I've done posts about dressing professionally, dressing for a job interview, etc., but it never hurts to touch on this subject. It's often amazing to me what some people consider to be appropriate for work that really is not appropriate at all. I'm not talking about jobs in the fashion industry or any other artistic field where the rules can bend or even break- I'm talking about professions in which"Business Professional" dress is expected- any type of professional office setting- doctor's office, law firm, accounting firm, etc. Regardless of your position within the office, it's important to look professional. You may be the front desk receptionist at a large company, so you set the tone and first impression that anyone walking through your doors will get. Or you may be the CEO or a director of a major department and how you dress sets the tone for the employees below you. I don't want this post to go on and on so I'm going to simply offer a handful of simple rules for you to follow:
1.) Avoid low-cut tops. Cleavage is not appropriate in the office.
2.) Avoid anything skin-tight or even just a bit too-tight. Clothes should fit and be tailored, but not painted on.
3.) Absolutely NO mini-skirts. I don't care if you wear them with leggings or opaque tights. It's inappropriate. Skirts should hit at the knee, slightly below or slightly above. "Slightly" is the operative word here.
4.) Tops and blouses can be brightly colored, but choose appropriate fabrics and prints for an office setting. If it's something you would wear out to a club, it's probably not appropriate for the office.
5.) Same rule applies to tops with rhinestones or embellishments- if you'd wear it to a club, DON'T wear it to work.
If you think these rules are going to make it hard for you to show your personal style at work, think again. There are plenty of ways to bring out your personality through your clothing and still look perfectly professional. For example:
1.) Utilize statement jewelry in your outfits. A simple navy skirt and blazer sounds as dull as can be, but when you add an oversize necklace or several necklaces layered together, the suit is completely transformed.
2.) Shop for appropriate clothing that has interesting details. A blouse doesn't have to be a solid color button-front to be office-appropriate. Find one with a striking detail like an asymmetrical ruffle detail or an artistic print. Find a pencil skirt with pizazz like leather detailing or a pair of tuxedo-style pants instead of basic trousers.
3.) Be playful with your shoes. This is an area where you need to walk a fine line. Some offices don't allow an open toe, and in general any type of strappy shoe is not appropriate for work. Instead of wearing shoes that are open and embellished, find shoes that will offer a pop of bold color or even a fun print. Shoe clips are making quite a comeback these days, so consider adding a touch of whimsy to your basic black pumps with a pair.
4.) Get creative with accessories in general. As I said above, a simple suit can be completely transformed with the right accessories- a belt, a scarf, jewelry, shoes, tights, etc.
A good rule of thumb when dressing professionally is to look to the highest level professionals in the company and follow suit. It's far better to be over dressed than under dressed. I know a lot of you are ambitious and I'd hate to see your career held back over your attire. Keep in mind that appearance is not a protected class in the workplace. In other words, an employer cannot discriminate against you for your race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc., but they CAN choose not to hire or promote you because of how you dress and groom yourself. Yes, grooming counts, too.
Do you have a specific question about dressing professionally? Email me or leave a comment! Sometimes there are grey areas, so I'm happy to offer guidance to anyone who needs it!