Color Me Professional

A reader writes:

Hi Anita,

I’m looking for work and want to be presentable when cold calling & interviewing but it’s hard in this heat to not wear something comfortable. What colors should I lean toward when I am going to an interview or cold calling (in person), etc?  I really appreciate your posts and you always have excellent advice.

Hi, Color Curious,         Woman in Grey Suit

Thanks for the question. Color choices say a lot about who you are right off the bat. It shows all sorts of emotions and personality traits and can even evoke feelings from the person with whom you’re interviewing or meeting. Research has shown that nonverbal communication accounts for 85% of communication exchanges between 2 or more people. Wouldn’t you want to make sure you are communicating the right vibe and professional language when searching for a job or participating in an important meeting? I would definitely hope so!

You want your color palette to be professional, clean, and not overbearing. I suggest sticking with a solid base color and accenting with brighter colors and patterns. Read on to find out which shades make the grade…

  • Navy Blue – This is the most popular color because it presents a sense of strength, dependability, friendliness,  and light-heartedness — all qualities that a hiring manager is looking for in a candidate. I suggest selecting this color for your suit or main outfit components.
  • Gray – The most popular color after navy blue is gray. Gray is the color of intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, and expectancy. It provides a neutral canvas for you to wear a bright-colored tie or blouse underneath.
  • Black – Black is a great color to incorporate in your wardrobe for job interviews. It is very commanding of attention and suggests possibility and potential.  Interviewers may react to this color as sophistication and polish. It can be overpowering, sending messages of arrogance, so I would use this as an accent color or for a top or bottom, but not both.
  • Red, yellow, and orange – Steer clear of these three strong shades. These colors can be overwhelming and can overpower the senses. They evoke passion, romance, and emotional response — not the best thing for job interviews.

Man in Blue ShirtI only selected these colors as a guideline. Depending on the type of job that you are looking for or the company’s environment, you may want to branch out from this modest color selection. If you need more information or need advice, do your research! Visit the company’s website or even call the office and ask what is appropriate.

What are some of your winning color stories? Did you wear something out of the box that landed you the job? How about some clothing mishaps that you wish you could take back? We all know we have some…

For some more color tips, view this video!

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit

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Best Wishes,


Suiting Up for Summer

Hello Readers!

For some of our readers summer has started showing its strength already, while for others, it is just beginning to break through. With the first official day of summer on June 20, 2012, a shift in attire will surely become necessary. With the increased temperatures and humid weather, many pieces in your work wardrobe will need to be retired until next Fall if you plan to survive the next few months. Sure, we would all love to sport our best beachwear or a comfy Maybe the policy on casual summer attire should have been a little clearer!pair of flip-flops and shorts to the office, but unfortunately, for most professional work places, a few poor dressing decisions could land you a permanent vacation from your position.

Here are some standard guidelines to follow when making your summer selections.

–          Tank tops, halter tops, tube tops, or any top for that matter than openly exposes your shoulders or shows off a little too much of your recently bronzed skin are not acceptable. My motto is — when in doubt, take sleeveless out. If you cannot bear to be sleeved to and from the office, bring a sweater to wear while on the job and remove it when away from your workspace.

–          Make sure to wear appropriate footwear to work. I, for one, would much rather don the new rhinestone-embellished flip-flops I picked up last weekend than some stuffy closed-toe shoes. But dress codes are not in place to take the fun out of personal expression; they are there for your safety while on the job. Strappy sandals and flip-flops provide zero protection from the injuries inflicted by a tumbling box or sharp corner. In addition, the noise sandals and flip-flops make while walking down the hall are truly annoying to your coworkers. Save them for the weekend.

–          Shorts are a tricky subject. Some offices allow them, and others strictly forbid them. I suggest steering clear of shorts. Length, style, fit, and fabric can easily take shorts from professional to inappropriate very quickly. For women, shorts should have a minimum of a 5” inseam; for men, cargo shorts and worn-in styles should be taken out of the running.

–           As far as short-sleeved shirts go, try to stick with button-down styles. Polo shirts and golf shirts should be avoided.

–          Women should avoid casual sundresses. No matter how cute they may be for a weekend getaway, they may not be appropriate for an office setting.

The rules around summer dress code can be expansive and never-ending. Each office and human resources department will have their own set of guidelines and ideas on what office attire is included and excluded from their culture. When in doubt, consult your HR manager if you have any questions and BEFORE wearing an outfit to the office. The last thing you would want to have happen is that you are sent home for inappropriate wardrobe choices.

Check out these links to get more tips and visuals on what to wear in the summer heat!

The New Power Suit for Summer

How to Dress for Success in Warm Weather

How to Dress Business Casual During a Blistering Hot Summer – For Women

Smart Girls Guide to Business Casual This Summer

What are your summer work style suggestions?

Look forward to your comments!



Dress For Success

A reader writes:

Hi Anita,

I have just recently graduated from college and have been on the hunt for employment since moving to back to my hometown. After sending out a slew of resumes and following up with prospective employers, I have been contacted by some and have several interviews scheduled for next week. What are some suggestions and guidelines that I should follow when choosing what to wear to the appointments?

