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Clothing & corporate culture

Corporate culture refers to the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature. Corporate culture is rooted in an organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community. As such, it is an essential component in any business’s ultimate success or failure. Closely related concepts, discussed elsewhere in this volume, are corporate ethics (which formally state the company’s values) and corporate image (which is the public perception of the corporate culture). The concept is somewhat complex, abstract, and difficult to grasp. A good way to define it is by indirection.

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GENERAL TIPS

1. Understand what’s appropriate in your industry

“Everyone draws their lines differently,” says etiquette coach Barbara Pachter. “For example, you may be able to wear shorts, but not cut-offs. If your company has a dress code, follow it.”

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2. Make sure your clothes fit

It may sound obvious, but many get it wrong. “If your clothes are too big or too small, they are not going to look good. Ensuring a proper fit applies to everything you are wearing,” says Pachter. “One interviewer said he was distracted by a man’s short tie.”

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3. Wear glasses that fit

Make sure your glasses fit properly and aren’t sliding down your nose. You don’t want to be playing with them all the time, says Pachter. “This becomes distracting.”

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4. Dry your hair

Never leave your house with wet hair. It makes you look like you don’t have your life together, which translates to not having your career together.

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5. Pay attention to your bag

You don’t want your personal things jutting out of your purse or briefcase. Keep your bag clean on the inside, especially if it doesn’t have a zipper, which allows others to catch a glimpse inside from time to time.

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6. Don’t wear strong perfume: 

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7. Wear well-kept, polished shoes: Make sure your shoes are polished and in good condition.

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8. Pay attention to your watch

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9. Wear rich colours to portray authority

“Pay attention to your colour choices,” Pachter says. “Darker colours usually convey a stronger impression than lighter ones.” If you’re giving a presentation, make sure the colour you’re wearing doesn’t blend in with the background behind you.

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10. Avoid neon colours and overly flashy clothes

“Both men and women have to be cautious with bright colours,” Patcher says. Clothes that are too flashy can be distracting and the visual equivalent of shouting.

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  • FOR WOMEN

11. Don’t be too sexy

Not only is wearing inappropriate clothing distracting, it can also give off an inaccurate impression. Avoid too-short hemlines, too-tall heels, plunging necklines, and exposed under garments. “A lot of women are oversexualized in the office,” says Williams. “You can wear a V-neck shirt, but make sure you keep your legs covered. People end up discrediting themselves by looking too provocative.” Pachter agrees: “What do you want to be remembered for? What you wore or what you said?”

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12. Wearing nude pantyhose is hip

Ever since Kate Middleton started wearing pantyhose in public, it quickly became stylish again. “It gives you a more finished look,” Pachter says.

13. Get regular pedicures

Williams tells us one of her biggest pet peeves is when women wear open-toed shoes without getting pedicures. “If you’re going to show your toes, make sure your toes are well-groomed,” she says.

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14. Don’t over-accessorise

Accessories are meant to complement your outfit, not overpower it. “I once met a woman who had a ring on every finger,” Pachter says. “You couldn’t look at anything else.”

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15. Your jewellery shouldn’t make noise

It’s really distracting when someone’s dangly bangles make noises when they move their arms, says Williams.

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  • FOR MEN

16. Avoid ankle socks with slacks

When you cross your legs and the pants slightly lift up, no skin should be showing, says Pachter. Your socks need to be an appropriate length.

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17. Facial hair shouldn’t overwhelm your face

No matter how much you want to grow a full, bushy beard, it just might not work for you. Think about it like a haircut — not every cut is going to look good on every person, says Adam P. Causgrove, CEO of The American Moustache Institute. How do you know what style will look good on you? Determine what kind of face shape and features you have. Then find others with similar features who are already sporting moustaches and beards, and experiment with their cut and style.

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18. Grow facial hair on a weekend or vacation

You want to look like you’ve grown hair on purpose instead of just being lazy and not shaving, says Causgrove. Williams advises using a weekend or vacation time to grow beards out, because “spotty beards make men look like 18-year-olds.”

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19. Trim your beard

Facial hair needs to be kept trim and tidy to maintain a professional look. Causgrove advises doing some research on the proper device. Electric razors can be good for short, trimmed beards, and scissors are better for moustaches, he says.

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20. A goatee is rarely a good idea

Any hair that’s under your lower lip that isn’t a beard is not a good idea, says Pachter. “Do you want to be the only person [with it]? It may work for you, it may work against you, but you need to make that decision for yourself,” she warns.

