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Casual or Corporate -- Looking Your Best in a 9 to 5 World

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(ARA) - Almost all fashion experts agree, when we walk in a room, we’re judged within the first few seconds -- not by our shining personalities or bright minds --but by what we’re wearing.

“It’s our appearance and mannerisms that people look at, even before we open our mouths, says Charlene Parsons, academic chair of the Fashion Department at the Miami International University of Art & Design, one of The Art Institutes. Though your style of clothes may vary depending on your profession, presenting yourself in the best way possible is important, even if your company is strictly “casual Fridays” all week long, she says.

According to Parsons “whether you wear jeans or a suit to work, the best fashion rule of thumb is to buy the best you can afford.” Well-made clothes fit better, look better, and last for years. Take a cue from Europeans. Parsons says they buy fewer pieces, but buy better and become expert at mixing and matching. Finding variety, a great fit and an acceptable price is not as difficult as it used to be. “It’s no longer necessary to trot off to the mall to find a great look.

Many conventional brick and mortar retailers have gone ‘click and mortar.’ With the advent of mass-customization in sizing, everyone can find a style that fits his or her figure, wallet and career,” says Kathleen Colussy, fashion design faculty member at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. Once you’ve found clothes you like that fit well, consider how you approach fashion.

Is it sporty, classic, feminine or artistic, or a combination? Alease M. McClenningham, academic director of Fashion Marketing at The Art Institute of Charlotte says that the common denominator among these styles is a few wardrobe basics that can be worked into any of these looks such as a great jacket (loose-fitting or slim) white shirt, flat front pants, flattering sweaters, and good-fitting T-shirts in several different colors.

“No matter what style you are -- and many of us are more than one -- these basics can work with lots of different looks and body types, and the sources for finding them are endless,” says McClenningham. She recommends stores such as Ann Taylor or J.Jill for both tailored and casual looks, as well as Eddie Bauer for good quality outdoorsy looks. Whether you’re at the mall or perusing Web sites or catalogs, Colussy recommends being on the lookout for a great pantsuit.

“Pantsuits have become a lifesaver for those in corporate and non-corporate work environments, she says. “When buying a suit, always go for wool -- always! There is a reason why most men’s suits are made from wool, it out performs any other fiber. For those in warmer climates, try tropical weight wool. It’s a natural fiber that breathes and easily adapts to air conditioning or the heat of city streets,” she says.

But how to express who you are by adding those individual touches that help personalize your wardrobe, no matter what your style? Gwendolyn Lewis Huddleston of The Art Institute of California -- San Francisco says it’s not hard to do. “Find the element that works with your 9 to 5 needs and still allows you to create a look that is about you,” says Huddleston.

For example, a signature look for some women is their sweaters, for another it may be a grandmother’s charm bracelet or a set of vintage bangle bracelets. For another it’s all about color, or fun eyeglasses, or unique scarves or handbags. “Pick one feature and go for it,” says Huddleston. “You will have continued pleasure in collecting for yourself and others will enjoy seeing what you wear next,” she adds. For more information visit www.artinstitutes.edu/nz.

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