9 to 5 Chic: 10 Style Tricks That Show You Mean Business

9 to 5 Chic: 10 Style Tricks That Show You Mean Business
Dressing the part for work is a topic I am quite familiar with. I’ve covered the basics for all kinds of work attire (from casual to business casual to professional), shared interview outfits, and even created a list of office style commandments that I believe every working girl should know. But as I started digging a little deeper into the rules for dressing for success, I found a few fun facts that might surprise even the most knowledgeable style experts. What I discovered was that it all comes down to the details. Hard work and a friendly attitude might get you that big promotion, but a few key presentation factors—from your fingernails to the soles of your shoes—will help pave that road to success. Without further ado, here are 10 style tricks that make a good impression in the workplace

1. Hem your pants.
You should never be able to wear the same pair of dress pants with both flats and heels. Pants that are not tailored correctly can look silly if they are too short or sloppy if they drag on the ground. When wearing heels, the hem of your pants should fall about ½ inch from the ground in the back, according to The Daily Muse. When wearing flats, your pants should cover most of the shoe in the back without actually touching the ground. If your office attire is casual, make sure your jeans are hemmed correctly as well. Skinny jeans should hit at the bottom of the ankle and cigarette pants should hit at the top of your ankle.

2. Check your sleeve length.
Make a note to bring your jackets and blazers with you when you have your pants tailored as well because your sleeve length speaks volumes about your presentation. Sleeves that are too long or too short have the same negative effect as improperly fitting pants. To avoid looking frumpy, make sure the cuff of your sleeve hits just below your wrist when holding your arms at your sides.

3. Buy button-up shirts that fit.
Nothing looks more unprofessional that a button-up shirt that gapes and shows your undergarments. If you have a bigger chest size, buy a button-up shirt that is big enough to stretch all the way across your bust without gaping. If your shirt fits perfectly but it’s still gaping, try using double-stick tape or fashion tape to smooth the seams together.

4. Invest in a good pair of shoes.
Your shoes may not be the first thing your coworkers notice, but if you’re crossing your legs in a meeting or making a presentation, I guarantee that scuffed soles will stand out…and not in a good way. Invest in two or three classic pairs of heels that are comfortable enough to give an entire standing presentation in. Do the same with flats, and make sure you have bandages handy for blisters. When a pair starts to look run down and tattered, don’t wait too long to replace them or treat them to a trip to the cobbler.

5. Belt it.
If you’re wearing a pair of pants with belt loops and a tucked-in shirt, it looks sloppy to go belt-less. According to AOL Jobs, empty belt loops look forgetful and careless. And the reverse is true as well: If you decide to wear a belt with a skirt or dress that comes sans belt loops, make sure the belt won’t awkwardly shift around throughout the day. Safety pins become great makeshift belt loops! (See what I mean here).

6. Don’t pile on accessories.
This tip may be a bit obvious, but it can help you shift your image from frivolous fashionista to polished professional. If your office attire tends to be more buttoned up (banking, real estate, etc.), keep the jewelry and accessories at a minimum. Your earrings, necklace, and rings should be simple. Forgo jangly bracelets for a smart watch. If you work in a creative environment, you have more freedom in the jewelry department—but that doesn’t mean you should go crazy. The focus should be on one main accessory like a statement necklace or a colorful handbag. Keep the rest simple.

7. Maintain your manicure.
When you’re shaking hands with business partners, gesturing during a presentation, or signing important documents, I can guarantee that your nails will get noticed. Make sure they affect your overall appearance positively by keeping them manicured. Now that doesn’t mean you have to go to the nail salon and get them polished weekly—you can keep them natural as long as they look clean and free of torn cuticles. If you’re a nail biter, here’s some incentive to go cold turkey: Not only do bitten nails look unprofessional, the habit also makes you come off as nervous and stressed. In other words, chipped polish, dirty nails and bad habits don’t exactly scream “promotion,” ladies.

8. Dry your hair.
We’ve all been there before: You’re running extremely late and there’s no time to blow dry your hair before rushing out the door. While the decision to be late or do your ‘do comes down to you, consider this fact first… Having wet hair in the workplace leaves you with a messy impression. If you can’t find the time to at least dry your hair in the morning, you may want to consider giving yourself some extra time to get ready. Your boss will take you much more seriously if it looks like you take the time to present a polished version of yourself each day.

