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Critical Tips for Your Professional Wardrobe

Through recent conversations and observations I’ve recognized two situations that are not helping you present your best self in the business world. For men, this involves wearing suits without belts. For women, it involves taking clothing that has never been worn in daylight hours and wearing it to an interview. If these situations are the norm in and around my network, I suspect that it’s a reality beyond that small sample size, as well.

Let’s start with belts, Gentlemen. 

Why is it important to own a leather belt?

Well, here’s what it looks like when you wear a suit (even dressed for smart casual) without a belt:

Something is clearly missing, and it’s the belt! A belt quite literally ties the outfit together. In any situation where your shirt is tucked in, you should don a belt: it adds polish and completes the outfit.

If you don’t own a belt, the good news is they’re not overly expensive and you can get away with owning just one - as long as you pay attention to the suit colors you wear and rent!

How to decide what color belt to purchase?

Well, do you already own dress shoes? If yes, what color are they? Your belt color should always match your shoes: if you already have a pair of brown dress shoes, go with a brown belt to match.

If you don’t own dress shoes, I recommend starting with black shoes and a black belt. Black can be worn with any color business suit so it’s a versatile place to start. Black belt options:

 

Of course, different complexions are enhanced by different colors - including neutral colors - so you may want to check what colors look best on you before investing in any belts or shoes.

Our very own OTB style guide will be up in September to give you full outfit pairing suggestions. 

 

Now, ladies…

What counts as professional attire?

On our blog we talk a lot about portraying confidence and feeling comfortable when you walk into an interview - and we talk about how your attire can enhance those feelings. Think about your favorite Saturday night outfit: Do you feel confident in it? Absolutely! Do you feel comfortable in it? Of course you do - it’s your favorite outfit to wear out. However, throwing a blazer over it does not make it appropriate for a professional environment.

There is really only one simple question to ask yourself to determine if a clothing garment is appropriate to wear as professional attire:

Does it require any adjustments throughout the day?

(Think: adjusting your hemline when you stand up or before you sit down, checking periodically that your bra straps aren’t peeking out, pulling up the top of your shirt before leaning over a conference room table to dial the phone.)

Why does this matter?

It all goes back to presenting your best self. Even though you may feel comfortable in your favorite going-out attire, if you’re constantly adjusting something - which we sometimes do subconsciously - you will appear to be uncomfortable.

In addition, not having to think about where your hem line is at any given point saves your focus and brainpower for crushing that interview.

This article by the Hairpin expresses a similar message, but with much more sass and comedy. Enjoy!


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