Outfitted for the Office

Friday, April 7, 2006

Getting dressed for your first day at work should be easy. You have a degree from an institution of higher learning, after all. Yet often it isn't. Do you need to wear a tie? Can you get away with a T-shirt? When it comes to skirts, how short is too short? Depending on where you work, the answers can vary dramatically.

Sporting the same duds you wore to physics class is a bad idea, but investing in a boxy briefcase and an even boxier McSuit is worse -- unless your idea of style comes straight out of your parents' closet.

Why should you care about what you wear? It says something about who you are and -- more to the point -- how seriously you take your workplace's often unspoken rules about protocol and propriety.

Which isn't to say that you have to check your personality at the office door. The trick is to build a wardrobe out of a few classic, subtly stylish pieces that can do double duty. I'm talking about the flat-front pants that look as good at a Monday-morning meeting as they do at Sunday brunch with the folks. Or the chic little cardigan that covers up your strappy tank (save it for happy hour) while protecting you against glacial office air conditioning. Shop wisely, and in time you'll build a closet full of affordable yet stylish staples that look professional -- and, even better, feel like you.

For a look at stylish, affordable and work-safe clothing that will get the job done in almost any office, check out our interactive Shopping Trip -- for men and women.

-- Suzanne D'Amato

Have a style question? E-mail Suzanne D'Amato, Sunday Source's deputy editor and a former fashion writer at Vogue, at styleq@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and phone number.

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