Posted by Kari Hulac on Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 00:00
It’s one thing to watch a Paris fall fashion show and quite another to know how to translate all that couture into anything remotely appropriate for a professional finance and accounting office.
But dressing for success doesn’t mean you cannot incorporate current trends into your work wardrobe. In fact, I’d argue that pulling a few of-the-moment looks into your usual line-up of suits and ties or blazers and skirts will make you look and feel more confident on the job.
1. Add some color. While what this distinguished gentleman is wearing is completely appropriate for a job in finance, once he’s seated around a boardroom table, he might completely disappear into a sea of blue and grey pinstripe.
To freshen up this look for fall, just add a pop of autumn color on the tie. Try orange, gold or rust instead of the typical power red and pair it with a patterned pocket handkerchief in the same color family.
Another option that works for men or women who wear suits to work is to try a shirt in an unexpected trendy color. Pink pairs beautifully with blue or a very pale yellow or orange would complement it as well. If you’re on the fashion challenged side, Pinterest is a great resource for getting fashion ideas. Check out our Robert Half Pinterest page or this men’s work fashion board . For women, hot colors this fall are silver, gray and electric blue. Get some inspiration from Ann Taylor.
2. Accessorize. Both women and men can change their whole look by just updating their eyewear. And let’s face it, a new pair of frames can be a lot more affordable then an entire closetful of clothes. Try a new shape or pattern and your co-workers may notice what you have to say in the next meeting in a whole new way. Current fall eyewear trends include oversized plastic frames, the retro look (preppy, cat’s eye and aviator) and modern colors like lime green, neon or purple. Buy two pairs so you can go more formal or casual depending upon the occasion.
3. Mix up your patterns. We’ve been seeing this trend develop over the past several seasons, and it offers a nice alternative to the monochrome suit look. Do not be afraid to pair unlike patterns or fabrics, whether it’s a polka dotted tie with a striped shirt or, for the women, a top and bottom in different fabrics (think slim fitting leather jacket with tweed skirt).
The key is always in the size of the pattern and the similarity of the color palate. The smaller the print, the easier it is to pair it with a different pattern. And when the color family matches, your look becomes complementary.
In the image of the ties below, you can see that concept work well on the right. The unusual tie pattern (squares) in the electric blue tie contrasts nicely with the blue pinstripe and the wider black pinstripe. This might be breaking a few traditional menswear rules (the look on the far left is more conservative) but it’s still completely appropriate.
4. Add some shine. If your company dress code is conservative, exercise some fashion creativity through your accessories.
For women this fall, anything shiny will do, whether it’s a skinny metallic belt over a conservative blazer, a chunky silver statement necklace paired with a black pantsuit or something like this fun sparkly clutch.
Men can pull this off with a tie or handkerchief, an oversized silver gold watch or some luxury socks with some subtle metallic threading. (A note on the socks, you’ll see stripes are hot this season, but I wouldn’t recommend that for the office. Try a polka dot or argyle for a more professional look.)
Kari Hulac is a former part-time fashion journalism instructor at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.