Office Wear That Oozes Power and Credibility

Looking for some easy office clothes that allow you to look great without a lot of drama and fuss? You know, like on those days when you’ve been up all night with a sick kid and you’ve still got a full day of back-to-back meetings?

With a little preparation, you can be ready for anything and still look great on a moment’s notice.  Here are some sure-fire business wear options:

Power Suit

Power Suit

A classic two-piece suit in a neutral color can literally take you anywhere you want to go.  It’s what to wear to job interviews, to speak in front of groups, and to lend gravitas whenever you need it.  P.S. If it’s dark, you can also wear it to funerals.

Safari Jacket

Safari Jacket

Appropriate for business casual office wear, a classic safari jacket paired with either a pencil skirt or flat front pants will still give you credibility in a chic yet casual way.  Opt for classic styling over trendy details.

 

Wrap Dress

Wrap Dress

Easy yet sophisticated, a wrap dress will give you elegance while also doing nice things for your figure.  The diagonal line visually slims and lengthens the torso, making heavy girls look slimmer, busty girls look less chesty, and petite girls look taller.  About the only figure it doesn’t look right on is the tall, slender, small-busted model-types — because it makes them look taller, thinner, and less busty.

Sweater Set

Sweater Set

Wearing a simple knit shell with a matching cardigan has been popular since the 1930’s because it looks great and is super easy to wear.  Pair it with a skirt or trousers for a polished business casual look.

Shirt Dress

Shirtdress

A crisp shirtdress, like a beautiful wrap dress, can be business appropriate in an instant.  Accessorize according to your office dress code.  More formal? Try hosiery and pumps.  More casual?  Try a wide belt, matching tights, and knee-high boots.

 

Looking great for work doesn’t have to be hard if you plan properly and build a business wardrobe that works for your particular situation.  With “go to: pieces like these in your closet, you can look great and “business appropriate” any day of the week.

Office Wear Tips from Business Wear MagicNeed some other tips and tricks for building an office wear wardrobe?  Download a copy of Business Wear Magic to see how easy looking great for work can be.

20 Comments

  • Jill

    Reply Reply October 30, 2009

    This post was very helpful. Thank you.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply November 6, 2009

      Hi Jill,

      You’re welcome. Sometimes you need a little variety to “mix things up” a bit and keep it interesting.

  • sharmaine

    Reply Reply October 30, 2009

    I REALLY NEEDED THIS TODAY, BECAUSE THIS WORKS.

  • Kathleen

    Reply Reply October 30, 2009

    I opt for a suit nearly every day (how can you go wrong there?), but it sure tends to “date” me, the other women at my workplace rarely wear suits. I’m going to try to get up the nerve to do one of those safari jacket ensembles, which may just slip under my “Is this age appropriate?” radar! Thanks for the ideas!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply November 6, 2009

      Hi Kathleen,

      You could also try a vest, a textured blazer, or a trendy 3/4 length sleeve jacket to update those suit skirts and pants. They’ll still add credibility while also giving you a chic, of-the-moment vibe.

  • Paula T.

    Reply Reply October 30, 2009

    I’ve worked as a consultant for years, and one employer had a single “dress” rule for everyone, male or female: thou shalt wear a suit. This edict took nothing into account – client environment, part of the country you worked in, salary you were being paid, “Casual Fridays”, etc. – but I was working in Las Vegas where it can get really hot, and the client workplace was very casual. I developed a “uniform” of sweater set and pants that did address those factors, I was much more comfortable, and most importantly, so was my client.

    As for the 5 above, I love power suits when appropriate, although I usually do power “pant suits” with a beautiful jacket and pants that can be worn with everything. I have never liked “safari” style but this more modern approach with the rounded neck is really cute! Love sweater sets and wrap dresses, even though I am tall, slim, and small-busted because they look great and are comfortable. Finally, that shirtdress — it’s cute too but be sure that you don’t get one as short as the one pictured if you work in a more “conservative” office environment. That one is a little too short even if you do tights. Remember that not only do you want to look great, but you want to be taken seriously as an employee!

  • Carole S

    Reply Reply October 30, 2009

    The shirtdress pictured brings up an important issue for us shoppers. 90%, or more, of all dresses or skirts for sale in all stores from major to minor are way, way above the knee. So finding a power suit with a conservative skirt length is pretty much impossible. I am 5’7″ tall and short waisted, large bust. That means short is even shorter on me because I have long legs!! I am 65, wear a size 12 (not too bad) and style is extremely important to me. Dresses in stores are either too short or down to the floor and either sleeveless or worse yet halter top (not at my age, thank you). None of those are suitable for the office (oh, and don’t forget the plunging necklines on almost everything). One has too wear a T-shirt underneath them to keep “the girls” from hanging over and out. It is very frustrating. And the rare time I can find something suitable in a suit skirt-length wise, well, the style is matronly or blah and who wants to wear that? Good advice above if one could just find decent clothes. Thanks, Diana.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply November 6, 2009

      Hi Carole,

      Yes, it can be VERY frustrating to find specific types of clothes sometimes. The easiest way to narrow your search is to go to one of the big search engine shopping sites like Shop.com, Bizrate.com, or PriceGrabber.com and type in the item you seek. It will return various online retailers who carry what you’re looking for. Just remember to check the sizing and the return policy for anything you order online.

