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A Guide to the latest looks for fall

by Sharena Summerall

On the Clock

As many companies are relaxing the dress code and offering a business casual environment, professionals often find themselves confused when trying to balance appropriate office attire, comfort and current fashion. What exactly is business casual? How can you take advantage of the opportunity to be more comfortable this fall without sacrificing the professional image you've worked so hard to build?

By remembering a few simple Do”s and Don”ts of navigating the world of office attire, you can be comfortable and get to the top with style.

Do”s

The term “business casual” means different things to different people. In some offices, it simply means that employees are no longer expected to wear a full business suit everyday, but ties and slacks are still a must. In other environments, it opens the door for casual wear of all kinds, including jeans.

  • Do request a detailed explanation of how management defines business casual. It”s better to know the rules upfront than to read a company-wide e-mail about inappropriate attire and realize it”s about you.
  • Do remember that the physical image you project speaks volumes about how you feel about yourself and will affect how others, including your boss, coworkers and subordinates, view you. “If you have the freedom to dress down a bit, do it with style,” says local image consultant and stylist Rebecca Turk, who helps her clients put together polished looks that are professional and not the least bit stuffy. “Take a little time with your look to make sure you still feel polished in your outfit instead of using it as an opportunity to pull out your old sneakers and sweats.”
  • If jeans are acceptable in your office, forego the faded and ripped variety and stay away from anything too tight. For women, there are many trouser cut styles that mimic the flattering fit of wide-leg slacks and provide instant polish. “Choose a darker wash that accentuates your assets and pair them with a great top and jacket,” Turk says. “You”ll be comfortable and still look very professional.”
  • Do consider only partially dressing down. To maintain a refined look, pair a casual piece with a dressier article of clothing that is complimentary in color and fabric. Choose a nicely pressed button-down shirt with rolled-up sleeves instead of a T-shirt and keep khakis and cargos from looking too relaxed.
  • Women should invest in a collection of colorful blazers. There are many fun, casual styles on the market that, even worn over a tank or basic T-shirt, instantly add sophistication to any outfit.

Don”ts

Don”t take the business casual label as a green light to look sloppy. If it has a drawstring, it probably doesn”t belong in the office.

  • Stay away from “branded” t-shirts. A simple, well-fitting, solid-colored crew neck will always serve you better than an oversized shirt boasting the name of your favorite store or sports team.
  • Don”t mistake casual Friday for a day in the mountains. When cool fall days call for layering, men should be careful to do so with sweaters and not fleeces and women should save the track suits for the weekend.
  • Don”t forget that a man”s shoes really do say a lot about him. Those worn out Docksiders and scuffed up loafers are not okay for the office, even in a casual environment. Nordstrom Fashion Director Gregg Andrews recommends that men invest in a smart pair of shoes that will work as hard as they do. His suggestion: a clean, simple shoe boot that will keep business casual attire looking polished and fit the bill when