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The Professional Fashionista

Have you thought about what you are wearing recently?
Have you thought about what you are wearing recently?

This article deviates from my usual topic about vintage clothiers. I have decided to write an article that is more functional and useful to readers regarding business and professional attire. I came across this topic through some of my colleagues from law school; my fellow attorneys are hosting a fashion show for the Chicago Bar Association (CBA) this upcoming March. The point of their fashion show is to draw attention to the “do’s and don’ts” of professional attire. Of course, the fashion show at the CBA is geared toward attorneys (I think I just took a shot at my own profession – laugh out loud).

Often forgotten, professionals not only need to be aware of the decisions that they are making at work, but professionals also need to be aware of the decisions they are making when getting ready for work. The clothes you wear can be a big deal and will leave an impression as to how a client or interviewer might perceive you; it is like that old saying about first impressions…

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”


  1. Make sure that your clothes are ironed and pressed neatly; wrinkles are sloppy.
  2. Do not underestimate the power of a well-tailored and fitted suit. Hemlines are important. The right lengths for your suit sleeves and pants will not only flatter your body, but the right lengths will also make you look “put together.” SIDE NOTE: Owning one “good” suit is essential, think… weddings, funerals, interviews, presentations, church, etc… You would rather have a fitted suit on hand then to be SOL.
  3. For those who are not fashion savvy, when wearing pants outfits, make sure your belt matches the color of your shoes.
  4. Men, do not wear white socks with dress pants.
  5. Women, be modest with your heel height. Stilettos can be appropriate but think about minimizing platforms or anything that can be considered “too sexy.”
  6. Shoe polish can go a long way.
  7. Anything too revealing is absolutely inappropriate.
  8. Make sure that you have an appropriate, clean haircut. For men, well-groomed facial hair is a must.
  9. For men and women, clean fingernails are often over-looked. If you do not have the time or money to get manicures, bust out the file and buffer on your own time. Chances are you will be shaking hands at work, and no one wants to touch someone who has dirty, crusty fingernails or dry, scaly hands.
  10. Tattoos should generally be tucked away. Tattoos of course are not a bad thing, but in a professional setting you do not want anything distracting clients or potential interviewers.
  11. For women, lighter, natural make-up is preferable. Work is not a nightclub or a time to experiment with any products that are too “loud.” SIDE NOTE: Eyeliner is not essential and can sometimes bring out facial wrinkles and crows feet. Eyeliner can also make your face look “harsh.” Again, softer, natural tones are preferable.
  12. Women, wear appropriate undergarments; this will give you smooth lines on your backside and support where you need it (for those who are chesty). And… underwear is exactly what it says it is – UNDER*WEAR, it is worn UNDER your clothes, not to be seen; this includes panties (I hate that word), brassieres, and any other lingerie.
  13. PANTYHOSE… I am not a huge fan of pantyhose, but there are times when it is appropriate. There are also times when it is functional, i.e.) living in the Midwest pantyhose can keep you a little warmer while sprucing up an outfit. There are a lot of cute patterns for tights and pantyhose that are workplace-friendly; USE YOUR BETTER JUDGMENT.

And for those who do not want to conform, remember you are still yourself underneath the clothes. A unique piece of jewelry, cuff links, a scarf, or even some quirky, fashionable socks are often appropriate if worn in moderation. There’s always room to add a personal touch.

At the end of the day, you are marketing yourself. Chances are you have worked hard to become a professional, and you have worked hard to network and make a name for yourself. So don’t allow yourself to be overlooked simply because of your attire. Sadly, it does happen and it is hard to change a first impression.

Take care of yourself and take charge of your life. Making a few changes in your morning routine or stopping at the dry cleaners every once in awhile will make a difference. I can promise you that with the help of a few guidelines or reminders, you will be 100% more confident, and that is key to a successful professional.

Below are a few helpful websites:

Advice from the Pros…

In history people dressed much better than we do today. -- Vivienne Westwood

Fashion is very important. It is life-enhancing and, like everything that gives pleasure, it is worth doing well. -- Vivienne Westwood

A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous. -- Coco Chanel

Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions. -- Coco Chanel

Dressing is a way of life. -- Yves Saint Laurent

I base my fashion taste on what doesn't itch. -- Gilda Radner

Fashion is about dressing according to what's fashionable. Style is more about being yourself. -- Oscar de la Renta

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. -- Thomas A. Edison

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