Putting the 'pro' in 'professional:' How to fine-tune your work wardrobe

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If your professional wardrobe could use some fine-tuning, 'Dress Like You Mean Business' author Marilyn Barber has some quick and easy tips to kick it up a notch. (KTRK)

Whether you're trying to get back into the workforce or hoping to move up the corporate ladder, how you dress can actually propel you to the next level, but the vague dress codes in today's work force often make it confusing for us to dress for the job.

If we want our value to be noticed, we need not only to perform, but also dress like we mean business.

Two years ago, Anna Zechmeister gave birth to twin girls. Ever since then, she hasn't felt quite comfortable in her clothes.

"I gravitated towards less fittedness and more stretchiness," explains Zechmeister.

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When she was laid off from her oil and gas job recently, she realized she needed to polish her look for the job market, so she reached out to Dress Like You Mean Business author Marilyn Barber.

"Clothes aren't just fashion, and I think if you dress strategically, you can enhance your career," says Barber.

When creating your professional look, Barber says to first consider your industry.

"What you want to do is look at your business culture and figure out who you need to be in your business culture, and then you use that as your canvas, and then you can style it," Barber explains.
Anna's clothes were too casual for oil and gas. She wore jegging and a loose cardigan, but Barber recommends slacks and structured jacket for a more professional look. As for dresses, keep the hemline to the knee.

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When it comes to accessories, Barber says to forget large, distracting jewelry.

And even if you're not a makeup person, a matte neutral eye shadow, some mascara, blush and a rose-colored lipstick can go a long way.

You also can't go wrong with a clean, neutral pump.

"When you put on any heel, it tips your body forward, so naturally you stand up straighter and look more sophisticated and in control just by putting on the pump," says Barber.

Finally, Barber says to be strategic in your color choices.

"The darker colors tend to look more authoritative and the lighter colors do not," explains Barber. "The bold blue, the power red and royal purple always look terrific."

For Zechmeister, learning to dress for success has changed her outlook and her confidence.

"Honestly, she opened my eyes," says Zechmeister.

This is just the first step. When you dress right and you know it, you exude it in how you speak, stand, walk and act, so it's worth taking the time to dress your best.

Special thanks to Nina McLemore for location and clothing.

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