By: Revanche

Checklist for Men’s and Women’s Working Attire

March 13, 2010

This is a guest post by Mr. Credit Card of www.askmrcreditcard.com, a website on credit card offers and deals. Today, he and Mrs. Credit Card present a checklist of recommended working attire for men and women.  

The dress code for a workplace is invariably different across cultures and industries. A lucky few can go to work in t-shirts and shorts, some in t-shirts and jeans, while some offices have a strict business-suit only dress code. Below, we outline what we consider the professional wardrobe basics for men and women.

More than just making a good first impression, you want to feel comfortable and confident. How do you build a business wardrobe without breaking the bank or getting a migraine? Here’s how.

Before we start, I want to highlight the importance of finding a style that suits you best. Some department stores, like Nordstrom, have personal shoppers who can help you find the right styles and color palette and advise you on how to accessorize. Having a good start on your working wardrobe will eliminate a lot of unnecessary anxiety and stress especially if you are starting your first or a new job. It will also help you to limit unnecessary spending.

First and foremost, you’ll need a few “anchor” pieces as the designers call it. The key to a good business wardrobe is the ability to interchange the anchor pieces while keeping the Dressed for Success look fresh. Quality, cost and neutrality should be considered when shopping for anchor pieces. Always choose classic styles for anchor pieces.

Women’s Professional Wear

1. Matching suit -Black, dark gray and dark blue are very acceptable colors for any business environment. A matching set of jacket and skirt or pant suit is usually more expensive. It costs even more if you tailor them to fit. Look out for sales and stores that provide free alterations. A well-tailored business suit is worth the investment.

2. Basic black skirt – Make sure it falls just at or below the knee line. Choose a straight cut or A-line skirt so that it is less noticeable if you wear it often.

3. Basic Black Jacket – A jacket should not be baggy or have oversized shoulder pads. i.e. it should fit you well. The sleeves should drop just past your lowest wrist bones when your arms are straight down by your side. The jacket length should be lower than the top of your hipbone.

4. Additional jacket, dress pants and skirts – After you picked out a basic black jacket, select additional jackets, dress pants and skirts that will interchange well with each other. Consider 2 more colors like tan, brown, gray, navy blue and white but keep the colors muted. All these colors go well together.

5. Dress blouses – Choosing dress blouses is the fun part. It’ll help to pull your whole wardrobe together. The blouse can be patterned with stripes or colored. If you are wearing a tan jacket and navy blue skirt, the blouse can have a shade of blue. Consider buying a few whites in different styles, traditional, cuffed sleeves or flared collars and work towards 7 to 10 piece rotation.

6. Shoes and stockings – The general rule of thumb is to keep colors the same from waist down. You want to match your shoes and stocking colors to the skirt or slacks. The only exception is green and bright pink. No patterned or fish net stockings with your business suits. (You get the idea.) Stilettos are meant for parties and the runway, not for the office. Keep sexy boots and “super fancy” shoes for other more appropriate occasions. Also, avoid chunky heels and flat-soled shoes. Basic pumps and sling backs (closed toes) are good choices and preferably made of leather for comfort and style.

One useful tip I learned over the years is if you are trying to find a jacket that matches your tan pants, make sure you wear it to the store when shopping. Also, wear the undergarments that you will be wearing when you dress for business. You want to be sure if you’ll like the effect.

7. Jewelry – As a rule of thumb, it’s better to wear no jewelry than to wear too much jewelry. Save up for a nice set of costume jewelry or real jewelry. A matching set of pearls earrings and necklace (single or double strands), even matching bracelets is both practical and stylish. Sterling silver is another good choice for jewelry as it matches with many different styles of outfits. However, no “noisy” and “big” jewelry. Necklaces should not dangle between cleavages. Definitely no facial piercing.

8. Accessories – Generally speaking, you want to match purse color with shoe color. Luckily, black matches almost everything so it will be great for you to own a black pair of dress shoes and purse. Keep the purse small so you can find things. If you need a briefcase, choose a practical and small one in neutral color. Never substitute it with a book bag, backpack or a shopping bag. Somehow, digital “manly” diver watches are also not very compatible with professional wardrobes.

9. Hair, Nails, Make-up and Perfume – Always maintain a neat and conservative style with hair off the face. Reserve shocking hair colors for Halloween parties.

