Instead of having to reinvent yourself five days a week, it's useful to find a professional template; a basic palette, a flattering silhouette; that's compatible with your office culture yet distinctive enough to make you stand out.

1. Authority and credibility—and possibly promotability—are the reward for always being well dressed. No matter how high or low you stand on the office food chain, a polished appearance counts. 

2. Compliments are clues to your ideal style. If co-workers say, "That's a great color on you" or "Have you lost weight?" pay attention to what you're wearing and do it again. And again. 

3. A casual or creative office isn't license to look sloppy. Although a matched suit is unnecessary, you want at least one element that's more structured or tailored, like a dress anchored by a jacket or a soft blouse with trousers. 

4. Jackets are power tools—everyone knows they mean business—but more relaxed alternatives also work: a belted cardigan; a crisp shirt, with or without a vest; a cashmere twinset. 

5. Signature accessories make others take notice. Collect something inexpensive and interesting—bold watches, colorful shoes, patterned scarves—and incorporate it into your everyday look.


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