Formal Business Attire

Q&A: Your Work Wardrobe Questions Answered (Part 1)

First, my apologies for posting a day late! There is so much great content to get on here and not enough hours in the day to get it all up!

Instead of our weekly “Just One Thing” post, this week we’ve got answers to some reader questions that have been received lately. Summer is the season of summer internships, first jobs and new careers, so it seems only fitting that we spend some time answering your reader questions about what to wear to work. We got so many questions that we’re going to break this up into two posts!

Below are the first four questions Your Chic is Showing’s readers have asked about what stylish women should wear to work. We will follow-up with four more reader questions next week!

We hope you find our tips helpful!

Your Chic is Showing,

1. Is it OK to wear bare legs to the office when it’s hot outside?

The right to bare legs!
It’s OK to have a bare leg at the office! Hey, it’s 1000 degrees outside this summer!

First of all, when you are starting at a new company (or not) pay close attention to what other women are wearing. This will be your first clue as to what is or is not appropriate for the environment you work in. For example, at my firm, I would NEVER wear leggings to the office, no matter how dressy. But, at our London counterpart it’s perfectly acceptable.

With that being said, generally speaking, in 2012 it is OK to head to the office with bare legs. First of all, it is 1000 degrees outside. And, second of all, unless your office is a very, very conservative business formal environment (and some places still are) everyone else is probably going bare-legged as well. If you’re going to show your legs make sure that you’re well-groomed and not showing too much leg.

2. What is Business Formal Attire versus Business Casual Attire?

Formal Business Attire

Formal (or Traditional) business attire includes a traditional business suit (typically a tailored skirt suit) for women (guys need to add button down shirts and ties to this definition and ditch the skirt!). Shoes need to be closed toed and are traditionally leather. And, hosiery is required for it to count as formal business attire. It is also important to note that there is a difference between formal business attire and “Business Formal” attire.

Business casual encompasses pantsuits and separates (including skirts, blouses, slacks, sweaters, dresses, etc.). Traditionally a classic pump or sling-back is recommended. However, peep toes and some heeled sandals would be appropriate.

3. I’m joining Corporate America for the first time. What are some key pieces for my wardrobe?

If you work to add these pieces below to your wardrobe, you’ll be well on your way to building a solid work wardrobe.

1 black suit – jacket, skirt, pants
2 pairs of slacks – 1 grey, 1 brown
5 shirts – at least 1 white button down, 1 colored button down, 1 shell or dressy t-shirt, 2 any style and color
1 cardigan sweater
2 pairs of shoes – at least 1 should be a black pump

With the items on this list you’ve got over a month’s worth of outfits. You can easily switch things up by changing your jewelry and accessories. Once you have all the staples then you can build out your professional wardrobe – but start with the list above to cover your basics.

4. How can I accessorize my work wardrobe?

Accessorize your business attire!

Jewelry is one of the easiest ways to accessorize your work wardrobe. I recommend a pair of pearl earrings and diamond studs (real or not-so-real) to get you started. Also, some simple gold or silver rings, a good watch and a pretty necklace (pearls are classy and elegant) will be good for you to have. You can also add scarves of different sizes to your wardrobe. You should also think outside the box. Try a pretty brooch on a cardigan, a simple (I repeat, simple) headband or a colored belt. Just because you are heading to the office it doesn’t mean your look has to be boring.

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6 thoughts on “Q&A: Your Work Wardrobe Questions Answered (Part 1)

  1. Thank you so much for this! I love it! Can’t wait for the next installment.
    But question: you mentioned “business formal” attired is different from formal business attire…I may be slow, but can you explain?

    1. Business formal attire falls under formal business attire, but the rules are a little more restrictive. Your suits should be in a dark color only, like black or navy (brown, tan or grey need not apply). You’ll keep the same shoe and hosiery standards. Your shirt should be white or cream. Business formal attire is not the time to bust out with loud colors. Keep you jewelry, make-up and hair on the conservative side. Less is definitely more in this case.

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