Dress for Success - Men & Women - Office Fashion
Whether you’ve landed your first office job or you’re just at a point in your career where you want to rethink the impressions you make on coworkers, dressing for success is not a cliché. It’s a necessity.
STOP FIGHTING IT
Let’s kick the exceptions to the curb right off the bat. Yes, if you’re Bill Gates you can get away with wearing your pajamas to work if you want to. If you work at MTV or in an artistic field, your office may be very casual and self-expressive. If your father owns the company, if you are in IT, or if you don’t care at all about getting ahead, you are exempt from this HUB.
Get off your soapbox about non-conformity. When we work, we are in uniform. All of us. Nobody who works at Denny's woke up and screamed, "My god! I want to wear bullet-proof polyester from head to toe every damn day!" No body who works at UPS chooses to wear Hershey Bar colored clothes. Yours is a uniform too. There is no reason to rebel against it. If you didn't want to work in an office, you should have majored in archeology or become a plumber.
If thinking of it as a game makes you feel better, go for it. I promise you, the impression your wardrobe makes is important in the workplace. If you work for a financial company or law firm, the more conservatively you can dress, the better. For every office in between, ere on the side of safety: build a more professional business-like wardrobe that you can relax as time goes on if you feel inclined.
DRESS FOR THE JOB YOU WANT, NOT THE JOB YOU HAVE
It's an old piece of advice but it's still around because it works. If you have an entry-level position and hope to climb the company ladder, don't dress like an entry-level employee. Stand out and show your goals: dress like your boss's boss dresses.
INVEST IN YOUR WARDROBE
Don't be afraid to splurge. These are investments in your long-term career goals. Your employers see you as a reflection of the company, and of themselves. You want to be perceived professionally. Don't be afraid to purchase good pieces that you will wear over and over for a long time.
If you can afford to shop at the Armani Emporium, what are you reading this for? You should be out shopping! If you can't, then seek out alternatives. Outlets are a great idea, and if you have some time you can hunt and peck through second stores like TJMax and Marshall's. Look for tried and true designers. Avoid flashy trendy mall shops, for office attire shopping anyway.
JCPenney’s has a men’s department that just about everyone can afford. They have a diverse selection of styles and sizes, and tailoring is available in most stores.
Stay away from casual trousers like chinos or Dockers. It’s an immature and lazy look in the office. Don't look rumpled or wrinkled. Dry clean, or at least wash the clothes yourself and then bring them to the dry cleaner for professional pressing at about half the cost of dry cleaning.
When picking shirts and ties look at the styling your boss’s boss uses. The classic white pinpoint oxford and striped tie will never go out of style. But fashion has come a long way in the last 20 years. I’m not saying to wear the same fashion forward suiting you’d wear when you go out for a nice evening of dining and clubbing in Manhattan. But if your boss’s boss and the president of the company are wearing bold colored shirts and stylized ties (wide width ties were all over the fall preview runways at every fashion show I hit last April and believe me I hit them all) then you are safe to indulge.
DON'T FORGET THAT WHAT YOU LIKE AND WHAT'S IN STYLE ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS
It’s good to have your own style, but pay attention to what makes you look dated, or small town. Balance that out with not picking out what will make you look much more trendy than your boss: it works in clubs, it doesn't work in the office.
When you’re out in the city you want your friends and the people you meet to look at your clothes and think: cover of GQ, cover of men’s Vogue. This is not what you want them to think in your office. While you’re climbing the corporate ladder especially, you want them to think: fits right in here, reflects the mindset of our team.
Accessories matter. Abandon that weathered worn wallet for a new clean one. Shine your shoes and don’t ruin your look with a lug sole or casual shoe. Wear a sharp looking belt. Wear a good watch that people might notice. Don’t over-do the jewelry in the office.
