Getting back into the groove of working has really made me realize that people wear quite a variety of clothes to work.
Now, I’m not saying you should all chuck out your wardrobes and turn into fashionistas overnight, but I WILL say that based on what you wear I can pretty much pinpoint your status in the organization just by what you wear, for both men AND women.
…and I am rarely ever wrong, sad to say.
I can tell right away by their outfits, who works where and if they’re near a managerial status or not.
I’ll talk about women mostly in these types because I only really pay attention to what women wear (men just end up wearing a boring uniform of khakis and button-up shirts and/or sweaters, so… yawn.)
Say what you want, but the way you dress says something.
THE OVERLY FEMININE PROFESSIONAL
This woman is pretty easy to spot. I AM NOT going to go there and say anything derogatory about women who dress like this because it’s a personal choice and up to them, but for the work environment, let’s put it aside and wear something more conservative OK?
There are two types of being overly feminine: Super Girly & Super Sexy.
THE SUPER GIRLY PROFESSIONAL
This woman tends to wear super bright bubblegum pinks, purples, or anything that glitters and shines to work.
This includes Hello Kitty-themed garb, bows galore (a little bow is OK, but not covered in them), frilly skirts, or basically anything that looks too young.
Super Girly Professionals love everything in bows, curls, pink, purple and shiny.
You can most certainly be feminine without needing to wear an outfit a 5-to-7-year old little girl would look at and think: OMG I WANT THAT TOO.
Instead of looking fun, and young, you end up either looking like a costume character, or worse, a child inside an adult’s body, which makes it very hard for people to take you seriously.
It really can affect your career advancement as well, because who wants to put someone who looks like a child in charge? You may not think like a child could be just stellar at your job, but if you dress like a child.. well.. people will think along the same lines.
THE SUPER SEXY PROFESSIONAL
I’m just going to list out stuff I have seen at the office: fishnets, seamed stocks with leather miniskirts, flouncy leather miniskirts, super tight pencil / wiggle skirts with sky-high heels, lowcut tops, see-through tops, too-tight tops, too-tight bottoms, weirdly cut clothing with holes and openings in *cough* places…. the list goes on.
I am not saying that women shouldn’t dress in a sexy manner. You can do this on your own time, but at work, it is very distracting in a negative way.
You can most definitely be feminine and sexy without advertising it so blatantly.
See, as an example, I would also like to point out that women who wear skirts, should most definitely adhere to skirts no shorter than an inch or two above the knee. When you sit, your skirt rides up, and when it starts creeping up towards mid-thigh territory, that’s when I’m going to have to tap the table and cough uncomfortably.
I’ve seen shockingly high hemlines here at work and I think:…. do you know what you’re wearing?
You are also perfectly fine in wearing seamed stockings with super sky high heels, but don’t pair it with a leather miniskirt and be aware that heel heights above 3″ start to veer into the unprofessional category unless you work in advertising, fashion, or public relations.
Fishnets are also a no-go for the office, even in a beige / nude-for-you colour. It just has too much of an S&M, sexy vibe associated with them. Wear that out on a date or at night, but please save it for the office.
Clothing that is too tight is also not sexy.
Know what’s sexy? Clothing that SKIMS your wonderful curves, not ones that hug to them like a second skin. No matter how skinny you are, you will inevitably look like you have a muffin top or a few rolls that need to be worked off if your clothes are skintight.
It really isn’t sexy…. and I doubt it’s comfortable, which is never sexy.
These women also (generally) tend to wear way too much makeup and over process their hair.
This outfit, surprisingly, is not sexy in a conventional sense, but it is sexy and appropriate for the office.
Still is from the movie: Becoming Marilyn
THE TRANSITIONING PROFESSIONAL
A lot of people fall into this category / rut and never get out of it.
This includes new mothers, newly-entered workforce workers, or people who simply don’t know what to wear to work and couldn’t be bothered.
The time to be bothered is now.
Here are a few types I’ve seen….
THE NEEDS-TO-GO-SHOPPING PROFESSIONAL
With a critical eye, you should really ask yourself if red heeled boots are appropriate for work. I mean, they might look cool and all, and for nighttime looks, but…. I’ve yet to see fire red heeled boots work for the work environment.
