Saturday, August 1, 2009

Appropriate Office Attire

date: Fri, Jul 31, 2009 at 12:34 PM
subject: Question for your blog about work clothes

Dear Ariana,

I am starting a new job soon that has a "business professional" dress code. What is appropriate for a twenty-something to wear in the office? I don't want to stand out too much, but at the same time I don't want to dress like and old lady either.

Please help!


I think this is a great question. For anyone who knows me well, I was definitely very guilty of professional business attire no no's. However I have refined myself in the past years. Typically it depends on your profession. In this case, "business professional" typically is what is required in most office / corporate jobs.

#1) All companies are different in their definition of what's appropriate. Stay on the conservative at first, then ease up after you figure out what is acceptable. Take a look at the highest woman executive in the company. Check out what she is wearing. Use her as a point of reference- DO NOT use your peers as your point of reference. You never want to dress for the job you have. You always want to dress for the job that YOU WANT.

#2) Invest in some basics that can be mixed and matched. Professional clothes are expensive when you get them to fit right, however it's worth the money. Stick with one color scheme and then everything will look good together. Try and keep your work clothes wardrobe as minimal as possible. It saves you money and eliminates the "what to wear??" stress in the morning. I have a rotating 8 outfits.

Here is my rule of thumb for dressing for work in any corporate atmosphere:

Jewelry: Stick to studs or pearls. Never large hoops or anything dangling. A very small hoop or "cuff" earring is OK as well. One item of jewelry per each wrist. Never anything the clinks together and makes noise. It's distracting, and you can't type effectively with too many things on your wrist. Less is more here.

Shoes: Personally, I say always closed toe. An exception being in the summer "peep toe" shoes are OK. Anything that shows too much of your toes, I would stay away from. There is something very casual about showing your toes. Stick to a standard pump or a ballerina shoe.

Nylons: Yes when it's "business professional". However in the summer, it depends on how uptight your company is. Yea, I know it's annoying.

Skirts: A couple inches above the knee is OK. Try sitting down in your skirt, if it's showing enough of your leg to turn your coworker on... don't wear it. I personally wear a lot of pencil skirts. They are very flattering, and look professional. Work dresses are also awesome. A simply sleeveless black dress can be worn to work in the summer with a suit jacket or cardigan over it in the summer, and a turtleneck under it in the winter.

Shirts: Never show cleavage or anything close to it. If you are wearing a button down shirt, make sure there is no gapping in between the buttons in the chest area.

Underwear: Never let your bra straps show. Always wear nude color underneath light colored clothes because it won't be seen through them.

In summary, don't let your outfit overshadow your skills. Just because something might seem conservative to you, it might not be conservative to your boss, or your boss' boss. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Use your own judgement, and just because your peers are showing cleavage and wearing flip flops, doesn't mean you should too.

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