For the ladies things aren’t always as cut and dry. Skirt lengths vary, heel heights vary, boot lengths vary, and even suits vary. Your best tip for starting out is to take a good look at the women in your office. I don’t mean the women in customer service or the women on your level. I mean, the highest executives.
Your best friend is a tailored classic blazer. Don’t be afraid to invest in a few in conservative neutral colors like black, navy, gray, tan and beige. They can be changed from day to day with what you pair it with. The same classic black blazer with pearls and a jewel neck shell will look entirely differently the next day with a cashmere turtleneck and a stylish pin or brooch. And you can wear it again later in the week with a button front shirt and a scarf.
Whether you wear skirts or pants, fit is important. Tailoring is often easier than you think. The same dry cleaning tips apply to women. You don't want to look like the woman in the office that saves money on dry cleaning. You want to look neat, pressed, clean, sharp, crisp and pulled together.
The same fashion forward consciousness applies with the ladies. You may really love looking like the cover of W magazine. But if the high-powered executive women at your firm dress more classic or conservatively, take a hint. You can re-write the silent code when you are CEO. But for now, be careful. Women can be much more competitive about dressing then men in the office. You’re goal is to dress to impress and fit in, not to shock or out-do.
Your accessories are important too. Think timeless designer when choosing a ladies briefcase, a classic handbag, a good watch, a newer clean wallet and key fob. We’ve come a long way from the standard office dress code that states no open toed shoes, but a peek-a-boo toe is a far cry from a sandal.
In the office your jewelry shouldn’t make noise. As cute as it may be if your gold bangles clang a little when you’re dining, in the office it’s considered unprofessional. Understated jewelry is usually safest. Be careful what your jewelry says about you. You do not want to wear your martini glass brooch or your Hello Kitty watch to an important meeting. These things don’t come across as fun or cute.
Above all, watch the slutty look. Nothing too revealing or sexy should ever be worn to a professional office setting. Spaghetti straps, stilettos, shorts, short skirts, tube tops… god, do I really need to even tell you that those are no-no's? There are different kinds of attention. Be careful to earn the attention that will serve your career best.
Casual Friday is business casual. It does not mean t-shirts, sweatshirts, or sneakers. A collared crew shirt or button front shirt, khakis, and a boat shoe are a good start for both sexes. Again, look at your boss's boss for tips on how far you can go, and where you dare not tread.
If you are confused about casual Fridays, skip it and wear your normal office wear. It's better to be over dressed than under dressed. It also shows you may have things going on in your professional life outside of the office.
Ladies, if you select to wear jeans, they should not be tight, torn, embellished or faded. A good clean pair of dark denim straight leg jeans with a boot or sandal is probably ok, especially with a white t-shirt and navy emblem blazer.
Men, be careful of sporting anything team-related. If you wear a very nice Yankee crew shirt and it turns out your boss if from Boston, it might leave a bad taste. I'm not saying your boss is a jerk. I'm saying, why would you take the chance on offending anyone in the building, even subliminally, that might one day have something to do with your career path.
Casual Friday is not your opportunity to express yourself. It's still an office. It's still a place where you work with your work face on.
Keep a spare in your car.
If you don't drive to work, try to keep a new shirt in a desk drawer.
You never know when a cup of coffee will get away from you or a coworker standing close by. You never know when you will lose a button, or have to change the toner cartridge, or change a tire, or get a bloody nose...
Additionally, if you ever wind up stuck, snowed in, spending the night somewhere you didn't expect to (whether by luck or disaster) you will still make a good impression in the office the next day. If you can, leave your shaving kit or overnight bag in your car too. In a pinch you can usually get to a CVS to get the basics you need, but you can't usually get a suit, shoes and undergarments on the fly.
Even if you make a same-day change due to a mishap and your boss notices, you're being seen as prepared and ever professional. Do you want to be known as the guy with the stain, or the guy always ready and looking good?
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All text is original content by Veronica.All photos are used with permission. All videos are used courtesy of Youtube.
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