Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How to Be Professionally Fashionable: 10 Do’s and Don’ts for the Workplace

By Huong Vo

I’ve worked in the corporate world and know what it’s like to wear dress pants, pant suits, and skirt suits with buttoned up shirts constantly. If you’re tired of the monotony of grays, navy blues, and blacks, take the following tips to add a little fashion fun to your professional wardrobe all while keeping in mind for what’s appropriate and not appropriate for the office.


  • heels so high that you look like are coming from or going to the club. If you want height, four inches should be the maximum. Do you really want to “walk gracefully” while trying to catch an elevator? Didn’t think so!
  • skirts that are too short. Bending over or sitting down might be a huge issue at your conference meeting. This applies to dresses as well.
  • flip flops. Your office is NOT the beach. Embellished sandals are cute, but be sure and refer to your company’s dress code.
  • spaghetti straps in tops or dresses. Limit your skin exposure. If you must, add a little bolero sweater or a crop jacket with a sparkly brooch. You can look just as sexy covered up too.
  • hoodies. It doesn’t matter how cold the office is. Hoodies are meant for home and those trips to the gym.
  • tennis shoes. If your preference isn’t heels, tennis shoes are not a viable plan B. Again, they are meant for those trips to the gym.
  • jeans. If it isn’t casual Friday, leave these in your closet. You can always wear them out for meeting friends after work hours and weekends.
  • shorts. No matter the length, shorts convey the message that you want to relax. Save your favorite pair for going out on your own time.
  • see through clothing. Unless your shirt is long-sleeved and you’re wearing a matching colored tank underneath, save your transparent garments for nights out. Opaque tights with your skirt or dress are acceptable. Note: Pairing tights with a short skirt or dress does not make up for the lack of fabric.
  • hats. Take off your hat when walking into a building. Beanies, fedoras, and baseball caps work for your look only when you’re outside.


  • dark jeans with a nice blazer for casual Fridays. Dark washes says sophistication and works with all kinds of tops and jackets. Show that you can still be and look professional, even in jeans.
  • layers. Yes, even during those hot summer days, the temperatures in offices can freeze you out. The great thing about layers is that you can shed them and still look professional and be comfortable should you get a little hot.
  • a cardigan, a must-have staple in any woman’s wardrobe. Invest in short lengths and boyfriend, otherwise known as long lengths in different colors. You’d be surprised at how many outfits you can make with cardigans.
  • no-show socks. If you want to wear flats and still keep your toes toasty, go for skin-colored no-show socks. You can still wear flats during those cold months and stay warm!
  • ballet flats. If you’re not a heels kind of gal or want to change things up a bit, ballet flats are a cute alternative to dress shoes. A neutral color with embellishments, leopard print, hot pink, orange, cobalt blue, or red pair will have your feet do the talking at those meetings. They look great with skinny pants.
  • bracelets. If you feel like being a gypsy, wear bangles, but pile them on. The more, the better! If you’re going for a cuff, choose one that makes the outfit special for you whether it is leather, sparkly, or has an Egyptian feel to it.
  • necklaces. Nothing can dress up a plain white t-shirt under a blazer better than piling on lots of necklaces to dress them up. If you’re not a multiple strands kind of girl, opt for a long dainty necklace with a pendant meaningful to you or a statement necklace that will pop against your top.
  • scarves are a nice way to add a burst of color and keep warm during those winter months. You can never go wrong with a leopard or neon paisley print scarf against a neutral-colored outfit.
  • belts. If you haven’t worn belts before, try a skinny belt over your tunic or wrapping a thick patent one over a dress. Belts pull the outfit together and show off your waist.

If you haven’t noticed, I ended the DO WEAR list with accessories. If you don’t know this, accessories highlight your outfit. Instead of throwing a bag on your arm, give yourself a workout. Why not carry a bright over-sized clutch? You can fit everything you need and still add that pop of color.

Who says you can’t look fashionable at work? If you’re unsure of the dress code at your company, re-read their Code of Conduct manual. Nothing is more embarrassing than being called into the boss’ office for a dress code violation. Clothes are a part of nonverbal communication so next time you put an outfit together, think about what you want to say to people.

Huong Vo is a recent communication studies graduate from the University of North Texas. While pursuing her degree, she worked in the education and non-profit industries. A big fan of social media and blogging, Huong shares her love for fashion through her That’s My Kind of Style! blog and being a first-generation college student, she also helps college students and recent graduates through Grenty Nation, her college and career blog. When she’s not writing, Huong spends her free time at Texas Ranger games, traveling, reading, playing video games with her girlfriends, volunteering, and drooling over anything fashion-related.


  1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment

  2. Sequined & Metallic Bridesmaid Dresses | See more about adrianna papell, aidan mattox and sparkly bridesmaid dress. ivory bridesmaid dresses

  3. Get inspired with these gorgeous dresses Outfit Brands, cool shoes, and fab color combos we snapped on the street during New York Fashion Week.