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The top echelon of corporate culture used to be a boys' club, but thanks to those tenacious females who came before you, women are now kicking brass and taking names. It takes hard work and more than a little street savvy to get to the top, but once you're there, dressing well is not only a reflection of your pay scale but your powerful femininity and professionalism. Don't have those yet? As always, the right wardrobe will let you fake it until you make it..
Build Your Basics
Every executive woman should have a wardrobe of impeccable basics. One way to build a solid base of quality items is to build a clothing allowance into your monthly budget. Buy one timeless piece every month or so. A basic executive wardrobe might include: one dark skirt suit; one fitted jacket; one white blouse; three colored blouses or shells; one cashmere cardigan; one day dress; two pairs of trousers -- one slim-cut, one full; two skirts; and a ladylike black cocktail dress.
Urgent Memo: Shoes Count
Your shoes will be one of the first things people notice. Next time you're in a room full of heavy hitters, look down -- the people with the most power will have the best shoes. Build a basic wardrobe of high quality: Start with three pairs of mid-height ( 2 1/2 to 3-inch) pumps in black, nude and a color. Add a pair of strappy sandals in nude or black for cocktail events, a pair of ballet flats and a heeled boot. For business, always opt for elegant over sexy.
Express Yourself Carefully
Even if you're in a creative field like fashion or art, express your personal style with a discerning eye. Remember, you're not just representing yourself but the company. When in doubt, ask yourself: "Would I want my boss' boss to see me in this?" Skip excessive bling, cleavage, skirts more than two inches above the knee and distracting accessories such as hats, big scarves or enormous "it" bags. In short, fashion risks are for clubs, not conference rooms.
Let Your Light Shine
Take a tip from the boys' club -- there is a reason executive men all wear the same "uniform" of suit, tie and shirt. It may not be fun, but the point of executive dressing is to make the people you're networking with notice your stellar qualities, not your outfit. While it's fine to be known for being well-dressed, you want your colleagues to think "Damn she's smart," not "Wow, she's fine!"