Over the past few years, work wear rules for women have changed. No longer are we expected to strut around the office in a power suit or smart shift dress and pearls. As the office outfit guidelines soften, it’s easy to feel like we’re staring into a style vacuum.
Okay, so it’s goodbye power suits, padded shoulders and sharp tailoring, then… what? what should we wear instead? What are the new rules? How do we balance being taken seriously in a professional environment with feeling feminine, stylish, comfortable and us?
While it’s obviously essential that you’re great at your job, the importance of being well-groomed and confidently-dressed should never be overlooked when making an impression on clients. One small style misstep could make all the difference to the outcome of a client meeting. Here are 7 rules on what to wear to a business meeting – or, just as importantly, what not to wear.
7 Rules On What To Wear To A Business Meeting
#1. Don’t wear a cheap jacket or coat
While we may have left the 80s behind, your jacket or coat is still a vital element of your work wardrobe – and it’s worth spending some money on if you can. If you invest in a fabulous coat, be it a great colour, gorgeous fabric or classic brand, you can expect to be forgiven for wearing high street separates underneath. You’re also likely to be noticed (and remembered) by clients for all the right reasons.
#2. Don’t wear unforgiving fabrics
Look for fabrics which have a mix of both man-made and natural fibres – and wear skirts that don’t crease and trousers that don’t shine. No matter how long or demanding your day, you want to give the impression that you can easily handle it – and if your clothes look sad, tired and crumpled then so will you.
It’s much better to breeze into the meeting venue after some hours behind your desk looking professional and polished, so pick your fabrics wisely!
#3. Don’t forget to plan
One of my favourite business quotes is ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’. And when it comes to your work wardrobe, planning is vital. So look at your diary or planner, and check which meetings and events you have to attend for the week ahead – then plan an outfit for each one.
Make sure you have items that go together, are clean, fresh and ready to wear. The last thing you want on the morning of a big presentation is to discover that your skirt has a stain on it, or your shoes desperately need re-heeling.
Even if you get the odd curve ball thrown at you with an unexpected event, your wardrobe should be flexible enough to pull together an appropriate look at short notice.
#4. Don’t wear unsuitable shoes
Work from your shoes up! While it may be true that you should never judge a book by its cover, first impressions really do count. So make sure the first impressions clients are forming of you are flattering.
Avoid shoes that are dirty, scuffed, ill-fitting, obviously-cheap or unsuitable for your outfit, the weather or the occasion. Heel height is a matter of personal preference. Go high if you can walk well in heels.
But if you’re unsteady in two inch heels, please opt for a kitten heel instead, or a ballet pump (stay away away from trainers though, as a whiff of foot odour when swapping shoes is not good office etiquette)!
#5. Don’t overlook your foundations
Get your foundations right, and make sure you’ve got a good-fitting bra for your size and shape, a nude cami vest and seamless pants.
#6. Don’t be afraid of separates
While dresses may be an easy go-to one-piece for work, don’t overlook quality separates. If you don’t do dresses normally, then don’t do them for a business meetig. Let your innate style dictate your work-wear rules and go for a great blouse, pencil skirt or tailored slim trousers and heels.
#7. Don’t fall for these office fashion crimes
If you want to look stylish and be taken seriously, say no to these all-too-common office fashion crimes too:
- Crop tops, plunging necklines or other skin-bearing clothing.
- Mini skirts (even when worn with opaque tights).
- Ill-fitting, unflattering tailoring (a good local tailor or alteration service in your area can breathe new life into an old suit – then wear as separates rather than together).
Dress well, and you’ll not only feel (and look) great, but your performance will improve too – you’ll feel more confident delivering a pitch, meeting new clients to negotiate a deal.