As much as having a sense of style and knowledge of the latest fashions can help you look great, the reality is that it’s not just what you wear – it’s how you wear it that creates your best image. Many years ago I presented regularly on The Art of Accessorizing. When it came to hats, many women said they couldn’t wear a hat. I always believed that we all can wear a hat. You have to find the one that suits your face shape, height, personality and wear it with the right “Hattitude”. If you think you look silly in it, you will walk awkwardly and indeed look silly. Wear it with confidence!
What determines an image goes far beyond the clothes themselves; the cut, fit, and colour of your clothes, as well as complementary accessories all contribute to how you appear. No matter if you are wearing a stunning designer dress, if it is two sizes too small or paired with mismatched accessories, your image will not reach its full potential. So how can you make your clothing choices work for you?
Fit and Cut of Clothing
Every body is different – and so a suit that looks perfect on a mannequin might not be the best cut for you. It is important both to know how a suit or dress should fit, as well as to know your own body type.
First, for standard business suits: any suit jacket should feel comfortable while both standing and sitting, as well as when you reach your hands over your head, without extra tightness or sagging. The shoulder of the jacket should lie straight; straining indicates the jacket is too small. The sleeves should fall to the top of your hands when arms are at rest.
Suit bottoms, whether pants or skirt, should allow you to fit your finger between the waistband and your body. When trying on suit bottoms, make sure to walk around and try sitting, so that all movements are comfortable and flexible. No suit bottoms should feel too tight when you sit down.
If your work environment allows your clothing options to extend beyond the standard suit, pay extra attention to your body type and what cuts and types of fabrics best fit your shape. For example, for women with wider hips might choose high-waisted pants as bottoms, as they emphasize a slimmer waist instead of the hips. Real Simple’s article “The Right Clothes for Your Body Type” is an excellent resource, as it addresses four common shapes for women and features tips on clothing choices from fashion gurus Isaac Mizrahi, Simon Kneen and Bridgette Raes.
Clothing colours can make (or break) an outfit, and colour choices are especially important to consider in business, when you want to dress appropriately professional for your surroundings.
For business attire, your outfit should be limited to around three colours, using a standard solid and neutral colour such as black, navy, beige or grey as a foundation. It is certainly acceptable to have a bright colour as part of your outfit, but too much colour or an overly vibrant combination can be distracting, and can detract from an image of professionalism. Add a splash of colour to a business outfit with a subtler component, such as a scarf or a blouse under a suit jacket. This will allow you to give your outfit a bit of flair without being too flashy.
Colour choice is again important when choosing accessories. Accessories should complement the colours of your outfit; similarly, they should go well with each other (for example, matching your shoes and jewellery will create a harmonious colour balance in the outfit). As mentioned above, well-chosen accessories can let you incorporate your personality into professional attire – a bold red bracelet will brighten your whole outfit. That said, limit the amount of colour in accessories: don’t mix the red bracelet with a sunny yellow scarf, for example.
Accessories should also follow a professional style code. Choose accessories that are tasteful. In most circumstances jewellery should be minimal and elegant, instead of dangling or sparkly costume jewellery. (You may find an occasion such as the office holiday party to bring out a glitzy necklace, however!) Likewise, a purse can be sleek and stylish yet professional when it is a reasonable size and a subtle pattern – shy away from oversized totes and metallic purses when composing a professional outfit.
The bottom line is, though a dress may seems fabulous on its own pulled right from the store rack, it’s important to remember all the elements that build a great look so you can maximize your presence!
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