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Ask Chelsea: Dear Dress Me for Success

"Chelsea"

Chelsea Rinnig is one of Borderstan writers. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Looking for advice on how to accomplish your goals and make changes in 2013? Email Chelsea at askchelsea[AT]borderstan.com.

Dear Chelsea,

I am trying to make business attire work for me. There are so many different opinions about what acceptable professional business attire is though. What makes sense for the modern young women? I know it can depend on your industry to an extent… But some basic guidelines would be nice — specifically for us women that do not like to wear pants everyday! I am tired of being told ‘a woman’s clothes shouldn’t be memorable! I want to wear dresses and skirts that I feel like myself in. Any advice?

Dress Me for Success 

Dear Dress Me for Success,

This definitely depends on your industry, and to a great extent, the city you live or work in. Business attire can definitely vary greatly across the board, especially considering the age group you work with, too. Since I wear a nose ring and pretty much start Casual Friday on Thursdays, I completely sympathize with the desire for comfort and individuality.

However, certain wardrobe staples must populate your closet for those moments that require a degree of professionalism, and particularly if you seek to impress a client or your boss. A neutral colored pencil skirt suit with tan hose for the summer can suffice, which I personally pair with a tan pointed heel for some femininity. Flats, generally, are acceptable too so long as they are not scuffed or wildly patterned (patent leather works well). A white blouse or perhaps something with vertical stripes on top — clean and classic is what you’re going for, the point being that your attire should not distract from your ideas or work.

Once you get a sense of who you’re working with, you can see how much you can play with this basic start. Perhaps in the right context, a more exotic blouse or some playful jewelry, or various pops of color (which seems to be the trend these days, but I’m no fashion expert). You will have an idea of what you can get away with and mix into your outfits after you have established yourself better among your colleagues and clients.

That being said, don’t ever show off too much leg or cleavage. When in doubt, don’t wear it.

Same goes for you too, boys: buy a suit that fits. Go to a tailor and get fitted for a suit. There is nothing worse than a man in a suit that does not fit him. Trust me.

Anyone out there have any other advice or suggestions? DC gets a lot of flak for dressing poorly—let’s prove them wrong?

Always, Chelsea.

Note to readers: Under DC Law, Chelsea Rinnig is not licensed to practice, and does not represent that she practices: psychiatry, psychology, social work or professional counseling of any kind. This column is written for entertainment purposes only. 

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- who has written 45 posts on Borderstan.

Rinnig moved to Borderstan in Fall 2011 from Baltimore and hails originally from Los Angeles. Her dedication to the local food movement and commitment to eating simply and nutritiously have led her to both develop her culinary skills and write about her tasting new dishes both in her new city as well as her own kitchen. You can find Rinnig working downtown on weekdays, selling stone fruits and berries at the Dupont Farmers market on Sundays and splurging at fine restaurants here and there in-between. Email her at chelsea[AT]borderstan.com.

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