Thanks for the great question. I am sure many of our readers have been plagued by the same question of “what do I wear?”

Remember, you only have one shot to make a GREAT first impression! Being dressed appropriately for an interview or job fair is a key component of landing your next position. Follow these simple guidelines to make sure you fit the part.

  • Be sure you look clean. Shower before your interview. For women, your hair, make-up, and overall appearance should be on the conservative side. For men, be sure you are clean shaven and hair is well groomed.
  • Cover all visible tattoos and remove excessive piercings. As a general rule, earrings are acceptable, but any oversized or loud jewelry could be off-putting.
  • Clean, iron, and press the clothing you will be interviewing in. Stains, wrinkles, and creases can deter employers from selecting you as their next candidate. If you look sloppy and careless, how much will you care about your work performance and professionalism in the workplace?
  • Stay away from see-through or low-cut blouses, jeans, sandals, and t-shirts during an interview. Men should wear long-sleeved, button-down shirts and preferably a tie. Women should not have bare shoulders or skin-tight clothing. You want to show your interviewer that you are taking this opportunity seriously and have dressed up for the occasion.
  • Make sure your clothing also fits you properly. Shirts are the right size (not too big or too small); pants and coat sleeves are hemmed to the appropriate length.
  • Skirts should be no shorter than 3 inches above the knee. Cropped pants for both men and women should be avoided.
  • Avoid or limit the use of perfume and cologne. You want them to remember you for your professional demeanor and ability to communicate, not your new fragrance. Some people may also be allergic or turned away by certain scents.
  • Wash and clean under your finger nails before the interview. Avoid brightly colored nail polish, chipped or distracting manicures, and dirty fingernails.
  • Both men and women should wear closed-toe shoes. Men: if you wear a black belt, wear black shoes. Same with a brown belt; wear brown shoes to match.
  • Women: Make sure your heel is an appropriate height, shoes are not worn or in bad shape, and that your footwear is not distracting. Choose simple conservative colors, patterns, shapes, and styles.
  • Remember what position you are applying or interviewing for. What you would wear to the neighborhood hangout or newest night spot is NOT okay for an interview. Stay away from brightly colored fabrics, shiny or sparkly materials, and embellished shirts.
  • Handbags and briefcases should be neutral in color and style. This is not an opportunity to flaunt or show off your eclectic taste.
  • Turn off your cell phones and other electronics. Even on vibrate, they can be distracting.

Check out this nifty video I found. It has some great pointers with a few laughs along the way. Enjoy!

Best Wishes,



Addressing the Dress Code

A reader writes…

Dear, Anita,
Do most companies have a dress code? Are pantyhose and full suits the norm?

Dear, “Dress Code,”

This is a tough question for me to ad-dress (this is me being punchy!)

Dress codes vary by business, industry, and location. In general, however, I would say that YES, most companies have some sort of dress code established, and as an employee, it is part of your job to adhere to the guidelines. Some places require a specific uniform; others enforce a strict professional-dress policy, while others may be a lot more casual. 

In the world of business, where you are working in an office, I’ve noticed that “corporate” attire has turned to “business casual” more than ever before. That’s not to say that flip-flops and shorts are acceptable, though for some industries it’s perfectly fine, and some companies offer it as a perk when salaries are a bit lower than the rest of the market! Blouses and slacks (for women) and button-down shirts or even Polos with slacks (for men) are becoming more and more widespread.

Here’s the challenge that I see when it comes to the “business casual” code as a female employee… coordinating tops and bottoms appropriately can be tricky. Combining the styles of “business” and “casual” takes a certain eye – some people just don’t have enough fashion sense to pull it off appropriately. In fact, I read an article where the Certified Image Consultant and Chair of the Association of Image Consultants International (Kelly Machbitz) said, “I’ve noticed that Casual Fridays have morphed into ‘Happy Hour’ Fridays — you can tell who’s got a date that night by what they wear to the office that day.” SO true!

Being asked to wear a full suit may seem a little stuffy (and can be costly when it comes to dry cleaning bills), but at least people don’t have to pick out what they’re going to wear by mixing and matching things. It’s basically “these pants go with this coordinating jacket.” (Your personal flair comes in with the shirt (and tie) you choose!

Here’s the big question for the ladies… Whether you’re business casual, professional attire, or required to wear a uniform, do you have to wear pantyhose?

Men, you have no idea how lucky you are not to have to deal with these form-fitting, leg squeezing pull-ups that will get a snag or run if you even LOOK at them wrong!

To me, pantyhose should be banned. Now, I understand that they can serve a purpose in keeping things together, hiding varicose veins, and giving some women a more finished look… but please don’t force them in the dress code! Optional is fine.

I’d love to hear from each and every one of you…
1. What are some of the worst outfits you’ve seen at work? (Keep it clean people!)
2. (Specifically for the gals) What is your opinion on hose?

Can’t wait to read your comments!


Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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