Work-wear 101... How to look stylish and professional

When it comes to dressing up for your job, the differences from one sector to the other are huge, and even within the same industry, your actual role and seniority matter a lot. You need to adapt. But, in my opinion, whilst it's important to fit in in order to avoid discomfort, especially if you're in a high pressure job (who needs the added stress of looking different to everyone else), you also need to retain your own personality and let it shine through, from a tiny bit when you start to a whole lot as you progress to more senior levels.

Every Autumn, a new class of analysts joins the bank I work for, and this usually takes me back to the time I started, not that long ago (no coughing at the back please), a time when I could have done with some fashion and styling tips, frankly... Whilst I was pretty good at putting together outfits for the week-end, my week day fashion sometimes lacked inspiration.

So, in case any newbies are reading, here are my notes for great style in the City (also works if you're an accountant, a consultant, a non fashion journalist etc etc):

1. On your first days, err on the side of caution: you'll be able to experiment later, but I suggest you leave your red cowboy boots or Hermès Collier de Chien cuff at home when you start in a new role;

2. Understand the lingo and make sure you know the translation into womenswear: we all know that business attire means a suit and a tie for a man but a woman has more options, from a trouser suit to a block colour wrap dress and killer heels;

3. When you start, try not to out-dress your bosses, and most importantly your clients, especially if they are women;

4. Get your lengths right: think about this, you'll be sitting in a lot of meetings, so unless you want to flash more leg than necessary, aim for a skirt length that falls between three inches below the knee and three inches above... also for trousers, anything above 3/4 length is a big no no in my book, even in the summer (hopefully you know to avoid shorts already);

5. Be careful with fabrics, avoid the ones which filled with static will cling to the inside of your legs or the ones which are so sheer you're disclosing too much information, unless you wear a shell under, after all lace is a big trend this year...

6. Invest in high grade, not junk: this should also be your moto for your pension investment by the way, but here I'm talking fashion, that one Max Mara suit will last you much longer than the three you could buy from Zara at the same price;

7. Heels are your friends, despite whatever reservations you may have, but try to stay within 5'', as anything higher will break your back and send the wrong message;

8. Handbag-wise, find one that works for you and your job, i.e. don't turn up with a mini bag where you won't be able to fit your presentations or laptop;

9. Great style will get you nowhere without good grooming, which incidentally will make you feel good about yourself so worth investing the effort (and no you don't need to pay someone to do your nails, you can do it yourself, same goes for a good blow-dry);

10. Finally, remember that you are a woman, so make the most of the extra flexibility you get with fashion via colourful accessories and please please stay away from pinstripe suits and ties.

One last note: this time on a rule that I believe is stupid, outdated and slightly sexist. In some offices, open toe shoes are frowned upon. I think this is a great way to ensure nobody turns up in flip-flops but when the Very Privé from Louboutin or the Palais from YSL are everywhere it is time to give up this ridiculous rule and say yes to wonderful pedicures and peep-toes in the office!

Do I think looking the part is the only thing that matters? No... but in my case I feel more confident and comfortable when I feel that I look good and that I belong somewhere, so hopefully this will help you as well!


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