If you want to get ahead in your career, the first thing you need to do is dress the part. Professional attire was founded on menswear back when men were the only people in the office. In some professions, even though women have joined the ranks, strict professional standards of dress are still adhered to. So, suit up to make the grade.

Wear a suit. Nothing says professional like a conservative suit. You need something in navy, black or gray with a traditional notched collar jacket and cuffed trousers or a straight skirt. You may stray from these three colors, but keep the suit dark. When choosing a suit, consider whether a man in your office would wear a suit just like it.

Pair a suit with a white blouse. To keep the look professional, put a white or off-white blouse with a dark suit. Stick with basic cotton button-down blouses without ruffles or other embellishments.

Combine a dress with a jacket. A dress can be professional if paired with a suit jacket. The dress should be at least knee length and in a dark to medium color. A print dress is fine if the print is muted and conservative. When choosing a print dress, consider whether a man in your office would wear a tie in the same print.

Stick with pumps or flats. Pumps are the quintessential business shoe for women. Choose a pump with a closed toe and a two- to three-inch heel in black, brown or navy. As an alternative to heels, and to wear with pantsuits, flats are a good choice. Again, a closed toe is appropriate here. Your flats should look like a man’s loafers.

Style hair conservatively. A professional woman’s hair does not provide distraction to herself or anyone else. Long hair should be pulled back or put up and secured in place. Short hair should be neatly styled out of the face.

Choose jewelry carefully. Too much or too big jewelry could take the professional edge off of your look. A wristwatch and wedding rings are acceptable and one pair of non-dangling earrings.


  • Avoid flimsy materials. They add a sense of soft femininity that contradicts the professional look.

  • Always wear nylons with a dress or skirt to complete your professional look.

  • Strappy or open-toed shoes are never part of a professional women’s attire, unless you’ve joined the world’s oldest profession.