With more of us getting back to work, we’re probably wondering whether our work wardrobes are still cut out for the job.
When many people were working from home, loads of articles and research came out about how to stay productive and focussed when you’re cosying up in your own house at your own desk with a cup of tea or coffee.
If you found working from home productivity hard, you’re so far from being alone.
But, based on scientific research into how our outfits affect our mood, researchers found that our work-from-home outfits really make a difference to our productivity.
We’ve written an entire article on what to wear when working from home here, but that’s not quite what this article is about.
This article is about looking professional. Many of us are back to work - those half tracksuit half suit-jacket Zoom outfits (sadly) can’t cut it anymore!
Without further ado, let’s discuss how to look professional.
Why Does Looking Professional Matter?
Work generally requires a mixture of the following:
Some lucky people might be able to roll to work in a scruffy t-shirt and ripped jeans and embody all of these characteristics, but honestly, the odds of this are infinitesimally slim. Yes, someone like Mark Zuckerberg might rock about in a t-shirt all day but that’s because he can.
For most people, walking the walk AND talking the talk really matters at work. It’s not about how other people perceive us, though in our society this is inarguably important, it’s about how our clothing makes us feel.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology used the phrase “embodied cognition” to illustrate that we think with our bodies as well as our brains, and a 1994 study from North Illinois University discovered that people felt increased responsibility, confidence, competence, reliability, honesty and trustworthiness when they took more care over the way the looked.
There are TONS of these sorts of studies that link dressing appropriately for a situation with feeling better about that situation. Many are focussed on work scenarios, and find that dressing well for work creates:
- Stronger confidence in oneself and one’s abilities
- Respect, both internally and externally
- Trust and honesty
- Quicker thinking and heightened cognitive abilities
- Better multitasking
If you put some effort into how to look professional, you’ll reap the rewards, both in a professional and personal capacity. You’ll feel more confident, inspired, enthusiastic and ready to take on the day.
Also, since professional fashion has moved away from the plain black suits of days gone by, there are way more options for creating professional outfits these days. Colours are in, accessories can be bolder and more defined, those pieces you felt were a little too loud for work are also probably fine. In short, it’s not so much a case of ‘anything goes’, but ‘mores goes’.
Let’s look at some professional outfit ideas and tips and tricks for looking professional:
1: Keep Clothes Well-Maintained and Watch for Fading
Professional clothes don’t need to cost a million pounds or dollars, but they do need to be pristine and totally devoid of any sorts of nicks, frayed ends, holes and so on. This really matters around areas that meet the eyeliner, like collars and sleeves. Sleeves are probably the main culprit - as soon as you sit down at a desk with your colleagues, your frayed sleeve will be dead easy to spot.
Another aspect of this is fading. Clothes fade, especially darker ones, and this can really affect their professional aesthetics. Prime areas for fading include the elbows and sleeves.
As Who What Wear remarks also, it’s black that fades the fastest, and black is one of the most common colours used for professional clothes. Watch out for your black trousers, jackets, etc.
2: Focus on the Fit
Professional clothes need to fit properly. Learn about your body type; we’ve created some guides on the apple and pear body types with more to come soon, so if you feel you have one of these body types then be sure to check those out!
In general, though, professional clothes ought to have the right cut and fit. Hems are particularly important - you don’t want your trousers to drag on the floor, nor do you want your sleeves to come over your hands. You don’t need to wear tight-fitting clothes, but baggy clothes aren’t a great choice either - they’re just way too casual. Somewhere in between is best!
Most professional dress codes don’t have any strict rules on accessories and jewellery, within reasonable limits anyway. Giant gold hoop earrings are probably out, but hoops in general? No problem. Ornate chandelier earrings? Why not? Large bangles and bracelets? Again, there’s nothing wrong with it if dress codes permit and it makes you look and feel on-form.
Accessories make people feel more comfortable - they’re like tokens, we enjoy wearing them and therefore, they make us feel good.
If your workplace is a little more corporate and conservative then you might want to opt for more subtle pieces. Solitaire rings, thin, single chains, minimalist cufflinks and possibly even a broach might fit well in these sorts of workplaces. Silver is always classy whereas gold is louder and bolder.
4: Choose the Right Bag
Bags add so much to an outfit. Professional outfits require professional bags. But what really are professional bags? Well, they’re practical, tough, good-looking (obviously), functional and stylish too.
Gorjus London has a wonderful selection of professional handbags and professional bags in multiple styles.
Many of our bags can be used for professional outfits.