9. Don’t overdo the perfume.
Before you walk out the door, refrain from dousing yourself in your favorite eau de cologne. I’m definitely a proponent of smelling fresh and clean, but one spritz should do the job, not three.

10. Brighten up your eyes.
While it’s obvious that a pretty, white smile makes a great first impression, you may be surprised to learn that white eyes have the same effect as well. People are actually attracted to eye whites that are truly white. According to Science Daily, a new study revealed that bloodshot eyes are associated with sadder, unhealthier, and less attractive individuals than people whose eye whites are white. If you’re interviewing for a new job or giving a presentation, squirt a few drops of Visine into your eyes. It will add moisture and constrict blood vessels, reducing the appearance of bloodshot peepers. And for all you ladies who enjoy a post-work happy hour in the middle of the week, this trick will help you look rested and rejuvenated when you’re anything but.

Do you have any tips for dressing for success at work?

I’d love to read your ideas, so leave your two cents in the comments below!

XO Lauren

P.S. If you liked this post, you’ll love these…
Tuesday Ten: The Working Girl’s Style Staples
Work It: 9 to 5 Style
Style Guide: The Perfect Interview Outfit
Dress Coding: For the Business Professional

Photo: Marie Claire
Source: The Daily Muse, Science Daily, AOL Jobs
Categories: Grow, Wear
Share This
  • MaryBeth

    Button up shirts that fit….make sure you have proper undergarments on~ minimizers, etc!

    Also, do NOT pay attention to the size on the label- pay attention to the fit- that is what the rest of the world sees….

  • Lauren Montemurri

    Really enjoyed this article. I have to say the eye whites was the most interesting point because I don’t think about my eyes being white and bright but I will definitely use this tip when apply for jobs and before meetings. Thanks.

  • Alba Cuci

    Love this post Lauren! I wish I could print it out and leave it outside my office just as an FYI for some of the ladies I work with (and sometimes even me).

  • heatherleigh johnson

    i second the manicure tip! for longer lasting nails try a gel manicure – they last about 2 weeks and now they have really awesome colors

  • Rachel Trampel

    These are all such great tips! And I always thought I wanted pants that went with both flats and heels, but it makes sense that there isn’t a pair that would work for both! I need a couple pairs to work with heels. Also, I have come to work with wet hair a couple times. Horrible idea, I would go back and dry my hair and be a little late and STAY late than to come in with wet hair. It doesn’t say anything good about you or how you feel about your job!


  • LaurenConrad.com

    SO true, Mary Beth!! Just because it’s your ‘size’ doesn’t necessarily mean it fits right for the work place! Thanks for sharing :-)

  • LaurenConrad.com

    Ha ha! That’s a really good idea!

  • Sunshine Girl

    Awesome tips, I love them all. I definitely love the one about the tailored pants, I have been wondering about that, it’s nice to finally hear it! Thank you so much! These tips were so helpful. :)

  • Caitiedid

    Oh my.. i NEVER dry my hair:C I let it air dry as my wavy hair looks best without blow drying…i suppose i should begin showering at night or wake up earlier. My nail polish chips too.

    I have a tip. Dress your age and dress modestly. I don’t believe mini skirts are work appropriate, especially with business men coming and going through offices. Also, no slippers. Believe it or not, people at my office do wear slippers to work and it leaves an impression of laziness and carelessness.

  • Valerie Lynn

    I love this post!! Wonderful ideas! I’m a school teacher and nothing bothers me more than people who dress and act unprofessionally. Thank you, LC and the team :-)

  • Renuka

    This was a very informative post! Never underestimate the effects of your appearance at work. Consciously add to your wardrobe when shopping. And always put in the effort to choose what you’re going to wear every morning. I would invest in a proper purse. I actually had a ‘work’ purse – one that was more structured and sophisticated. I was the youngest on the team, and I wanted to ensure that I was taken seriously from the moment I walked into the building. Even the pen and notebook I used in meetings fit the part!


  • Lindsay Feeney

    These were great tips! Loves it.

  • Rachel

    I love work tips!! My post today was about work outfits that can also be play outfits.


