Career Dressing for Women - dummies

By Susan Chritton

Here are suggestions to emphasize a polished branded look for a woman’s wardrobe. Regardless of your shape or height, these are the basic rules of being well-dressed.


  • It closes with ease at the bust and hip lines.

  • It fits well under your arms and across your back.

  • It’s long enough to drape over wider hips.

  • Full-length sleeves are hemmed to where your wrist and hand meet.

  • You can substitute a sweater for a jacket to relax the look.


  • Layer a sleeveless top under a jacket, sweater, or shirt jacket.

  • The neckline is 2 inches above your cleavage. If it’s lower than that, wear a nonlaced camisole under the blouse.

  • The fabric is wrinkle-free and smooth across your bust and back.

  • It’s long enough to stay tucked in, or else it’s hemmed at the hip bone.


  • There’s enough room in the waistband for you to insert two fingers.

  • The pleats and zippers lie flat.

  • The leg fabric falls straight down from the buttocks.

  • The fabric across the front of your legs is smooth without visible stretching.

  • They conceal your panty line.


  • The pleats do not pull open.

  • There is no crease or pull across the front or back of your legs.

  • It’s hemmed at the knee and does not rise up more than 3 inches above your knee when you’re seated.

  • It easily turns around your body.

  • If it’s a pencil skirt, it hangs in a straight line and does not curve under your buttocks.

  • Its slit (if it has one) is a maximum 3 to 4 inches above your knee.


  • It’s a coat dress, a shirt dress, or a two-piece matching top and skirt.

  • The neckline is 2 inches above your cleavage. If it’s lower than that, wear a nonlaced camisole under the dress.

  • The fabric is a solid color or a medium to small print. Avoid floral prints if you want to be taken seriously.


  • They’re a neutral color.

  • They have a closed toe or a minimal peep toe.

  • They have a closed heel or a back heel strap.

  • They have a conservative heel height. (Reserve stiletto heels for after work hours.)

  • They’re polished and in good condition.


  • It’s neutral or a coordinated color that blends with your hemline.

  • If you’re choosing hosiery that matches your natural skin tone, it’s either the same shade as your shoes or lighter — never darker than your shoes.

  • Avoid bright colors, which draw attention down to your leg area.

  • Keep an extra pair of hosiery on hand to replace a pair with runs or snags.

Wearing hosiery keeps the message professional. If you have bare legs, you’re taking the message to a personal level. You can achieve a bare-legged look while still maintaining your professionalism by finding a brand of hose that’s sheer and neutral.


  • Simple and understated pieces are best for most work environments.

  • Larger pieces make a fashion statement and should be appropriate for the work environment and no larger than the size of a quarter.

  • Avoid dangling or large hoop earrings that give an unprofessional look

  • Also avoid noisy jewelry or pieces that move.

  • A necklace, in particular, should be simple in design and understated to avoid drawing too much attention to your neckline.


  • Avoid wearing tinted lenses indoors.

  • Wear a watch that is simple in design and understated.

  • Carry your purse or briefcase into a meeting but never both.