Add a piece of jewelry
Need an icebreaker at a business event? Add a statement necklace or ring, suggests Lauren Rothman, fashion stylist and author of Style Bible: What to Wear to Work. “A piece of jewelry is often a piece that can create engagement,” she says. “People say, ‘I love your necklace,’ and suddenly you’re chatting with somebody.” Just avoid nighttime jewelry that’s distractingly bold, she warns. Don't miss these small but expensive-looking fashion upgrades.
Ditch the commuter sneakers
You can slip on comfy shoes for your commute, but make sure they look somewhat polished, says Dina Scherer, wardrobe stylist and owner of Modnitsa Styling. “You never know when you’ll run into somebody,” she says. “Their perception of you isn’t going to be switching back and forth. Keep yourself together at all times.” Swap out your dirty running shoes for fun fashion sneakers or a comfy pair of flats. Make your walking shoes last longer with these tricks.
Upgrade your cardigans
A slouchy or waist-length cardigan will keep you cozy, but pick a more structured garment to give yourself leadership presence. “The more structured piece you wear, the more in-control you look,” says Rothman. No need to stick with a basic blazer though, she says. Try a belted cardigan, a cropped blazer, or another stylish jacket.
Gauging whether office clothes are too tight, or if that’s just the style, can be tough. Not only do they look inappropriate, but tight clothes can cause health problems. Too-tight bottoms give you a visible panty line, and a top is overly snug if it shows your bellybutton or the back of your bra, says Rothman. Throw a jacket over tops that look good from the front but are too tight in the back. “Not only does it add a little executive presence to your work ensemble, but it can also camouflage back fat,” she says.
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Fix any imperfections immediately
Rips, stains, pills, missing buttons, broken zippers—don’t assume people won't notice these little flaws. Office clothes with imperfections send the message that you aren’t taking care of yourself, says Scherer. As soon as you notice a problem, re-sew the button or shave down any pilling to keep up your professionalism. “Don’t put it in a pile and let it get worse,” she says. Read more outfit mistakes that make you look messy.
Add some height
“Don’t banish heels,” says Rothman. “Just because you feel like you can’t wear a four-inch heel doesn’t mean you can’t wear a two-inch heel.” Avoid square toes, which can look dated, and try a pointy or almond-shaped toe instead. If you can't wear high heels comfortably, upgrade to a pointier-toed pair of flats. Round toes look more casual, while a pointier toe will create a visual vertical line that makes you look sleek and slim, says Scherer.
Simplify your look
“Textures and patterns are fun and approachable but can be more casual,” says Scherer. “If you’re wearing solids, you will project the image of more professionalism.” One exception: If you already have natural texture, such as curly hair and freckles, patterns can actually complement that and make your hair and skin look smoother, she says.
Go jeans shopping
Even in a casual office, stick with dark washes of jeans, which look dressier than light ones, says Rothman. You’ll also look more put-together if you invest in pre-washed premium denim that won’t shrink in the wash, says Scherer. “Jeans from a cheaper place might look good or the same on the hanger, but after you wear them a couple times, they’ll stretch and there’s not much you can do,” she says. Find out how to make budget jeans look expensive.
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Lengthen your hemline
In an office, a too-short skirt will get you noticed for all the wrong reasons. If your shapewear peeks out when you sit, or you reveal too much when you move to cross your legs, it’s time to add some length. “Anywhere around the knee is a base zone,” says Rothman. Experiment with different styles because knee-length isn't the most flattering cut for everyone, she says. Try a couple inches above the knee, or go for a midi skirt.
Find your new black
Swap out bright hues for dark power-color shades. Think beyond basic black, which can look a bit masculine, says Scherer. Soften things up with dark colors like dark purple, navy, and dark green. “They’re a little more balanced,” she says. “They’re not nearly as masculine, but also don’t have that frilly, feminine side to them.” Learn what your outfit color says about you.
Don’t ignore your coat
Sure, you pull your jacket off once you get to the office, but that doesn’t mean no one sees it. “You might have the most beautiful suit underneath, but if your coat is a giant puffy mess, it’s going to look kind of inappropriate and disconnected from what kind of message you want to project,” says Scherer. Swap out an oversized, baggy coat for a tailored wool coat or a long puffer jacket that’s fitted to your body. Don't miss these classic jackets you should have in your wardrobe.
Invest in a new bag
You’ll likely use your work bag almost every day, so consider spending a bit more than you would on other clothing items. “Realize that everyone sees that bag,” says Rothman. “It’s such an important style choice that you want to make sure it tends to match with everything you wear.” Pick something functional that will fit everything you need comfortably. Check out these classic bags for inspiration.
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Add a layer underneath
Look closely at your blouse’s sheerness before you head to the office. “Sheerness where we can see your undergarments is never going to be appropriate,” says Rothman. Wear a camisole underneath to make it suitable for work. Don't miss these layering tricks that keep you warm.
Look closely at quality
Garments with natural fibers, higher thread counts, or well-reinforced seams will last long and look more polished. “Stay away from acrylics or synthetics that are very clingy and attract a lot of lint and are staticky,” says Scherer. “They make you look fidgety and unprofessional.” Learn more about how to spot well-made clothing.