Monday, May 22, 2006

Go casual but clean as office heats up

By Lamont Jones
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As the weather changes from winter frightful to spring delightful, many people begin to get concerned about what’s OK to wear to work during the warmer, more laid-back days of summer.

The best advice: Find out if you have a company dress code and what it prohibits, says Laura McDowell, fashion spokesperson for T.J. Maxx.

After you know what is not permissible, McDowell says, here are a few tips to make sure you don’t look inappropriate or too casual.

•Break up a suit, mixing and matching the jacket and bottoms with different pieces. Incorporate a more casual piece into the ensemble for a look that’s relaxed but still serious.

Women can replace a blazer with a lightweight sweater set. A tunic top is another good trade-off as long as it’s not too flashy.

•There are plenty of office-friendly skirts and dresses this season. It’s OK to be bare-legged, in which case it would be best to make sure the skirt is at least down to the knees when standing.

•Avoid jeans, strapless and spaghetti-strap dresses and top, and a bare midriff. Corporate culture still does not consider these looks professional.

•Be careful with loud colors and patterns. Take a cue from upper management. Most colors are fine, and white is extremely popular this year.

•Men should avoid open-toe sandals, which are more acceptable when worn to work by women. Guys should always wear socks with office footwear and never wear sneakers.

“Keep it neat,” is McDowell’s overall advice.

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