Professional dressing without the suit - A Guest Blog by Joanna Gaudoin

Do you ever find yourself struggling to decide what to wear to work? You know a suit isn’t necessary but know that your jeans or cropped trousers aren’t right either.

Times have changed - the number of sectors and companies where a suit is a daily requirement has significantly diminished, but the need to look professional has not gone away. Whilst some sectors are now very relaxed, anything goes, many still require people to look smart and dress a certain way, even if it isn't clearly defined what that means.

Whilst dressing in a more relaxed style can be beneficial, it means there is more involved in deciding what is right each day. So if a suit is rarely or never necessary in your job role, then perhaps this is a challenge for you. It takes more time to put your outfit together and there’s a greater risk of being judged for your choice.

One thing for sure is that your image and impact still matter. People make an assessment of who you are in seconds; it's due to human instinct; particularly when it comes to first meetings! Even once people know you, it’s important to have a consistent and credible image so your colleagues and customers know what to expect. So here are 6 quick tips to help you when putting an outfit together:

  1. Pick clothing that flatters your shape, whether male or female this is vital. Think carefully about what shape you are to make sure clothing fits well, does not pull anywhere and does not have an excess of material.
  2. If you need to look fairly smart and authoritative without wearing a suit think about wearing more structured clothes in terms of cut and fabrics, fewer patterns and combining a deep and light colour (this colour combination helps to communicate greater authority). For approachability, the opposite is true.
  3. Think about the focal point of what you are wearing - Is it appropriate?
  4. If you are female, use jewellery and accessories to good effect - the simplest top and trousers can be made more interesting with a scarf and co-ordinating shoes or bag. Using accessories in this way means you can actually own fewer clothing items, as different accessories make it look like you have a larger wardrobe.
  5. No matter how relaxed you are dressed, details matter so pay attention to small things such as nails, hair and shoes. You don’t need to be perfect but look polished!
  6. Have a couple of statement pieces that will go with lots of other items. It’s worth paying that bit more for items that are major part of your outfit and which you will wear frequently (think about the true value i.e. cost per wear). An example might be a jacket with a patterned or textured fabric which you can combine with lots of different plainer items (think multiple outfits again!).

Remember to consider what you are doing in a given day; you are likely to vary what you wear for a day at your desk versus a day of meetings.

Joanna will be hosting an event at our office on Thursday 15th October. If you are interested please RSVP to

Joanna Gaudoin runs Inside Out, helping individuals and organisations build better relationships and achieve greater professional success. Credibility, likeability and trust are the foundation of good professional relationships, all of which are heavily influenced by personal image. Joanna works with clients 1-2-1 and in workshops to help them improve their personal image and impact in all business scenarios. She is also a frequent speaker and presenter at client entertainment events and networking.

Emma Greaves's picture
Senior Manager | Marketing, Communications & Sales Recruitment