Whether you wear scrubs, a jumper or the polo-and-slacks combo so beloved by retail and food service chains, chances are your work uniform isn't exactly runway-ready. There's also a good chance that your work duds come with a slew of company-mandated rules about what you can and cannot wear on the job. It's possible to work within those rules to let a little bit of your personal style shine through. Make a few little tweaks to frumpy work wear to make a big impression.
A flattering fit is essential to looking good in your uniform, whether you're a guy or a gal. No matter the color, fabric or cut, a loose and shapeless fit will bring down the entire ensemble. For women, the bust of your top should fall right between your shoulders and elbows, and your buttons should never gape. Men should allow two fingers to fit between your neck and collar. Look for a shirt seam that sits at your shoulder bone, and avoid billowy shirts; you should be able to move freely while the shirt rests flush with the shape of your torso. For both men and women, keep the waistband at the natural waist, the wrist hem at the bend of your wrist and the pants hem at the top of your foot. By all means, avoid pants that sag or ride up. Politely ask your employer whether you can try on your uniform before you take it home.
Work With the Rules
Become familiar with your workplace's dress code and work within those limits. When you have to wear scrubs, an apron or a jumpsuit but the color isn't specified, choose a color that naturally flatters you. For instance, pick a color that matches your eyes or your complexion, such as deep red for caramel skin or emerald for fair skin and red hair. In some jobs, you provide your own slacks of a certain color to go with a company shirt, but the texture and cut isn't specified. In this case, seek rich twill, wool or tweed chinos rather than bland khakis, and forgo pleated dress pants in favor of fitted, chino-style bottoms.
All About Accessories
Accessorize smartly according to company rules, choosing sleek, slim belts or skinny ties, for example. Ladies may add a scarf, a single piece of bold jewelry or a defining hair clip to add interest to your outfit. Men can set off a uniform with a tie clip, a simple leather or natural fiber bracelet, or a leather or metal watch. If you're not required to wear a hat, make regular visits to your stylist to maintain a chic hairstyle that makes you feel more like the natural you.
Maintenance and Confidence
As rocky as your relationship with your work wear may be, take care of your uniform. Iron it, wash it, starch it, lint-roll it -- make it as crisp, fresh and presentable as possible. This plays a part in making you feel your best, which -- perhaps more than any other factor -- makes your uniform look good. If you wear your outfit with confidence, you allow yourself to shine through any ensemble, and you may enjoy the workday more. Remember, customers, coworkers and patrons know that you didn't hand-pick your work wear, but if you wear it like it's your favorite outfit, your uniform will leave an impression that's just as effective.
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With a diverse professional background and a decade of experience as a freelance writer, Dan has contributed lifestyle content -- from fashion to travel to fitness and more -- to publishers including Chron, Fortune, Sony, GlobalPost, ModernMom, Moviefone, Salon.com, Techwalla and dozens of others.