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How to Dress for Success in the Office

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How to Dress for Success in the Office

By Michelle Yozzo Drake

As a (self-proclaimed) officer of the Fashion Police, I'm always on patrol for crimes against style. With a stack of Glamour and Vogue magazines under one arm and a Prada clutch under the other, I roam the streets in search of fashion victims - always vigilant and ALWAYS ready to protect (against culottes and exposed thongs) and serve (Gucci, Armani, and all the great fashion masters).

And I've found the biggest offenders are in the workplace! Offices large and small are rife with truly criminal style faux pas!

While it's true that for most of us, our workplace is not a fashion show, what you wear can have an impact on how you're perceived by co-workers, clients and the boss. If you're choosing unflattering colors, inappropriate styles, ill-fitting sizes and clothes that shouldn't make an appearance at the supermarket let alone the office, then you could be putting your career advancement in jeopardy.

But fear not, friends and fashion felons! With the help of style editor Ashley Baker of Glamour magazine, I'm going to give you insight into dressing professionally (and stylishly) at work so that you never skirt the fringes of fashion foul play again!

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Annie from Amityville, Long Island starts us off with this excellent question:

Dear Michelle,

My boss just started a "Casual Friday" policy at our insurance agency. I'm trying to get promoted and don't want to make any mistakes that would cost me a better position. How do I show that I'm a professional but still be comfortable on Fridays?

Because office dress codes seem to be becoming more and more casual, it's difficult to determine what a "Casual Friday" actually means. If I'm allowed to wear jeans during the rest of the week, does that mean I can whip out a Hawaiian shirt and short-shorts on Casual Friday? Or tool around the office in flip-flops and a muumuu? Or how about those sweatpants I love to be "casual" in on the weekends?

No, no, and please dear Lord, NO!

Here are a few tips, from Ashley and myself, to dress by:

Tip #1: Just because it's Casual Friday, that doesn't mean you should dress like you do on Saturday and Sunday. Leave the ultra casual stuff at home. Remember that when you have public interface with co-workers and clients, it's important to always look pulled-together, clean and professional no matter what day of the work week it is.

Tip #2: Take cues from what your boss is wearing and don't be afraid to be a bit of a copycat. If he or she is wearing blazers and pants on Fridays while everyone else is in jeans, it might be a good idea to stick with the pants anyway. You'll stand out from the crowd with your classic look.

Tip #3: Speaking of jeans, as a rule, leave them at home unless you have a pair of dark, well-cut jeans that look like pants. Jeans really don't belong in most workplaces. If you want to do denim, try a denim blazer paired with a more conservative skirt or pants.

Tip #4: Think in separates. If you normally wear more formal dresses or suits, try separates that can be mixed and matched and pulled together in a conservative but casual look.

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Tip #5: Avoid khaki pants. While there's nothing inherently wrong with khakis, they often look wrinkled and disheveled. Go for a pant that looks crisp and tailored, like a pair of boot-cut black pants with a little stretch in them. The Gap makes a great pair that will fit most body types.

Tip #6: No t-shirts, ESPECIALLY those trendy message t-shirts. Even under a nice blazer, they can be completely unprofessional. Do you really want to approach your boss and have a conversation with him or her while wearing a shirt that says "If Idiots Could Fly, This Place Would Be An Airport"?

Tip #7: If you're dressing casual, make sure your attitude is 100% professional. Convey your skills and your strengths all the time - no matter what you're wearing.


For more FREE tips on advancing your career and navigating the workplace, sign up for my FREE e-zine "Lipstick Leadership" at LipstickLeadership.com today! And check out the products I've developed to guide you toward the success you deserve!



"Spirit has fifty times the strength and staying-power of brawn and muscle. Mark Twain