Business Attire – Oh dear what should I wear for work?

Business Attire - Oh dear what should I wear for work?I was generally musing with my other half that in these days of such choice (in most aspects of day to day life) the actual amount of choice itself adds to daily frustrations as well as a certain element of stress. An example of this is general business attire and the choices we have now with regard to the clothes that we can wear for business and work.In the not too distant past (I don’t want to give my age away!) it was easy. In general there was a uniform, pin striped or smart suit with shirt and tie for men and smart knee length skirt or trouser suit with a blouse/shirt for women. We didn’t have to think – Just buy a few and rotate. However now within the business environment we have, formal, smart, smart casual, casual and dress down days!

There are so many times when we have both (my partner and I that is) sat in front of the open wardrobes (yes multiple to cater for my clothes) trying to figure out what’s best to wear for a particular business, client or sales meeting. For him, is it smart jeans or chinos with shirt, T-shirt or Polo shirt or smarter with jacket or suit with or without tie or more formal pin striped suit with or without tie? As a woman the vacillation is even worse with questions such as, is this skirt too short, are my heels too high, does this look business-like enough, and is it too casual, or as if to emphasise my point here, is it casual enough!

To help, we have come up with some general rules of thumb:

You cannot go far wrong with a smart suit with open shirt and no tie for men and a smart mid length skirt or trouser suit and blouse with mid height shoes for women that should cater for most business scenarios.  Examples of retailers providing good general business wear for men that fit into our “average rule of thumb” are Marks and Spencer Italian range or if feeling flush Jaeger and Boss for men. For women (as always) things tend to be a bit more complex. “Next” business range does a good range across the age divide and is reasonable priced, but as we get older the choice is more limited. Marks and Spencer can be a bit “mumsy” but their “Autograph” range is Ok and Planet can be quite good if a bit classic. My favourite though I must admit, is LK Bennett

The other rules of thumb relate to the other industries and the general type of business attire to wear for business meetings:

  • IT Industry – Casual
  • Advertising & Marketing – Smart Casual
  • Recruitment –  Smart
  • Legal – Formal
  • Property – Formal
  • Insurance – Formal
  • Finance and Banking – Formal
  • Media – Casual to Smart Casual
  • Fashion – Anything goes but needs to be more modern classic to be safe

As a complete aside; I still find it so surprising how many business men and women do not polish or have scruffy shoes. I am probably being old fashioned but it gives such a poor first impression and I am astounded at the number of women who do not remove the white sticky labels from the soles.

We are now in a small start up office with a little team of four. With no clients or sales meetings and after so many years of wearing a suit for work my husband has taken to wearing his scruffy jeans and fitted white t-shirts (he has a some total of 15 which he rotates). I still prefer to wear my work clothes as I like to demarcate work and leisure. Our other director James always seems to look dapper in his smart jeans and shirts and our young developer Viet is a bit more trendy with his slightly baggy drainpipe trousers. 4 very different choices!

avatar Name: Alexandra Eager
About: Alex has worked as a Financial Controller and Finance Director for many years for a variety of companies across a range of industries but more recently she has moved away from accounting working for an internet marketing agency as Finance and Operations director, primarily overseeing the finance functions and search engine optimisation (SEO) for clients. Follow Alex on G+ and on Twitter @Alex_BusDirUK
Alex runs her own company with two fellow owners developing a suite of e-commerce web sites and promoting them directly. “I found that SEO and finance were quite compatible both needing an eye for detail, research and analysis as well keeping up with new developments and changes.”

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