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Working WildCat: Perfecting professional attire

Ariel Hernandez.Photo credit: Kasey Judge

To suit up or not to suit up?

There is a lot of confusion about the proper time for business professional versus business casual attire. As if trying to interview, network and give presentations wasn’t stressful enough, figuring out what is appropriate to wear is just an additional burden.

If you are trying to decide whether to sport business professional or casual, ask yourself what level of respect you want. The more professionally you dress, the more respect you will receive. No employer will turn you down because you are overdressed. However, there could be negative consequences for underdressing.

Here are some guidelines for business professional attire.

Suit up. A classic, simple suit paired with a pressed, collared shirt can go a long way. It should be a matching blazer or coat and pants in a neutral color such as black, gray or brown.
Women, if you opt for a skirt, it should be right at or slightly below the knee, not the upper thigh.

Women, less is more. Avoid purple eye shadow and no sky-high hair. Simple is better.
Men, comb your hair and style it if you choose, but make sure to trim or shave facial hair. If you have a mustache or beard, make sure that it’s clean and well-maintained.

As with the suit, neutral colors are best.
Women, flats and heels under 3 inches are acceptable. Regardless of which option you choose, no employer should see your toes — closed-toe shoes only.
Men, clean dress shoes are the appropriate choice. Don’t wear athletic shoes.

Jewelry should be small and minimal. A statement necklace won’t make a good statement in a professional setting.

Bags and Purses
Bring a portfolio if possible.
Women, a small, simple purse is acceptable if you absolutely can’t swap your purse for a portfolio. Again, stick to a neutral color.
Men, bring a portfolio or suitcase.

Tattoos and piercings
Whether you are a man or a woman, it’s important to keep your appearance as neutral as possible. Take out facial piercings, limit yourself to one pair of earrings and try to cover all tattoos. This goes for business casual as well.

Business casual
Luckily everything is pretty similar for business casual. Clothing is slightly more relaxed, but this doesn’t mean flip-flops, torn jeans, worn out shoes or shorts are OK.

Women, you can drop the blazer and wear a full-coverage blouse. There is more flexibility in pattern and color, but stay conservative. A conservative skirt or business trousers are acceptable bottoms.

Men are free from suits as well. A pressed, collared shirt and tie are acceptable, paired with a simple pair of slacks. Keep it professional by not rolling up sleeves, wearing a belt and keeping your tie free of cartoon characters.

Ariel Hernandez can be reached at [email protected] or @Aj7uriel on Twitter.

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