Nails should be clean, trimmed or sculpted. No bright and shocking colors and definitely no nail art or nail jewelry.

Have you heard that “no make up is just as bad as too much make up”? Yes, you heard right. Keep it simple and appropriate. Smoky eyes are for nights out.

To summarize, here’s what you’ll need for a women’s working wardrobe:

* One matching jacket and skirt suit
* One matching jacket and pant suit
* Black skirt
* Black jacket
* Black dress pants
* Additional skirts
* Additional jacket
* Additional dress pants
* Button up dress blouses
* Shoes and Stockings

Men’s Professional Wear

1. Suits – Obviously, this is the bread and butter of a man’s wardrobe. My suggestion would be to get 2 suits. Suits should be worn every other day. I suggest getting dark colors. Dark gray and dark blue would suit most folks. Whether you buy an off the rack suit or have it tailor made really depends on your body type. If you have a body that is “average”, then perhaps an off the rack suit and slightly altered will do. If not, get a local tailor who is reputable and have a couple of suits made. Depending on where you live, a good suit made by a tailor would cost about $500 (or more!)

2. Shirts – For me, I prefer to get 10 dress shirts. This allows you to wear 5 during the week, send them to be laundered over the weekend, and still have 5 ready for the following week. Choose plain colors – white and blue with some variations are the best. For shirts, I’d prefer 100% cotton as it looks better and feels more comfortable. For dress shirts, I do not see the need to go high end. Shirts from places like LandsEnd would work perfectly. To make them more stylish, having your initials on the sleeves or pocket look nice and makes it unique as well.

3. Cuff Links – I have a couple of shirts that need to have cuff links. I find them quite stylish. I have about 3 to 5 pairs of cuff links to go with them. Like ties, I get new ones once in a while.

4. Ties – Ties are where I would invest a little money. Ties make a great impression. I would strive for about 5 ties (a different tie each day). Buy ties with designs that will last. Plain blue or black ties will always work. A couple of ties with repeated patterns should also be included. Avoid polyester.

5. Shoes – I’d say for most, one good pair will do. You can spend as much as you want but I think the most important thing is comfort and it obviously has to be good looking and high quality. I have owned Ferragamos, Pradas and Cole Hann before. On average, I wear my shoes for at least 8 years. Good shoes do last, so do not be afraid to pay for something you can wear for a long time.

6. Belt – For me, I would say just getting a couple of belts (in case you lose one!) will do. I would suggest a black one with a gold or silver buckle.

7. Socks – I have 10 pairs of socks (different shades of grey and black) so that I can wear 5 in a week, and even if I forget to put it in the laundry, I still have another 5 pairs for the following week. I try to get slightly different designs so I will not get confused when they come out of the dryer.

8. Men’s Accessories – Unlike women, men have it easy here. A couple of cuff links (if you are into that), and a simple dress watch will do. Heck, even a sports watch is acceptable.

Black Tie Wardrobe

One more thing, you would also need to be prepared for a black tie event. For men, that means a tuxedo. For women, it means an elegant dress. You could be invited to a colleague’s wedding or a company events.  Have at least one item ready for such occasions to avoid panic shopping.

Some ways to save money on your working wardrobe

Shop at Outlets – There are amazing deals at the outlets for designer labels and the choices abundant. Plan to go in January and July when the sales are going on and you get additional discount off already low outlet prices.

Use Credit Card Shopping Portals – Some credit cards have shopping portals that allow you to earn very good rebates. For example, Discover Cards’ shopping portal has merchant partners like LandsEnd.com where you can earn 5% rebates when you shop for your men’s shirt. At the very least, use a cash back credit card to earn some cash rebates or an airline miles credit card to earn frequent flyer miles.

Make use of friends who work in department stores – Department stores like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have sales all the time. At certain times of the year, they offer additional discounts and even allow staff discounts on top of that. We got a Denali North Face jacket for my son at $30, a great savings from the MSRP of $89! You can buy that Donald Trump tie, new wallet, watch, etc. for a lot less. Treat your friend(s) to a nice dinner or a Starbuck’s Gift card with the money you saved!

We hope you have enjoyed this post. Please share any wardrobe ideas you have.

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