Career advice: Dress to impress

While IT workers may roam the office in shorts and sandals these days, almost everyone has been in a business situation that called for dressing up a bit more than usual.

Having offered men pointers on what to wear to an important meeting on the previous story, we turn our attention to the women. Women generally have more wardrobe and colour options than men, but freedom of choice also brings greater opportunity for making the wrong one.

Jean Gaffney offers the following tips for finding the right look for the occasion:

Hair and makeup should be polished and refined. If you have long hair, put it up or pull it back. Choose subtle, natural makeup colours and avoid wearing bright eyeshadow or harsh eyeliner. Likewise, skip this season's trendy nail polish colours and stick to natural shades or deep tones of red.

Choose conservative, understated jewellery in metal tones and leave the plastic hoops and dangling earrings at home. Limit rings to one per hand. Any purse or briefcase you carry should be made of leather.

The next time you need to buy new glasses, consider that tinted lenses impede making eye contact. Get nonreflective coating so light doesn't bounce off you.

An important business meeting calls for a suit - either a coordinated jacket and pants or the more formal jacket and skirt. There's nothing more practical than investing in a jacket, skirt and pants in the same colour and fabric, and mixing and matching the pieces with other garments. For example, you can pair the skirt or pants with a sweater set and use the jacket to top other slacks or a skirt. Just be sure your suit doesn't have contrasting buttons or trim that will limit your options.

Choose nicely shaped classic clothing in wool, silk or other fine fabrics. If you wear a skirt, the hem should graze the kneecap or fall just below.

Women can work with a much broader colour palette than men, but keep in mind that the degree of boldness should match your personality. Pick a neutral solid colour or subtle pattern and wear an accent colour near your face. For example, you can highlight a grey, black, beige or navy suit with a bright blouse or scarf. Good accent colours include red, blue, green, yellow, orange, turquoise, pink and purple.

Pick a blouse, sweater or shirt made of silk or very fine wool knit. Stay away from bulky sweaters or lots of texture. A jewel neck or open collar is fine as long as it's tasteful and not too low-cut - Erin Brockovich is not the look you want to emulate. You should never bare your arms in a presentation, so don't wear a sleeveless shell unless you plan to keep your jacket on.

Even when it's 35 degrees outside, hosiery and close-toed shoes are still musts. Wear leather shoes with a low heel and a thin sole, not clogs or platform shoes. Suntan-coloured nylons don't work for everyone - the key is to pick a colour that matches your skin tone.

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