How to dress to impress

The modern man or woman needs to look good in every work situation, but it's no longer easy to know what's right. Tie or no tie? Trainers or brogues? The rules can be complicated, but there are some basic truths that will hold you in good stead ...

by Emma De Vita
Last Updated: 01 Feb 2016

Know your style

The key to being well dressed is to eschew high fashion for what's right for you. 'It's about having your own style of dressing and sticking to that,' says Patrick Grant [pictured], director of Savile Row tailors Norton & Sons. Find a formula and change the details to suit the seasons. Don't be tempted by neon Dr Martens or metallic mini-skirts, even if you think you'll look cool - you'll just make everyone snigger.

For men

Suits are still obligatory for many. 'For all the sartorial games of the big personalities, I believe the humble suit to be a vital, ever-present essential for business,' says Austen Pickles, managing director of travelling tailors Norton & Townsend. Start with the basics: a charcoal or navy two-piece, a good white or pale blue shirt, and a navy blue tie. Dylan Jones, author of Mr Jones's Rules for the Modern Man (Hodder & Stoughton), advises: 'The tip of your tie must never fall below the belt. The thin end should never fall below the fat, front end.' Never tuck your tie into your trousers. If you're not wearing a tie, pick a patterned shirt. And never show more than half an inch of cuff when wearing a jacket.

For shoes, says Nick Hart, founder of Spencer Hart, wear black brogues or a simple style without a pointed or square tip. Save up and buy a pair of Church's. If that's beyond your budget, then Clarks makes classic office shoes. If the dress code is smart casual, then opt for hybrid shoes, good jeans, moleskins or Bedford cords, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a navy blue jacket.

When getting a haircut, avoid anything with a name (mullet, Mohawk, quiff, fin).

For women

Dressing for the office can be a minefield, but you have to focus on looking professional. No edgy fashion, revealing tops or children's vomit on your skirt. A useful uniform is a blazer or jacket over a blouse with a pair of skinny trousers. Team this with a pair of heels and an oversized bag and you've nailed office chic. 'A decorative necklace or a beautifully tailored coat can catch someone's eye,' adds Sarah Curran, founder of When it comes to shoes, avoid heels that are so high that you totter around like Jordan. Choose sleek handbags that aren't overfilled with tissues, books and makeup. There's nothing worse than pulling out empty chocolate wrappers in front of a client. And keep make-up and nails understated - you don't want to look like Pat Butcher.

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