SMART CASUAL

Women: Wear a pencil skirt or dress pants, paired with a silk or button-down top and high heels.

Men: Opt for dressy trousers, paired with a collared shirt and loafers.

When to wear it: office parties, happy hours, business luncheons.

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DRESSY CASUAL

Women: Avoid wearing denim, tennis shoes, and cotton tees. Instead, opt for silk pants, dress pants, or a skirt. Pair with a patent leather flat, or one with nice embellishments such as a bow, buckle, or a print.

Men: Wear trousers and a dress shirt with a leather loafer, oxfords, or a slip-on shoe. Pair with a blazer or sport coat. Avoid showing up with wrinkles or clothes one size too big, too small, or in a non-coordinating color. A tie is optional.

When to wear it: church, dinner, or an invite received via phone or e-mail.

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COUNTRY CLUB CASUAL

Women: Choose an open-necked or polo shirt. You can also opt for dresses and skirts with minimal accessories.

Men: Wear an open-necked or polo shirt, paired with khakis. Accessorize with leather shoes and a belt.

When to wear it: cruise lines, the country club, friend’s home for dinner, nice restaurant.

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BUSINESS CASUAL

Women: Put on a skirt, khakis, or dress pants paired with long sleeve or three-quarter sleeve tops. A casual dress and flats are options as well.

Men: Wear a button-down or a polo shirt, paired with khakis, or dress pants. If you so desire, layer with a v-neck sweater, a blazer, or a sport coat. A tie is optional.

When to wear it: company party, daily work attire, business lunch meetings.

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COCKTAIL ATTIRE

Women:  Wear a shorter dress with some frill. The classic little black dress makes for great cocktail attire, and is the easiest to show your personality by accessorizing to suit your mood. 

Men: Wear a dark suit, coat, and tie. Opting for dark jeans paired with a jacket and tie is also acceptable at some cocktail events, depending on how casual the atmosphere is.

When to wear it: adult birthday parties, evening social events.

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LOUNGE

Women:  Wear a dress that would be appropriate for brunch or afternoon tea. It should fall to, or slightly above, the knee, and not be too sparkly or low-cut. Incorporate a jacket or shawl to cover the arms. 

Men: Opt for a dark suit, paired with a French-cuffed, crisp white shirt. You can go with or without a tie. Opting for a vest instead of a tie adds to the informality of the look.

When to wear it: daytime engagement parties, business breakfasts, afternoon tea.

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WHITE TIE

Women:  A floor-length ball gown is a must. Accessorize with opera length gloves, glamorous jewels, and up-do hairstyles.  

Men:  Wear a short or waist length black tailcoat (tails should reach the back of your knees,) white bow tie, starched white shirt, and a cummerbund (optional). Sport high-quality black pants.

When to wear it: charity fundraisers, government ceremonies, weddings, the opera.

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BLACK TIE

Women: Gussy up in a floor-length ball gown. A very dressy cocktail dress may be acceptable depending on the venue of the event. 

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Men:  Wear a dark suit or a tuxedo without tails. Pair with a white shirt and a tie, or a bow tie with or without a vest and a cummerbund.

When to wear it: charity fundraisers, political dinner parties, weddings.

CREATIVE BLACK TIE

Women: Dress up in a long gown, cocktail dress, or snazzy separates. Accessorize with the latest trends, such as feathers, sequins, sheer fabrics, and capes. Show off your personality with every detail.     

Men: Incorporate trendy prints in with your tie and a dressy shirt. Mix fabrics such as a silk blazer and a dress shirt to create a formal, yet interesting, look.

When to wear it: galas, silent auctions, weddings, and formal dinners that have a fun 

atmosphere.

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WARM WEATHER BLACK TIE

Women: Wear a long gown with white gloves and minimal jewelry.

Men: Wear a white dinner jacket, in a worsted wool, gabardine, linen, or cotton fabric material. Pair this with a white dress shirt, bow tie, a cummerbund, and nice black leather shoes.

When to wear it: formal events that are held outdoors, such as a cruise line or country club dinners, weddings, and galas.

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BLACK TIE OPTIONAL

Women: Look glamorous in a long gown, cocktail dress, or luxurious separates. Accessorize with items such as long gloves, clutches, and jewelry to top off the whole look.

Men: If you own a tuxedo, put it on. If not, wear a suit in a dark color such as charcoal or black, paired with a white dress shirt, and a solid colored tie. Make sure patterns are kept to a minimum and shoes are shined. Accessorize your look with a pocket square and cuff links.

When to wear it: elegant events such as galas, silent auctions, weddings, formal dinners.

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