The Dress Code

How business style is communicated

Today, business style means being ready for anything. A typical day for a female executive could begin by deplaning from business class and heading straight to a client meeting, then leaving a conference to meet associates for cocktails.
“These are people who are leaders, who set standards,” says style expert Constance C.R. White. “They should set a standard in appearance as well. Part of that is wearing the best quality that they can afford.”
Work the Suit

1. The basis of any executive’s wardrobe is a “killer suit,” says style expert Constance C.R. White. “It’s sexy, not masculine. You can wear it anywhere…or break it up and wear it separately. This suit has some stretch in it, some give. That is key to looking as great [at 5 p.m.] as you did at 9 a.m. or looking [good] when you get off a plane.” Black Elie Tahari suit ($198); alternate with James Perse black knit T-shirt ($32); Majorica three-strand pearl choker ($85 each); Camel Stuart Weitzman pumps ($198).

2. Color can enhance your wardrobe. “It’s not your boring, straight dark-skirted suit,” White explains. “Professional and conservative do not have to mean that you totally disappear into the clothing and that there’s no sense of who this woman is. The sweater’s rich, jewel color adds flair and plays up Wanda’s complexion.” Chanel tweed suit featuring fuschia piping, with an A-line skirt ($3,800); Burberry plum turtleneck ($225); black Salvatore Ferragamo sling-back pumps ($280); Bloomingdale’s art deco bracelet ($15) and hoop earrings ($52).

Wanda Richard, a mid-level CPA manager at one of the big four accounting firms, travels 30% of the time performing due diligence on firms in acquisitions and mergers. White selected outfits for a more conservative environment and combinations that would be appropriate in creative settings. All offer the versatility required for today’s business challenges.

Mix & Match
3. Mix your fabrics, suggests White. “You want to do a play in textures of similar weight,” she says. “The message sent is that she calls the shots. Above all, it [looks] aspirational. It looks rich.” This look can go from day to evening, White says. For day, Wanda might wear a T-shirt of stretch knit or polyblend knit under the jacket. Spring green Dana Buchman embroidered leather jacket ($750) with green Dana Buchman skirt ($100.80); Salvatore Ferragamo pumps ($280).

4. Adding single pieces, such as an accessory or clothing item, is sometimes all that’s needed to transform an outfit. “The belt adds a bit more flair, a more stylish look,” White says. If you wanted to be a little more sober, you could remove the belt. By adding the red jacket, the whole outfit becomes a little less body conscious.” DKNY leather skirt ($428); mock turtleneck ($168); leather belt ($30); Linda Allard Ellen Tracy red jacket ($425); Salvatore Ferragamo shoes.

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