|For those looking to get ahead at the office, a closet full of office-appropriate wear for specific occasions can take the stress off. (Shutterstock.com)
Dear Marilyn: I am 34 years old and I’m 5-foot-3. My best colours are black and white. I am a size eight top and 12 bottom. I am mid-management and moving up. At my last business meeting someone mistook me for an administrative assistant!
I would like to update and upgrade my work wardrobe especially now that the festive season is here.
My work wardrobe is lean. My black pants are showing wear and pulling at the pockets. I have a handful of print tank tops I rotate under either a short, tight, black cotton cardigan (it has seen better days) or with a new collarless short black leather jacket.
I wear black glasses and I keep my nails short and my hair long, often in a ponytail. I don’t wear makeup.
I am uncomfortable in heels. Do I need to wear them anyway?
My limited budget does not leave room for error. I am clueless when it comes to dressing.
What should I do?
Marilyn replies: Start by looking at what your peers and your superiors are wearing. Then plan your wardrobe to fit the atmosphere around you. Resolve to dress as if you already have the job you want.
First, get your hair styled and lose the ponytail at work.
Next, consider a skin care regime and try a natural-looking makeup application to play up your features and add a little colour.
Make it your goal to look your best and, at the same time, be dressed appropriately for your job.
Regardless of what you add to your wardrobe, make certain the items flatter your body type and colouring.
Since you have almost worn out your black separates, replace them with items in the best quality you can afford.
Look for black pants with horizontal pockets, they won’t pull.
Acquire tops that have flattering necklines and finish with accessories to frame your face and pull the attention up to your eyes.
Discard your worn-out sweater. If your black leather jacket is appropriate business attire, slip it over everything. If not, shop for a black jacket that fits your torso and skims over your hips and stops where your legs start. This will be more flattering than drawing a circle around your hips.
For variety, try a short jacket in a bold colour or in a colour mix that includes black. It will keep the attention above your waist and perk up your basic blacks by adding colour and texture.
A stylish crisp white cotton tuxedo-front shirt will suit your colouring, go with everything and slip easily under your jackets. If you plan to add another couple of tailored items, look for a dark grey or navy bottom, team it with a top in the same hue and complete the look with your jackets. Then you can achieve multiple looks, without a huge investment, by adding accessories.
For corporate festivities, add bling to your black pieces and slip on dressier flat shoes or platform wedges. Never forfeit comfort for fashion.
Congratulations on ascending in your corporate world. Once you build your wardrobe using clothes that look great, feel comfortable and deliver the message you want, you can spend your time concentrating on your work, confident you look right for the occasion and get the respect you deserve.
Be sure to read my next column about dressing up for the holidays.
"Wardrobe Doctor" Marilyn Wetston is the owner of Marilyn’s in Toronto, Ontario. Follow her on Facebook to ask your questions.