your wardrobe and give you the edge you need to stand out and get ahead.

    COLORS: Most people don’t know what colors they look best in. If you are unsure, just take note of the colors you are wearing when you receive compliments. Chances are, those will be the colors that complement the natural hues of your skin tone and aura. Just because you like a color doesn’t mean that you should overdose on it. We all know that Prince loves purple but he seldom wears it. Women like the slenderizing effects of black and tend to favor it for that reason. Wearing all black may work for Elvira and Run D.M.C, but it doesn’t portray you in the best light. From a fashion standpoint, black is a neutralizing, non-color which makes it easy to coordinate with colors. When worn, you should add flair to it with energetic colors like orange, yellow, peach, or red. Studies reveal that colors affect people’s moods and perceptions. Here’s a partial sampling of colors and what they communicate.

    Black: Serious, to-the-point, simplicity, authority;

    Blue: Conservative, even tempered, reliable;

    Brown: Mature, reliable, responsible, down to earth;

    Grey: Practical, calm, willing to work hard, wisdom;

    Purple: Mystery, spirituality, unconventionality;

    Red: Passion, intensity, aggressiveness;

    Yellow: Friendly, imaginative, idealistic, creative, artistic;

    White: Purity, cleanliness, holiness, meticulousness.

    FIT & CUT: Not enough attention is paid to the proper fit and cut (amount of material used) of clothing for both men and women. When a good fit is achieved, it makes your clothes and your body look better. Urban clothing (Sean John) tends to be cut loser and runs larger than European clothing (Gianni Versace) which is cut tighter and runs smaller. Check and, if necessary, adjust your size so that neither appears to be several sizes larger or smaller than its supposed to be.

    Both men and women should check the clothes that they wear most frequently. General wear-and-tear will affect the fit of shirts/blouses (especially pullovers). Pants are also susceptible to fit modifications due to weight gain or loss.

    Relevant to the fit of your clothes is the epicenter of your power: your midsection (chest and stomach) which impacts your posture and your perceived strength. Pay attention to how your clothes rest upon your body in this area. An improper fit will make you look sloppy and diminish your presence. For those with expanded midsections, seek out designers that have shirts/blouses that are cut to de-emphasize your extra girth.

    MATCHING & COMPLEMENTING: Someone once told me that matching was out of style…as they stood there wearing red and green…red and green never go together…unless they are on a Mexican or Italian flag. The rule of thumb here is that dark and light colors complement each other because they help each other to become more visible. The more similar two colors are in tone, the less they complement each other – like green and red. Wear coordinates (tops and bottoms) that complement each other.

    When going for a uniformed look (wearing the same colors) check if they really do match. The color black has different shades which can be altered by its vibrancy. Make sure that black sport coat and black slacks you own are actually the same shade of black when you wear them together. That especially goes for white. Are your pants bone white and your blouse eggshell white? As subtle as the difference may be, it still constitutes a mismatch. Viewing items in bright or natural light before wearing them will help you to make an accurate pairing.

    PATTERNS: When choosing patterned coordinates, match them up with solid colors (contrary to the busy styles displayed in GQ and Vogue magazines). This causes less dizziness and makes your ensemble more appealing. If you have a wide or rotund frame, steer clear of horizontal lines; they make you look bigger. Also, beware of intricate and abstract designs; both create visual distortions that are unsettling and should be avoided – unless you like being confused for a computer game (acceptable in college, but makes you look juvenile in the workplace). Bold, decipherable patterns work best and are classier.

    BRINGING SEXY BACK…TASTEFULLY: Women have always grappled with sexuality issues in the workplace. Most of the time it’s men who are doing the grappling (or the groping), but there are ways to bring sexy back to the office tastefully.

    In a professional setting, the rule of thumb for women is to control the focus (of men). The less cleavage you show, the less you are viewed as a sex object. You won’t be able to stop men from looking at your chest, but you can influence how fixated they are on it.

    You can maximize your femininity and minimize your sexuality by wearing dresses, long skirts (legs are viewed as less risqué in the workplace), or form fitting (but not tight) slacks with flowing, sensuous blouses, or contemporary tops that highlight, but don’t emphasize, your feminine qualities.

    SHOES: Technically, shoes are considered accessories, but if you really want to add flair to your wardrobe, build your ensemble from the foundation up; just like a house. Start with a quality pair of shoes. Open toe shoes for women should never be worn without the requisite pedicure and toe nail beautification. Men should always keep their shoes polished and well maintained (i.e. in good condition). Worn-down and worn-out shoes detract from your attire.

    ACCESSORIES: Accessories (as stated above) are little things that make a big difference in your wardrobe. Watches, rings, necklaces, bracelets, and belts should be worn modestly; never excessively. Accessories also reveal your personality and true identity. They have the ability to adorn and enhance your attire when worn sparingly as accents. They also show that you pay attention to fine details and you are willing to put forth extra effort, and that’s what dressing with flair is all about.

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