The late Steve Jobs wore a black turtleneck and blue jeans to work. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wears T-shirts and hoodies. When you’re the head of a multi-million corporation, you can afford to dress casually. For those of us who haven’t yet reached the top rung of the ladder, however, corporate clothing needs to send the right message. The best corporate attire lets the boss know that you take the job seriously while demonstrating a confident, individual style.

Stay Stylishly Sartorial

In the wake of the recent recession, the corporate environment has become even more competitive. While it’s more important than ever to look polished and professional at the office, it’s equally important to look distinctive. A generic suit simply won’t do. Whether with a scarf, a handbag or a statement accessory, a bold touch of color is the easiest way to add flair to office attire.

Designer Classics

Today, the safest choice for corporate attire is designer clothing. A Chanel dress always commands respect. While it’s not necessary for every piece in your wardrobe to sport a designer label, investing in a few quality pieces provides a framework around which you can build a distinctively personal style.

Clothing needn’t come straight off the runway to be effective. By shopping sales, outlets and vintage clothing stores, you can find affordable designer classics for office attire. If designer clothing just isn’t in the budget, you can take inspiration from the designs and search for less expensive clothing with the same cuts, colors, fabrics and styles.

Suitable Alternatives

While suits are definitely an essential component of modern office attire, the classic suit can feel too much like the standard “look like a man” dress code of a bygone era. Today, it’s critical to choose a suit with feminine appeal. A jacket worn over a dress is a more contemporary version of the classic suit. Jackets paired with fitted pencil skirts are popular as well.

Pantsuits are even more difficult to get right. The best have a slightly relaxed look to them, but it’s a relaxed look that comes from careful cut and construction, not from cheap fabrics or over-sizing. A crisp, tailored button-down shirt is an indispensable component of any corporate suit.

The best corporate office attire is smart, sophisticated and sure, with a look that demonstrates a serious work ethic and a certain amount of bravado. With a few quality pieces, a bit of bold color and some on-trend accessories, you can showcase your personal style while still letting the boss know that you mean business.