Career advice: Suited for success

Let's face it. IT specialists aren't known for high fashion. Not that there's anything wrong with the way IT types dress, but if you've ever walked the floor at NetWorld+Interop for example, you know you're not looking at a group of people who make fashion a priority in their busy lives.

But there are occasions - an important presentation to the CEO or executive committee, perhaps - when it wouldn't hurt to dress up.

With that in mind, we asked Jean Gaffney, an image consultant for some pointers on what to wear to an important meeting. Here are her tips for men, and in the following story online, for women:

Don't neglect grooming. If you have long hair, pull it back into a ponytail. If you have a beard or moustache, make sure they are well-trimmed. And as always, your fingernails should be clean and trimmed.

As its name implies, a necktie has the job of tying a suit and shirt together. The current trend is muted or subtle patterns; think toned-down instead of in-your-face. If you haven't bought a new tie in a while, it's probably time for a trip to the mall.

Put on a woven shirt with a standard collar and cuffs. (A button-down collar is fine for everyday wear but not for your dressiest look.) Right now, French blue is popular, and this is less formal than white.

Dressy clothes are generally made of fine wools, cottons and silks. They should have very little texture and not be very colourful. Look for shoes and belts made of soft, smooth leather.

For men, minimum jewellery is best - a watch and wedding band are enough.

You can't afford to look outdated when you're trying to promote the latest technology. While a classic suit has two buttons and is always in style, the more current suit has three buttons and cuffed trousers, and lacks a centre vent. Gaffney says black isn't an appropriate colour for men's business wear. She recommends choosing a medium-to-dark tone of blue, grey, taupe or olive.

If you don't need to wear a suit to work every day, one is enough. But you should own at least three shirts and three ties that go with the suit to stretch your wardrobe. Above all else, make sure the suit fits well. If the collar doesn't hug your neck, the front gapes or the jacket is too tight or too loose around your waist, you'll look like you're borrowing someone else's clothes. Sleeves are another often-overlooked tailoring detail - they should reach your wrist bone.

Your belt and shoes should match or at least be in the same colour family; dark brown, medium brown or cordovan are good choices. Wear over-the-calf-length socks so when you cross your legs, no bare skin shows. Socks with a subtle pattern are a "do"; cartoon characters or holidays designs are a "don't".

Comfortable casual

Here are some tips for everyday office wear:

Heavier wools, cottons and leather are appropriate materials for casual wear; textures such as knits, flannel, corduroy and grained leather are OK. Clothing can also have more pattern and colour.

Your regular work attire probably calls for a polo shirt or a long-sleeve cotton shirt in a solid colour, check or plaid. You may even be able to get away with more casual wear, such as a shirt without a collar.

Khaki pants are dressier than jeans, but only if they're pressed. A belt makes casual wear more businesslike.

The difference between casual shoes and more formal footwear is that casual ones tend to have thicker soles and look bulkier.

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