Worrying about what to wear seems like a concern we should have left behind in high school. But the truth is, many professional women in all stages of life ask themselves, “What am I going to wear?” or “Is this okay?” when they are faced with invites to client meetings, events/ trade shows or a presentation.

While it never hurts to fall back on time-honored rules of professional dress like wearing a suit to meetings and a dress to dinner… both the fashion and business environment have changed a lot over time… and with them, so have dress codes.

There are tons of wear-to-work fashions out there, so choosing the ones that are best for you is all a matter of what is most appropriate for you and your business environment.

When selecting the right work apparel, try to considering the following:

The occasion

Different occasions call for different modes of dress. Some events demand a suit, while the format of other events leaves room for a little more creativity in terms of what to wear. Traditionally, you might wear a pant suit to a trade show where you will be representing your clients to the press and some of their customer base. But if there is some flexibility in the rules of “what to wear,” you might instead chose to wear business-appropriate dresses like a classic sheath dress, A-line dress or wrap dress.

The impression you are trying to make

The clothes you wear tell people a lot about you – so think about the statement you are trying to make when selecting an outfit. If you’re going to a new business pitch, for instance, and your boss has not placed a requirement on what to wear, select an outfit that you feel typifies you as a professional, but is not distracting or inappropriate for the occasion. For instance, you may opt for a dark teal pant suit rather than a black one if you think everyone else is going to wear black. Or, you can wear a skirt suit instead of pants.

The company you are in

If the group that you are, let’s say, going out for dinner with tends to be more conservative, you might want to push the cute LBD you just had dry cleaned to the back of your closet, and instead opt for a black pencil skirt and freshly pressed white dress shirt. It’s stylish and attractive, but professional and does not let you run the risk of showing too much skin like a cocktail dress might.

There are of course some standard rules that most everyone should follow, no matter what the occasion or group you’re with:

Go easy on bold patterns and bright colors: The key is to show your personality, but not light up the room like a neon sign. Most everyone likes a pretty yellow dress, but it could look out of place in a conference room at a new business presentation.

Be modest: Short sleeve or sleeveless? Skirt to the knee or just above? Use your judgment. And keep in mind that some things (e.g. cleavage) are just a no.

Consult your colleagues: Want to make sure you aren’t going to stick out like a sore thumb? Ask your office friends who will be doing the same thing and going to the same place you will what they are wearing and what their thoughts are in terms of what you would like to wear.

So now that I’ve shared my tips for being professional dressed no matter what the situation, I’d love to hear yours! Do you have any go-to outfits that always fit the bill? Or any staple pieces that you feel every woman should have in her wear-to-work closet? Let me know!