04/04/2012 12:47 EDT | Updated 06/04/2012 05:12 EDT

Workplace Style: 7 Tips to Dress for Success


After much teenage and young adult trial and error, at a certain age most young adults realize what works for them (and what doesn't) and settle into a defined style by their mid to late 20s. We also become acutely aware of how to dress for particular situations. My team and I at outline five scenarios, each of which calls for a very distinct style. These include: the workplace, after-work events, charity galas, a Saturday night out, and Sunday. While everyone has their own style that makes them unique, one thing every young professional should know is how to dress appropriately given the situation. This week we begin with workplace style.


Know Your Company and Your Client

Since the start of the dot-com craze, dressing for the office has become a little more relaxed and casual in certain professions where others remain highly conservative. Dress to reflect your job. If you are in fashion, you better be fashionable. Before you go out and splurge on a new wardrobe, carefully consider your company's dress code policy and whether it is casual, conservative, stylish or young and fresh. At the same time, it's important to be versatile. For instance, here at one day I may be meeting with a creative agency where everyone is dressed casually; the next day I may have a meeting with my financial institution client, where standard practice is suit and tie. So dress appropriately for your company and your client.


Keep all of your work-appropriate attire in a designated space in your closet. Not only will you save time in the morning scramble of trying to find something to wear, there will be no question in your mind as to whether or not the clothing is appropriate. By the same token, designate closet space for clothes that are not appropriate for work, like shorts, flip flops, your favourite Ts, mini skirts and sweats.

Be Appropriate

No matter the company, use your tact and be appropriate. For females, as I outlined last week, less is more. Avoid anything too low-cut, formfitting or short. If you would wear it to a club on Saturday night or to the beach, don't wear it to work, even if you add a scarf to it.

Shop Strategically

Professional attire is not something any young professional should skimp on. The quality of your clothing shows and sometimes you need to fake it until you make it. It is worth it to invest in a few key pieces that will stand the test of time and are easy to mix and match. For the ladies, spend more on things like shoes, purses and belts. For guys, you can never have enough dress shirts and your "go-to" blazer.

Dress Your Age

In terms of work dress, I see many young professionals make one of two mistakes: they dress too young (in too tight or revealing clothing for the ladies, or sloppy, frat boy-esque attire for the guys); or they dress too old for their age in an attempt to make themselves seem more "professional." Dress your age. Let your intellect reflect your wisdom and worldliness, not necessarily your attire.

Easy on the Makeup and Cologne/ Perfume

Save the makeup for the charity gala or Saturday night out on the town. The same can be said for perfume and cologne -- pick something that is lighter and more day-appropriate and don't overdo it. Just because you're so used to it that you can't smell it on yourself doesn't mean everyone else can't.

Details Matter

For guys and girls alike, maintain clean, clipped, well-groomed nails to complete your professional appearance. For most professions, keep any facial hair properly groomed. Keep your shoes clean, as dirty shoes can throw off an otherwise polished appearance. Finally, no matter how casual your clothes are, make sure they are ironed and wrinkle-free. It is usually a wise idea to keep an extra shirt in the office in case you spill something on yourself, or if a last-minute meeting comes up with Mr. or Ms. Big.