To kick off my Dress Coding series, today I’ll be cracking the code behind “business professional” dress, also known as “business formal.”
If you’re a fashionable girl working in a buttoned-up, ultra conservative world, dressing professionally is an absolute must. Unfortunately, professional settings are not exactly friendly to the fashion forward. Luckily, you can maintain a level of style by working in fashionable elements through subtle accessories and chic silhouettes.
Business professional attire for women is very similar to what men are expected to wear: The Power Suit. No, this doesn’t mean you have to wear a boxy jacket, pinstripe pants and a tie… Instead, opt for a slim cut pantsuit, a skit and jacket combination, or a structured (and modest) dress.
While there are no rules in fashion, there are rules for fashion in the workplace. A few basic guidelines for business formal dressing include the following:
- Wear colors based on a neutral color palette (black, navy, cream, charcoal or grey). Unfortunately lime green and bright pink won’t cut it in the boardroom.
- Avoid gaudy accessories. Think simple, sleek and chic.
- All suits and skirts should be tailored to fit close to the body (but not tight). Skirts should hit at the knee or below. And blouses should be conservative, freshly pressed and always tucked in.
- Wear scuff-free heels or flats in a neutral color. If you go for the heels, don’t wear anything higher than 3 or 4 inches. These would not be okay.
- Hair and makeup should be groomed, neat, and simple. I think the ballerina bun is the perfect hairstyle for any female powerhouse. It’s feminine, yet strikingly authoritative.
Now, just because you work in a conservative workplace doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style for the sake of your career, ladies. Update classic looks with these simple tricks:
- Try cropped trousers paired with a sharp blazer. These tapered pants from Topshop are perfection for achieving this updated look.
- Swap out your basic blazer for a lightly accented jacket a la Dolce & Gabbana fall 2011 or simply scrunch up your sleeves for a cooler and more modern vibe. This Rouched Sleeve Blazer from Urban Outfitters is a great option.
- Instead of wearing a matching two-piece suit, mix it up and wear a black blazer with a charcoal or burgundy pencil skirt or pant. As long as your colors are subdued, you should have the freedom to mix it up a bit. Traditionalists may argue that matching sets are a must, but let’s be honest here, there’s a new wave of professional women and times have changed. If you’re really daring, throw in a few punchy colors here and there…
- Cinch your waist with a thin, colored belt. It’s an easy way to add a fashionable pop to an otherwise basic or drab office outfit. J.Crew has a lovely assortment of skinny belts.
- Swap out your pencil skirt for a high-waisted A-line skirt. The Tiered A-Line Skirt I designed for my LC Lauren Conrad collection is the perfect alternative to a traditional pencil skirt.
If you work in this buttoned-up, high-stakes work, snap a photo of your most stylish outfit, upload it to your LaurenConrad.com profile page and link the image in the comments below. Click here to learn how to upload and submit photos.
I’ll feature my 3 favorite “business formal” photo submissions in a follow up post!
Next up in my Dress Coding series? I’ll make sense of the ever-confusing “business casual” dress code!
Click here to check out my top ten style staples every working woman should have!
P.S. Still in school? Click here for my back to school picks.