Comfort vs. Fashion: What Should Women Wear to Work?

Tips for showing off your professional side in the office.

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Heather R. Huhman
When you go into a job interview, you’re focused on wearing your best outfit, whether it’s a tailored suit or a professional dress. But once you land a job (and start to get a little too comfortable in the office), you might find yourself slacking in the wardrobe department.

You probably have a fairly good idea of what’s appropriate for work and what isn’t. Unfortunately, fashion trends and comfort can blur that line, making finding that perfect work outfit more difficult.

So, how are you supposed to dress in the office? My rule of thumb is to always dress where you’re headed, not where you are or have been. Your appearance reflects your job aspirations, and people within your organization will only picture you in a higher position if you dress like it.

[See 11 Insider Tips from the HR Department.]

Here are some guidelines to live by when it comes to your professional wardrobe:

Observe co-workers for appropriate outfits. While it’s true that not everyone dresses how she should in the office, you can certainly model your workplace style off someone else’s you admire. Different corporate cultures call for different styles, so get to know your company’s informal dress code through observation.

Invest in classic, yet stylish, basics. A tailored suit, wrap dress, and leather bag never go out of style. Make sure these items are always ready by having them cleaned and pressed after wearing them.

Add color to your basics. Don’t wear a black suit with a plain white blouse. Instead, add in your fashion personality by wearing a color underneath. It will make you appear confident and stylish, yet still professional.

Wear makeup. Women who wear makeup earn more than those who don’t and are more likely to be promoted. You don’t have to go overboard—natural-looking foundation, eye shadow, and mascara might be all you need.

[See How to Get Rave Reviews from Your Boss.]

Tailor your pieces for your body type. When a piece of clothing fits right, it makes you look put together and confident. You won’t be pulling at it all day, trying to keep it in the right spot. Length matters too, so don’t wear pants that are too long or too short. Tailor your pieces to the shoes you’ll be wearing with them.

Accessorize. Don’t be afraid to wear jewelry or a nice watch with your professional outfit. Accessories add a polish to your outfit and are an easy way to spice up any outfit.

What’s your go-to outfit for a day at the office? How do you show off your creativity while still maintaining professionalism?

Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and employers. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010) and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.