  • Cali92879

    Another tip for whitening your eyes is to line the inner lining of the bottom of your eye with a white eyeliner. It makes your eyes look whiter and more awake. A tip for hair drying that I use is: I put my hair in a mid-low ponytail (between high and low) and apply a light hold hairspray or gel, let it dry while I do everything else before work like eat, pack a lunch, drive to work. Once I get to work, I pull out the ponytail and part my hair with my fingers so as not to frizz my hair. The result is volume on top and dry hair. This is my go to trick everyday unless I use a shower cap in the shower and put my hair up in a voluminous bun.

  • Rafael Centenera


  • Erin E.

    These are great tips! I work in the legal field, a very conservative work place. I would suggest wearing nude pantyhose and light make up. Also, if you color your hair, make sure that your roots are touched up- nothing says unprofessional than bad roots!

    • http://www.smart-twenties.com/ Samantha Brown

      I agree – especially for those of us who work in conservative workplaces! I think it’s best to look well groomed in an understated way – light makeup, simple (but lovely) hair, no bright nail polish and minimal but classic accessories (like a nice watch and pair of earrings).

      I would love to work in an environment where I could express myself a little more through what I wear but when it’s a conservative workplace it’s a good idea to try and follow the crowd, especially when you’re just starting out.

      Sam xx
      http://www.smart-twenties.com – how to make the most of your twenties

    • Amanda

      I came to this post expecting to hear “be comfortable” “dress for the job you want” I was so glad to see actual tips instead of the cliche ones. And I was equally glad to see that someone from the legal field has weighed in, as I will be joining that workforce soon. Thanks for all the tips!

  • Scarlet Smith

    And I thought I might not find a more like-minded post on the internet.
    Many people tend to forget vital basics, like overdoing the fragrance or leaving hair wet.

    Thanks for coming to my rescue, again!

  • Tiffany

    Instead of leaving a cardigan at work for those chillier days, keep a classic black or stone white colored blazer at the office. They go with everything and they’re handy to throw on when you’re chilly, or when you want to bring it up a notch for those impromptu meetings with the higher ups!

  • itsa_Lisa

    I recently hemmed my blazer sleeves to hit just below the bone that juts out at the wrist. I read that this was an appropriate ending point on a mens blog and I think it looks cute… but you recommend the sleeves hit at the end of the wrist. Do you think mine are too short. My solution here I think would be “”hey, maybe they’re *cigarette sleeves!*”” but some pro advice would be nice. :) Thank you.

  • Brenda

    About the Visine….I used to use it all the time but noticed my eyes were becoming redder quicker and longer to the point it seemed the Visine wasn’t doing the trick. My optometrist told me that Visine can cause permanent red eyes and that the best thing for me to do is use moisture drops. I use GenTeal Lubricating Eye Gel at night. It’s not greasy and really helps with dryness. During the day I use Refresh Optive Lubricating Eye Drops. BTW, my brother-in-law was using Visine constantly and it actually began to destroy his corneas…so be careful.

  • Louise

    What shoes can I wear under cigarette pants when it is really cold outside. Or any tips on dressing for work in wintertime in genereal?

    • dirtythirty83

      Well since I live in Detroit, MI, I feel I have come up with the BEST way to dress for work during winter solstice: have a spare pair (or two) of shoes stashed at work! I work in retail sales and take the bus, so staying warm is essential while traveling to work! Usually, I trade in my nylons with tights-this past winter I actually wore leggings instead of sheer nylons because it was so cold! Also, try going for more wool or tweed blends instead of lighter fabric blends. Hopefully, these help!

  • dirtythirty83

    My ‘Dress for Success’ tip is: Don’t go “clickety-clack” at work! Oftentimes I hear colleagues’ shoes before I see them; how annoying! It costs next to nothing to invest in ‘rubber sole replacements’, and you get to keep things copasetic between colleagues!

  • Monica Tullo

    Boyfriend jacket or a trendy blazer makes any outfit look professional.

  • Chrystal Safari

    that pic is in violation of the article, LOL

  • Brittanie Q. Schofield

    I am a seamstress at a bridal shop. I am required to dress professionally and in black mostly. Since I have to be on the ground pinning it’s hard to find a fabric that doesn’t lose it’s fit and that doesn’t fade ( being black). I have noticed grow grain fabric works the best. It has great elasticity and the color never fades. I would suggest it for anyone who wants a comfortable fit that is felxable, durable and looks awesome too!!


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