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Building a professional wardrobe

Newly updated rules on what to wear on the job hunt may mean that many budding professionals can ditch the stuffy suits and make room in their closets for more practical attire. Previously a rigid realm of button-down shirts, slacks and power suits, some workplaces are loosening their stances on dress codes.

Personal stylist Jan Wagner of Let Me Help You styling services said that over the past few years, workplaces have been employing industry- and

company-specific dress codes that depart from the traditional formulas of suits and ties. More important than investing in pricey suits, she said, is to tailor your professional wardrobe to suit the industry and company you intend to become a part of.

Wagner advised jobseekers do ample research on a company and its dress code policies before heading out to a job interview, and to make wardrobe decisions based on these findings.

“Make sure your look matches the job you’re going for. There’s no set formula for what professional clothes look like anymore, and it all depends on your job and situation,” she said. “Do your research and make sure you look visually prepared.”

Research can be done by checking out a company’s dress code policies online, if possible. If not, SAIT employment specialist Travis Ouchi advised jobseekers, “scope out the place beforehand” to get a feel for what employees wear on a daily basis. Calling and asking reception or human resources representatives about dress code policies is another great way to go about testing the waters, too.

While research may tell what is and isn’t acceptable clothing at a particular company, jobseekers should aim to dress one level higher than what is regularly worn at a company when attending a job interview, said Ouchi. After all, first impressions are everything and an outfit that is in sync with a desired company communicates to employers that, “you are in tune with your industry and that you are willing to accept industry norms,” he said.

Using a company’s dress code as a yardstick measurement, Wagner advised style-starved job seekers and employees alike to opt for items appropriate for their desired work environment. The bottom line, she said, is to aim for a “polished version of yourself.”

Instead of sticking with trendy items that may not suit your personality or body shape, Wagner suggested those on the market for professional attire choose items that fit well and reflect the wearer’s personality since these will communicate confidence to interviewers and employers.

Ranking high on her list of cost-effective retailers for budding professionals are Next.com, Reitmans and Ricki’s for the ladies, and The Bay, Express and Moore’s for men. Winners, she said, is a great option for both genders, though she suggested shoppers frequent the store often because of the higher stock turnover.

Non-profit organization Dress for Success lends less fortunate women a hand by providing them with professional attire to aid them in their search for employment. Organization representative Meagan Badger said that though the definition of professional attire varies across industries and companies, there are “no set rules” with regards to building a professional wardrobe. Instead, it all boils down to looking the part while looking put together.

Badger also stressed the need to look polished, and advised that jobseekers pay attention to the details of an outfit and accessorize appropriately.

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