Our range of purses also fit really well with professional outfits. We’ve got loads of lovely minimalist designs that partner exceptionally well with practically any outfit. Be sure to check them out.
5: Back in Black
It’s no secret that black is the smartest colour going. But what makes a black a really smart black? Well, some blacks are much stronger than others - you can get jackets, trousers and other professional clothes that are really, really black.
In a sense, very black clothing sticks out more than ‘normal black’ clothing. Faux leather trousers can be very black - the sheen gives the illusion of a particularly deep colour. Fine linen is also excellent at handling deep black pigments.
The darker an outfit is, the more accessories pop. This gives you an opportunity to push the boundaries a little - your outfit is super-dark, professional and minimalist, so why not give it a little colour pop?
Bright shoes work so well with super-dark suits. Red is timelessly impactful but neon pinks, yellows, greens and blues all have their own impact. It might just take shoes and one other matching accessory, maybe a bracelet, earrings or pendant necklace, to really augment an otherwise minimalist outfit with something a little louder.
6: Blouses and Trousers
Blouses are impervious to changes in fashions or trends - they’re completely evergreen. They’re also very professional and provide an opportunity to go colourful with patterns and prints or sleek with plain colours.
Blouses are also perfectly compatible with skirts or pretty much any type of trouser. High belted black trousers with a high-quality blouse would be a classic professional look. Matching prints can look excellent too and very crisp and sharp in darker colours with golds, silvers, reds, dark greens and navy.
7: Maxi, Midi Dresses and Jumpsuits
Suits, jackets, trousers, they’re all well and good, but sometimes you just want to wear a dress. It goes without saying really that midi and maxi dresses are best-suited for professional attire. Jumpsuits are also excellent and are available in many professional-looking prints and designs.
Midi and maxi dresses also partner so well with blazers and jackets, especially those that are slightly longer in length than average. This creates an elegant, flowing outfit that is gracious and professional. Leather jackets take things a step further towards business-casual, but that’s usually fine these days.
With blouses, trousers, maxi and midi dresses, belts are one way to really help formalise an outfit and give it a professional edge.
8: Stay Authentic
With more workplaces adopting a less formal, more liberal approach, it’s a good time to be authentic with your workwear. If that means dressing in something that doesn’t necessarily tick conventional boxes then it’s not an issue.
Of course, there are some more serious faux-pas you can make when dressing professionally. But, as far as colours, prints, patterns and the like go, there’s generally a lot of leeway.
Staying authentic to yourself and your favourite outfits and styles will help you feel confident which is hugely important for squeezing something practical from your workwear. If you feel good, you’ll work well and enjoy it more.
Summary: How to Look Professional
Looking professional and styling yourself for work is a pretty involved process for some of us. It’s hard enough finding enough outfits to keep things interesting!
Workwear can have a measurable impact on your mood and even your work performance so it’s worth putting some thought into.
Just a few tweaks to your regular outfits can make all the difference, or it might be time for a more comprehensive re-think of your workwear and professional outfits.
How to Look Professional FAQ
What is the best woman businesswear?
There's a lot of flexibility when it comes to businesswear for women these days. Of course, fitted suits or blouses, jackets and blazer combinations still dominate. Midi and maxi dresses are in and jumpsuits also come in an array of professional-looking fitted styles with professional-looking patterns. The fit of businesswear is really important, especially around the sleeves, waist and neckline or chest. Make sure clothes are super-clean and unfaded. Deep, dark colours are generally the go-to for businesswear, but summer usually freshens businesswear up - floral patterns and bright colours look great.
How can I look smarter as a female?
Looking smart is about feeling confident, slick and organised. Organised, well-orchestrated outfits make us feel more together which trickles through to our psyche. Colour coordination and fit are paramount. Add accessories to taste and keep these in sync. Silver is probably the smartest jewellery metal around - gold is perhaps a little too opulent. Don't be afraid of colour but make sure garments are high-quality with deeper, strongly pigmented colours. Know your colour combinations so you can assemble the perfect outfits.
How can I look business-like?
The go-to professional outfit is a suit. Blazers, trousers and blouses also look very professional. A quality belt adds to the formal aesthetic. Then, add a quality dark, mature bag and some sincere accessories and jewellery. Keep things sharp and sleek - sharp angles and quality materials give the perception of business acumen. But, don't be put off flowing dresses and wavey lines if this suits you better. Midi and maxi dresses can look thoroughly professional too and can take centre stage during the warmer months.