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How to dress like you really mean business

Fashion designer Claire Doyle specialises in chic tailored clothes and has dressed some of Ireland's foremost 'power women' such as former President Mary McAleese, Attorney General Maire Whelan, Frances Fitzgerald TD and TV chef Rachel Allen.

"Looking professional is overlooked by so many women in the workplace," Claire says.

"In a world where first impressions count for everything, now more than ever, it is so important to create that perfect 'work look'," she says.

"Feeling comfortable and confident in what you are wearing is empowering and people react to that."

Claire adds: "Looking the part can make the opportunity happen and get you on the ladder for that job or promotion, so it is really important.

"I always say good clothes help open doors."

Here are Claire's eight rules for dressing for success.

> Keep skirts to the knees:

When it comes to dressing for the workplace, there are a few key rules to follow to strike that perfect balance.

Skirts -- how short is too short? This is a very tricky area. Revealing necklines and short hemlines can make or break a look. Skirts and dresses should always be knee length, but remember, it may look fine when you are standing in front of your mirror, but when you are sitting down you may be revealing more than you want. Your colleagues or clients won't be listening to what you have to say if your skirt is riding up your thighs.

> plus-size women look

good in tailored clothes:

Tailored pieces are the best option to create a structured classic look. It doesn't matter what dress size you are, show off your figure. I've found that plus-sized women can look as beautiful in tailored clothing as petite women.

The key to this is to make sure the pieces are not too tight and are well cut. When wearing colours, stick to single block colours, they are easier to wear and do not distract.

If you like to wear bright colours select muted shades, which work better and look polished every time. Always invest in great basics that can tie together different looks, for example a jacket which can be teamed with a dress, skirt and trousers.

> steady on with the fake tan:

You can't expect clients to take you seriously if you're bright orange. Less is more when it comes to make-up, especially when it comes to fake tan -- a natural middle ground is key. Chipped nails, split ends and smudged mascara will top the list of putting a potential client/employer off. Hair and nails should always be clean and I advise that nail polish should be a neutral colour.

> avoid bling:

Jewellery can brighten any outfit, but be careful about wearing statement pieces which can overwhelm an outfit in a workplace environment. Patterned or coloured scarves are a great way to give a new dimension to neutral coloured suiting. This goes for tights and I've seen the plainest looks completely change with the introduction of patterned or unusual tights.

> save killer heels

for the evenings:

Patent leather is the ultimate for the workplace; they don't scuff and always look new. Keep the killer heels for the evening -- heel height for work should always be comfortable. Wearing pointed shoes, even in a lower heel, elongates the leg and creates a slimmer looking more shapely leg. Being comfortable in the workplace allows you the confidence to know your shoes or your clothes won't let you down.

> have a wardrobe of dresses: Wearing dresses is 'easy dressing', it's a complete look. You don't have to think about co-ordinating tops, you are ready to go. Meanwhile, a matching or co-ordinating jacket, knitwear and jewellery can give the same dress a different look.

The key to looking well groomed every day is owning a number of dresses that help you feel empowered but are also comfortable.

> don'T show too much

cleavage at work dos:

The key is to make an impact, but not big enough that you are the only centre of attention. The ideal outfit is one that allows you to make a big entrance and then fade into the background. It may sound contradictory, but you don't want anyone to know exactly when you left -- the 'Irish goodbye' as it's now known. You want to be noticed for the right reasons and showing too much cleavage is not the way to go. However, the work 'do' is the time for the high heels and the statement jewellery.

> wrap up parties in

a wrap dress:

Silk jersey is a sumptuous, luxurious, forgiving fabric and a work party is the perfect time to wear it. I have designed a number of wrap dresses which I find work brilliantly at any time of year. Ladies' Day at the races can be tricky. Kate Middleton demonstrated this at the Epsom Derby in 2011 in a cream Joseph jacket, with a cream Reiss dress and nude LK Bennett accessories. The look was feminine and chic without being overtly sexy or brash.

If you would like more information, see www.clairedoyle.ie.