What Does Professional Dress Really Mean at Work?

Make sure you are dressed to make a good first impression on anyone and everyone you interact with every day of the week, and especially on ‘Casual Friday’.  You can still look and feel professional while taking advantage of the relaxed environment.  Dressing appropriately shows respect:  Respect for yourself and respect for others.

If you interact daily with prospects, clients and business partners – a higher standard of professional dress will be important.  If you work from home – or have zero interaction with others, you can get away with shorts or yoga pants. Otherwise – dress the part.  Dress for the position you ‘want’, not the position you ‘have’.

A good rule of thumb to follow is that conservative, versus trendy, clothing is both professional and functional.

What Does Professional Dress Really Mean at Work?

Ladies – It’s been said, the more skin you show – the less professional you appear. Make a smart business decision and choose dresses or skirts that are no shorter than 2 inches above the knee. The current trend of the micro-mini is not suitable or acceptable for professional dress, ever.  No strapless or ‘spaghetti’ strap tops in the office and shoulders should always be covered with no cleavage ‘peeping’ out.  You want your male colleagues and clients to remember you for your brains and input, not your chest and outfit.

Gentlemen – when not wearing a suit, khaki pants or slacks are always a great choice.  When wearing a suit coat, always button the jacket when standing for a professional look.  Never button the bottom button on your suit coat – it throws the lines of your jacket off and you appear disheveled.  When you are seated, unbutton the jacket to relax the tension of your jacket.

Shoes and Feet – Both men and women should keep shoes clean and polished. When wearing pants, choose socks that blend with your pants, think of the socks as an extension of the pant leg. Ladies should choose comfortable dress shoes, nothing too high.  You should be able to comfortably walk and stand in your shoe of choice all day long.  And NO flip-flops in the office, EVER – unless you’re a lifeguard.

Fingernails – This applies to both the ladies AND the gentlemen.  Keep your fingernails looking clean and trimmed.  Ladies, steer clear of trendy nail polish, keep your polish safe and basic. And keep the bottle in your purse or brief case for an emergency touch up in case you break or chip a nail on the way to an important meeting.

When it comes to Professional Dress, it’s the little details that show your clients and colleagues that you care, and that you are respectful.

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CareySue Vega

Carey Sue Vega is a business and youth etiquette expert. For ten years, she honed her skills with an international audience as Cruise Director for the Norwegian Cruise Line. Vega has been featured in numerous radio and television shows and magazine articles, sharing her etiquette expertise.  She’s also social savvy with social media. Connect with CareySue.


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