There are plenty of scenarios where you might be expected to dress professionally, some of which are more pleasant than others.
On the more unpleasant end of the spectrum is dressing for the courtroom. If you have to go to court for any reason, you want to look pulled together and professional to show that you care and make a good impression on the judge and potentially the jury.
On the more pleasant end, perhaps you’ve landed an interview for your dream job, or maybe you’re starting your first day of work.
Regardless of the specifics, the following are some tips to dress professionally as a woman in 2020.
Be Aware of Company Culture
If you’re planning what to wear for a professional environment, you should think about the corporate culture.
If you’re going in for your first interview, you might not know much about the company’s culture yet.
Do a little digging on Facebook or social media and the company’s website. These places might give you a better idea.
At the same time, while you do want to work to reflect someone who will be a good cultural fit, you also need to err on the more professional side if the culture seems casual, at least as you’re making a first impression.
It may be better to be more formal as compared to less formal, at least in the beginning.
The corporate culture is relevant, but so is the industry.
There are going to be different considerations for different industries. For example, the professionalism expectations in the financial industry are probably going to be quite a bit different than what you see in the tech industry.
There is also the saying that you should dress for the job you want instead of the one you have. Appearance is important in our careers, whether we think that’s fair or not.
When you take the time to dress in a way that’s put together and professional, you’re conveying yourself as someone who will work hard. How you dress and your work style are part of your personal brand.
Focus on Fit
Even if you don’t have the budget for designer clothes for work, at least not yet, the best thing you can focus on is how those clothes fit.
Even a very simple outfit can come off as polished and professional if it fits well. You don’t want to wear anything too big or too small.
This isn’t just important for women to keep in mind—it’s a tip for men as well.
If you buy well-fitting clothes or have items tailored, you can mix-and-match them effectively, even if your work wardrobe is relatively small.
Dressing conservatively is important in the workplace because you want to be remembered for the things that you say, whether it’s in court or an interview.
Keep the clothes that are too revealing out of your professional wardrobe rotation.
It’s distracting, and it may also make you feel uncomfortable, so you may not perform as well in a stressful situation if you’re worrying that you’ve worn the wrong clothes.
Make Sure You’re Comfortable
If you wear something like a dress and it has a high slit or fits too snugly, it’s going to limit your mobility. When your mobility is limited, it’s then going to make you less comfortable, and then you’ll be distracted.
You want to be comfortable, although of course not sloppy.
Keep in mind the same concept when it comes to footwear. If you choose a heel that’s too high as an example, then you again will be focused on walking without toppling over, and you’re not going to be able to present yourself in the way that you’d probably like to.
Choose High-Quality Materials
When you’re choosing what to wear in a professional setting, look for high-quality materials. You want materials that are breathable and structured.
You don’t want flimsy or see-through materials, because, in addition to perhaps not looking as if they fit well, these materials might also come off as unprofessional or too revealing.
If you can only afford two high-quality professional items, then buy those and the rest can wait. Find a couple of basics that are going to make you look and feel great and then find ways to mix-and-match them with lower-cost items.
The hope is that your efforts will pay off, and over time you’ll be able to build your professional wardrobe.