  • Michele k

    Reply Reply October 30, 2009

    Thank you so much Diana. I have been off on mat. leave for 4 years and am getting back into the office part time. There is pressure in marketing positions to be on the cutting edge of respectable fashion. I started with my basic suit and 3 shirts. You have provided the extra gems. Some great accessories and I can strech this wardrobe a long way. Always looking to you for the reality check in the styles out there. Looking forward to your updates!!!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply November 6, 2009

      Hi Michele,

      Glad I could help! Yes, Marketing and PR people are often on the front line and are expected to look good and represent their companies well. The challenge comes when trying to mix business and fashion. You want to be “cutting edge” yet still remain credible. How can you do it? Fashion-forward colors and accessories paired with classic staples. It shows you know “the rules” and that you also know how to stretch them.

  • Janet Caterina

    Reply Reply November 3, 2009

    I found these comments interesting because I have been designing suits and over-the-knee skirts for years. I think we are gaining ground. The styles I did 5 years ago are becoming popular now because the classic suit styles keep disappearing. Most women are starting to realize that they need at least one sensible business suit in their wardrobe, and that deep necklines and sleeveless tops are not wardrobe basics. The attraction they hold is for the young customer, and we all know how many buying mistakes and fashion crimes we have committed early in life.

    The fashion business is driven by retailers who are afraid of their customer. I design for men and women, bathing suits and Tee Shirts, in a word, everything, but I invariably design my own line for me.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply November 6, 2009

      Hi Janet,

      Classic styles will always remain even as trends come and go. If you look back over fashion history, the business suit for men has been in place since the 1600’s while the business suit for women was popularized nearly 100 years ago. Fashion-forward twenty-somethings will always try to push the limits, but big business has been conducted in formal business attire for hundreds of years and I expect it to continue so for at least a few more generations…

  • cyn

    Reply Reply November 4, 2009

    Hi Diana. I really love your new blog. Great job… awesome

    • Diana

      Reply Reply November 6, 2009

      Hi Cynthia,

      Thanks! Glad you’re enjoying it.

  • Keeds6287

    Reply Reply November 24, 2009

    Thank you Diana. This is very useful information.

  • Lorinda

    Reply Reply July 2, 2011

    The 3/4 length sleeve…… they have been my choice for a long time after finding that they balanced my long arms and short waistedness?? They are my go-to length…..

    • Diana

      Reply Reply July 7, 2011

      Yep – sometimes you just have to play around with sleeves, collars, hems, etc., to find out what works for you.

  • Pam Iorio

    Reply Reply August 6, 2011

    Diana, can you tell me what white non iron shirts are the best buys?

  • Julia

    Reply Reply August 27, 2014

    Looking at some of these comments I sympathise with the skirts on or above the knee problem. That is all the shops have been full of for the last 2+ years it seems, and I am afraid, hose or not, that my legs shouldn’t be seen from the knees up. Skirts that sit between just below the knee and mid calf length are my ideal.

    It’s cost me a small fortune since doing so, but I’ve discovered Jacques Vert for dresses and skirt/top combos – they seem to have embraced ‘classic’ and have a brilliant skirt length for me. Yes, they are very dressy – think Royal Ascot, but I’ve been adding jackets and plain shoes to them and I think this makes them acceptable in the office.

    Diana, I would welcome your suggestions please – I’m working through Business Wear Magic at the moment, but so far it doesn’t cover ‘conference’ settings. What would you suggest for three days on an ‘industry services’ stand at an oil conference in The Netherlands in the Autumn, followed by a two day office based ‘oil industry’ training course – at the moment I am resigned to checking a bag regardless of going the ‘clothing capsule’ route and on the stand I am expecting to be the only lady. NB. An article about dressing in a male dominated industry sector would be very useful!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply August 29, 2014

      Hi Julia,

      Another option is to have skirts and dresses custom made that hit right at the knee. It will probably cost you about the same as your Jacques Vert pieces, but they will fit you like a glove. Just do a Google search for professional custom clothiers in your area.

      As for the conference, you will find recommendations near the end of BUSINESS WEAR MAGIC, in the “What to Wear to” section. I’d wear the business casual version of traditional business wear, most notably a collar with crisp fabrics. You need all the gravitas you can muster for dealing with all those “good old boys” in the oil industry. Definitely wear a jacket or other third layer if you’ll be speaking or presenting. Also, check out How to Dress the Science Professor for an idea of what to look for when working in a male dominated industry. Oil tends to be more formal and traditional than science because of all the money involved, but this will at least give you an idea.

      Good luck!

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