A few months ago, I was contacted for an expert roundup on fashion tips for the office. The full article can be found here: Top 10 Fashion Tips by 10 Experts For Fashionable Workplace Attire. However, here is my personal top 10 list of tips that I use to use my style to build a positive reputation in the office:
The first rule of fashion at Erica Waddell Clothing is to be yourself and wear what fits who you are. Who looks good when they feel uncomfortable? Whatever advice I can give on what to wear, being yourself comes first.
My philosophy is that standing out in a positive way is almost never a bad thing in an office. It's a great way to communicate who you are nonverbally and get noticed. And guess who notices? Your boss. Often, a bland workplace makes new people feel uncomfortable about wearing something bright or busy. In reality, those who don't dress that way are envious of those with the guts to do so.
For work, always wear clothing of appropriate length, fit, and opacity. A lot of human resources complaints are about revealing or see-through clothing. Stop to think about how threatened you would feel if someone unwelcome flaunted their sensual side in front of you. If you're not sure about whether you've got the right stuff on when you leave for work, see item 5 below.
Make color your friend. A pop of color shows confidence and a willingness to take creative risks. If your closet is filled with white shirts and gray pants, find a little room for a splash of color. If you already like brightening up your wardrobe, turn up the volume to whatever feels comfortable for you!
Be print-ready. Just because your skirt can't be super short or you can't wear a t-shirt with a dirty saying doesn't mean that you have to be dull. Prints and patterns are always great fashion statements. Florals and novelty prints are all the rage for men these days, so no need to think that only women can get away with this tip. Even if you're a strictly black-and-white dresser, adding a pattern punches up your wardrobe without adding to the palette. And don't feel the need to coordinate your patterns - adding a completely different solid color top or bottom to a printed suit or coordinate will rock the office.
Want to get your feet wet with prints and colors but don't know if you can pull it off? Get yourself some hosiery that will knock everyone else's socks off. It's amazing how much time we spend looking at the ground. Try wearing some funky socks or brightly colored tights. Both are hot trends this year and totally safe for work.
When in doubt, put a jacket over it. Not only can you cover up any fashion blunders or spilled coffee, but they make a great way to add a whole new dimension to your look. Add pins, buttons, and brooches to the lapels, and keep your phone, business cards, or personal items in the pockets. Coats and jackets are an easy way to add color, too. Suit coats and jackets are one of the most functional items to have in your wardrobe. If you're on a budget, thrift stores normally are a great place to start amassing an arsenal of cold, crazy, fun jackets.
If it's already in your closet, work into your outfits a rotation of statement jewelry and accessories. A heavy pendant or seasonal earrings are easy items to coax a compliment from a coworker. So can a conversational tie or scarf make it easy to spot you in a meeting or business networking event. I've worked with people who wear bowties, and let me tell you, it's easy to pick them out of a crowded conference.
If you want to accelerate your career path, identify the way those who are a couple of levels above you dress. Don't mimic or copy them directly, but instead incorporate a few aspects of their style into yours. When you get a chance to approach some of the higher-ups, your clear interest in style will be an easy icebreaker. (PRO TIP: Don't ask where they bought something that they are wearing. Just say that you really like it and that they have great taste.)
Finally, be excited to get dressed for work. Even if you're not trying to dress to impress or woo a workplace crush, an office makes a great runway. You get to see some of the same people over and over, and the welcome distraction of your panache will draw lots of oohs and aahs. This boosts your confidence and breaks the ice when networking your way up the career ladder.