Many women instinctively understand the power of dressing for success at work. The way you dress speaks volumes about you before saying a word, revealing your judgment, dependability, creativity, priorities, personality and more. The right clothes also provide a confidence boost that enhances your image and performance on the job.

While women have many choices when it comes to their work wardrobe, they also face plenty of potential faux pas. Whether you are a trend setter or just want your wardrobe to align with your career goals, it's critical to sort through the vast array of women's fashion trends and understand what works in the office. The following tips will take the mystery out of dressing for work.

Understand Your Company's Dress Code

Corporate cultures vary widely among industries and individual companies. Make sure you are familiar with your employer's expectations. There are still a few industries and conservative companies that prefer or require women to wear hosiery. At other workplaces, such as those in creative fields, looser rules may apply. Take your cues from the employee handbook and also from the fashion choices of women in supervisory roles at your workplace.

Invest in the Basics

Even as the world seems to be getting more casual, a dark suit is still a wardrobe cornerstone for women at the executive level. A few well-chosen pieces can provide a multitude of combinations. A white cotton shirt, a silk blouse, a neutral pump and a nice bag are all good foundational pieces.

Add Seasonal Staples

Update your look year-round with spring and fall colors through a variety of tops in different hues, fabrics and patterns. A sheath dress is a great piece to have for warmer weather; it looks professional when worn alone or paired with a jacket. A sweater set is another item that can provide an infusion of color while allowing you to dress for indoor air conditioning and outdoor heat through layering.

Never Display Excessive Skin

The ultimate goal of your work attire is to give yourself credibility. The fastest way to lose it is by dressing provocatively. Like it or not, studies show that revealing too much skin at work is harmful, and can negatively affect women's careers. Clothes that are too tight do the same. Make sure your clothing choices are getting you noticed for the right reasons. Set your sights on being stylish, not sexy, in the professional world.

Business Casual Still Means Business

Even on Casual Fridays or in a more relaxed business environment, strive to balance comfort with professional style. If denim is acceptable in your workplace, be sure that it's in good condition and not faded, frayed or distressed. Avoid wearing anything so casual that you could go straight from work to a backyard BBQ. Be ready for impromptu client meetings by keeping a blazer hanging in your office to elevate your look at a moment's notice.

Avoid Office Fashion "Don'ts"

Certain clothes never belong in the workplace, no matter how casual or fashion-forward your environment. Steer clear of spaghetti straps or no straps at all, underwear that's visible through clothing, flip-flops, shorts and anything resembling workout clothing.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

From sandals to boots, heels to flats, there are a lot of choices that can work in an office setting. Let common sense be your guide; the office is not the right place to experiment with extremes. If you can't walk in the heel, don't. If you wear open-toed shoes, make sure your feet are well manicured. Pay special attention to the care of shoes, toes and heels as well.

Accessorize With Care

Jewelry helps express personal style, but keep in mind that in most cases, understated is better. No one should hear you coming because your jewelry is rattling. When in doubt, opt for the more conservative look. A well-made, sturdy leather handbag is a versatile and practical addition to your work wardrobe. Scarves and belts will help you stretch your wardrobe further and keep your look fresh. Still not sure what to wear? Take a look at the woman who has the job you want and follow her lead.

Published on: May 3, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.