Making a fashion statement

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 October, 2007, 12:00am

Clothing makes the man, but for people in the banking and finance sectors, it often fits the profession. In today's business world, suits are still the most preferred outfit for senior executives and managers in banks and financial institutions, as what they wear not only makes a statement of their personal taste, but also projects a professional image of confidence and ability.

'To dress well and appropriate is particularly important for practitioners in the financial services industry because how they dress is a message conveying who they are or an image they desire to be perceived,' said Rosemarie Yau, founder of, a communication consultancy specialising in personal branding and professional image management.

'Dress for success is an effective tool to communicate your desired professional image. People form their own judgment of us and the company we work for. Business attire is not just about an individual employee, it represents the image of a corporation.'

Andy Ng, retail operations manager of Dickson Concepts (Retail), said people in banking and finance wore suits to build a professional image.

'Professionals always prefer to wear a dark colour such as grey, charcoal, navy blue and black. They are bound to those colours,' said Ms Ng, who advised that men could choose fabrics with patterns such as stripes and checks to add variety and highlights to their suits, so that they wouldn't feel bored wearing suits to work every day.

While not all companies in the financial services industry had a dress code or guidelines which stipulated how their employees should dress at work, alluring is a style any executive should avoid, according to Ms Yau. 'Anything that will show too much skin, cleavage or skin tight is inappropriate,' she said.

The launch of the government's dress-down campaign last year to encourage civil servants to dress casually has led the business community to relax their dress code, allowing their staff to come to work in more causal attire. With more banks and insurance companies being receptive to the idea of more relaxed dress code, senior executive and middle management level employees are allowed some flexibility in choosing their work clothes, especially on Fridays.

Therefore, the executive wardrobe of professionals in the banking and finance sectors will not be complete without including items of business causal wear.

'Dressing down is indeed a trend that more companies are becoming more flexible in accepting, except that the attire does not include sneakers and jeans no matter how expensive these items are,' said Ms Yau, who warned that patterns such as leopard spots were inappropriate and cartoon characters were seen as immature.

Ms Ng agreed and said: 'Professionals in the banking and finance industry tend to dress down a bit these days because of the trend and the influence their friends have on them, but they will want to maintain the smart causal look. Before men in the banking and finance industry wore ties all the time. Now they simply put on a shirt without a tie and a pair of chinos, particularly in summer months,' Ms Ng said.

For professional men to build their executive winter wardrobe, Ms Ng advised that it was important to choose a suit to go with their shirts and ties, and that shirts in blue, grey, and even pink usually went well with suits in a dark colour, adding that a blazer and suits in black, grey, navy blue and charcoal were must-have items in their wardrobe. 'Blouses and trousers are the best outfits for professional women. They help maintain an elegant look and are suitable for going to work and going to a party or a social event after work. Actually, we sell more trousers than skirts,' Ms Ng said.

Women professionals could also choose to wear a twin set that would make them look casual, but still very smart, said Ms Ng, who also advises on the executive wardrobe for women professionals and executives at management level.

To create an effective career wardrobe, Ms Yau emphasised that executives should do it according to their work needs and lifestyle.

'An effective wardrobe is based on the principle of 'less is more', which can allow you to maximise co-ordination on the items you have, and for women executives, the same theory applies,' she said.

Ms Ng also said dressing up would be a trend for 2007 and 2008 for the professional wardrobe; however, 'dressing up doesn't mean you have to wear a tie all the time, it means you can wear a suit, a blazer or a jacket to match chino trousers or jeans, giving a causal dress-up look'.

Ms Yau advised when employees had doubts over dressing down for work, the best approach would be to check with their company to see if there were any guidelines that could be followed.