Tip-Top Attire for the Office

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Try these fashion tips on for size in your office environment, no matter the dress code. By Maryam Yusof.

I’m currently hooked on a TV show called Suits that is set in New York City at a cutthroat top legal firm. Though the main characters are men, I love watching the show for the professional, sleek and classy outfits of the supporting ladies, particularly those of the firm’s managing partner, Jessica Pearson, and her well-cut dresses, tailored pantsuits and impeccable styling that leave me swooning after every episode. Though we can’t all have Ms Pearson’s limitless fashion budget, the woman makes one thing very clear: Power dressing is important to command respect.

Many people have the perception that power dressing for women involves a white blouse and a black, knee-length A-line skirt ensemble, but that isn’t the case. And just because skirts are out of the question for hijabis, that doesn’t mean that we can’t rule the boardroom.

Here are some tips on dressing appropriately according to your firm’s dress codes:

High Flying Corporate Warrior

You’re likely to be working in a male-dominated office, but just because you’re working with men doesn’t mean you have to dress like them. You want to look professional and put-together, yet elegant at the same time.

One item you should own is a blazer. They’re perfect to throw over to immediately look professional should you have a last-minute meeting. That said, it drives me nuts seeing people toting expensive designer leather handbags and wearing an ill-fitting blazer to meetings. No. Just no. You don’t even have to have it specially tailor made; there are pretty good off-the-rack options available as well. The key factor is whether the suit fits you well.

What to look for: Buttoned down shirts, silk tops and fitted straight-leg pants in dark colours. And suits, obviously.

Accessories: Keep your jewellery minimal.

Hijab: Stick to a solid coloured hijab in natural tones. I find the hijab styles where you can show off a pair of dangling earrings look really good with a business outfit.

Shoes: Closed toed pumps in black or nude. They have to be comfortable. Also, contrary to what Carrie Bradshaw would like you to believe, there is no shame in wearing flats – but stick to black leather.

Bags: Keep it simple and opt for structured leather bags.

Makeup: Use make-up in natural tones so that it is effective but not over-the-top.

Creative Maestro

If you’re working in a creative industry and your dress code is much more relaxed, you can have a greater flexibility with your outfits and colour schemes. The goal is to look sophisticated, stylish and artistic, while giving the impression that you mean business. Inject your personal style into your outfits, but know your limits – you don’t want to look sloppy.

What to look for: Bold, coloured trousers and printed shirts. Mermaid maxi skirts are also extremely sophisticated and appropriate.

Accessories: Don’t be afraid to accessorise. A statement necklace can immediately change up your look. Pile up your arm candy as well and finish it up with a sophisticated cocktail ring.

Hijab: While there are fewer expectations on dressing in a creative industry, you don’t want to overdo it. If you’re wearing printed trousers or a printed shirt, use a solid-colour hijab instead.

Shoes: Two words: statement shoes. The zanier, the better.

Bags: Anything goes! But when heading for important out-of-office meetings, use a structured bag.

Makeup: You can afford to wear bolder make up, but don’t overdo it. As a rule of thumb, opt for either a strong lip colour or bold eye makeup, but not both at once.

Casual Friday Every Day

If you have the excellent luck of working in an office where nobody would take offence if you wore your pajamas to the office, congratulations you lucky thing. Still, as tempting as it is to wear track pants and a hoody daily like Liz Lemon from 30 Rock regularly does, people will naturally react differently to you according to the way you’re dressed. So, if you want to command respect, dress the part; casual doesn’t need to be sloppy.

What to look for: Anything and everything except for pajamas, flip-flops, shirts with pit stains, etc; anything sloppy basically. It’s good to have sweaters and casual blazers to stay chic in cold air-conditioned offices.

Accessories: Anything goes!

Hijab: Anything goes!

Shoes: Preferably wear covered flats. They look less sloppy than sandals or flip-flops but are equally comfortable. Also, avoid wearing heels unless the rest of the office is wearing them too.

Bags: Anything goes!

Makeup: Keep it simple.

Remember, no matter the dress code of your office, the most important accessories you can wear to the office are your confidence, work ethic, charisma and intellect. Now go out there and kick some serious butt, ladies!

Still unsure about dressing well for the office? Here are some hijab styling tips from Murshidah Said, international speaker and adviser of grooming, corporate image and personal empowerment.

  • Wear only one visible brooch on your head and shoulders. Mistakes are often made when ladies clip on so many brightly coloured brooches that they are distractive and look gaudy.
  • Keep your hijab style simple with your office attire. Hijab twirls, twists and turns are attractive when you go out with your friends and family or to attend formal functions, but when at the office, be sure to keep it simple or your client will tend to look more at your head rather than listen to what is in your head.
  • Wear printed scarves against a plain top only or vice versa. Never put on print against print as this is a visual distraction.
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