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The Boston Globe

Business

Etiquette at Work

7 ways to avoid blunders when getting dressed for work

Business attire isn’t “one size fits all.” Appropriate business attire depends on the business, the time of day, and the situation. Yet, despite the wide variety of norms in business dress, they share common aspects. Here are seven pointers that apply to all business dress:

1. Keep it understated. Bright bold colors or lots of flashy jewelry can draw the wrong kind of attention to what you are wearing. Consider the type of business you’re in as well. What might be acceptable at a dot-com may be too flashy for a financial services firm.

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2. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. This sage advice doesn’t need to be followed every day, but once in a while, make the effort. Think in terms of matching the formality of those whose job you aspire to while maintaining your own look.

3. Represent your company. As you deal with people outside the office, your attire and your image reflects on your company, just as your actions do.

4. Neat and clean. Clothing with stains, wrinkles, or tears is not acceptable in the business environment. Neither is clothing that smells or needs washing. Footwear is easy to overlook, yet it is one of the first things that is noticed. Keep shoes in good repair.

5. Don’t reveal too much. Clothes that are too short, sheer, low cut, or tight aren’t appropriate for a business environment. Think of it this way: If you walk into a meeting and people think to themselves, “What on earth is he/she wearing that for?” then you’re wearing the wrong clothes.

6. Dress for the time of day. Clothes that may be appropriate at the office may be too informal for a business dinner. Consider carefully the kind of event as you choose what to wear. If necessary, bring a change of clothes for an evening event.

7. Don’t be a fashion victim. Magazines are full of trendy business clothing for the modern person. Be careful about buying the latest fashions for work especially if your work environment conservative.

No matter what the dress code is at your office, be prepared to look your best by keeping a change of dress clothes there or in your car. It’s a lot easier to have that change of clothes available than it is to rush home or, worse yet, go to a store and buy the clothes you need. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

E-mail questions about business etiquette to etiquetteatwork@emilypost.com.

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