One of the events that the commerce school at my college annually held was called "Dressing for the Job You Want". It was always hosted by the local Banana Republic in the evening hours when everyone hypothetically didn't have those hour long discussion classes where participation accounted for 10% of your overall grade. Male and female students alike would show up, grab a mocktail, and wave their measly 15% discounts as if they were proud flags of an oncoming revolution. I remember going to one of these events and walking away with the impression that in order to succeed in life, one must dress like the stuffy neutral colored section of a Banana Republic advertisement. A jacket is required always, accompanied by a smart shirt (blouse for women, because obviously women don't just wear shirts *cough*), and a skirt or well tailored trousers with sensible shoes. Prints and bright colors were reserved for the people with fun, creative jobs in advertising or at non-profits. Hence, I walked into 92% of my interviews dressed as such (except I couldn't afford Banana Republic, so my clearance priced TJ Maxx suit would have to do).
Three years and some credit card bills later, I've found myself draping the likes of J.Crew, Anthropologie, Ann Taylor LOFT, and Marshall's finds on my slightly hunched shoulders. My work wardrobe probably isn't as serious as it should be since I model a lot of my outfits after magazine and television suggestions (bless Zooey Deschanel, Jayma Mays, and the cast of Mad Men) but I think it clearly defines me as a working professional. There's an edge of seriousness, we are still talking about standard pieces like a work dress or shirt and skirt pairings, but with punches of color and print for an added whimsical effect. Black may be my best color, but it doesn't always represent the way I feel.
Of course, the caveat to my view is that I work outside of the beltway. I know not everyone can do this and sometimes it is absolutely necessary to look put together every single freaking day. I give immense props to bloggers like CapHillStyle and ExtraPetite who maintain that level of polish. Whatever your office dress code may be, just dress for your environment and level of comfort. Don't think you have to look a certain way because some television show says that you should show up to your job in a three piece Italian suit (although I'm sure many would enjoy the exquisite sartorial view). Some federal offices and investment banks require you to be in full professional dress. Blouses with cute little animal prints and neon should maintain a 500 yard distance from those places at all times and some offices may even require the use of *gasp* pantyhose. I think the key thing is to remember that when dressing for work and for life, it's good to dress for the setting but you should never lose who you are.