Usually the one that needs to go shopping has clothes that don’t fit, the colours look all wrong on them, they wear all black ALL the time, the clothing sizes are too big (the jacket SWIMS on them), or the pants are too short and they don’t know that you need to wear different pant hemlines when you change from flats to heels.
Some of these people are SO CLOSE to having such a fantastic look, they would just need to stop wearing so much black or change the shoe to something sleeker and the whole look would change.
Sometimes it’s a wardrobe update that is required, like more colours other than black (try navy, dark grey, burgundy), or just replacing those black pants with pilling down the front and the butt being rubbed bare.
Other times, it’s just knowing your proportions. If you have bigger shoulders like I do, don’t wear super baggy tops and tight bottoms unless it’s a loose, casual look.
THE NEW MOMMY PROFESSIONAL
This was me, and no one could tell until I told them I had a baby under a year old.
Because I didn’t dress like a New Mommy.
I was not in some random lint-covered sweater with ratty pants and clunky shoes, and I certainly wasn’t wearing clothes that don’t fit me (either too tight or too loose).
New Mommies give themselves away with their black bags under their eyes (yea I still have those), their lack of attention to their makeup (yep, I slipped on this, FOR SURE), their slightly unwashed hair (if I can shower alone, it is the most blissful 10 minutes of my day), and their general air of “I really.. could not care less, I only got 3 hours of sleep last night.”
You’re at work. Try. TRY. Might I suggest wearing the same 5 dresses each week? Or the same outfits each week, randomly mixed and matched?
You don’t need to look amazing with 30 outfits at your beck and call, you only really need 7 that you can grab, put on, throw an accessory over, and go.
THE WEIGHT-LOSING PROFESSIONAL
Gaining or losing weight is just.. ugh. The Pits.
You either fit perfectly in your pants or you don’t. When I joined this company, I fit perfectly in my pants, and now they’re 3″ too loose. It does not look cute.
The best clothing for transitioning from one weight to another is a wrap dress. I’ve said it once, and I will say it again. WRAP DRESSES ROCK.
You can loosen and cinch them up and down one dress size from your normal size and you look fine. Chic even.
I can’t even imagine that taking MORE time to put on than some jeans and a random sweater. Seriously, I cannot imagine that you would spend more time to pull on a single wrap dress, loop the belt through the hole and pull it into a tie around your waist.
Oh wait, you might have to wear a slip or a camisole under that. Whoop de doo. It’s not uncomfortable and I daresay way more comfortable than super tight clothing.
THE TOO CASUAL PROFESSIONAL
When you’re too dressed up (a suit) it’s really overkill for the office, but when you’re too dressed DOWN, that’s just as bad. Please don’t wear beer t-shirts, shorts, sweater mini dresses or anything that is way too casual.
You need to try and get a business casual wardrobe, even if you all wear jeans at the office, wear DARK, even washed, single rinsed jeans in a straight leg, bootcut or skinny jean, with some ballet flats and a simple t-shirt and a sweater.
Don’t wear those ripped, paint-covered jeans or that ratty t-shirt you fished out of the laundry pile.
If you dress like you care, others will assume you care and are good at your job (TRUE STORY!) and will adjust their perceptions of you accordingly.
What you wear, speaks as to who you want to present yourself to be, without having to utter a single word.
HOW TO LOOK GOOD WITHOUT SPENDING A BUNDLE
I don’t even think it takes a lot of money to look good either. You just need to spend the time going to the stores to look at clothes, touch them, feel for quality and match up outfits.
If you’re a style n00b then bring along a friend whose style you admire and ask her or him to help you out. They more than likely (if they are anything like me) will be SUPER HAPPY to go shopping with you and have a chance to play stylist.
Even now, I can tell you that I could probably pull together a professional work outfit (business casual) for around $150.
You WILL have to spend a little more money on certain pieces that show it, like shoes/boots or the skirt, but things like tops or a sweater, you may be able to get away with not spending a lot at all.
A low-end Gap T-shirt will look great if your jeans are a dark wash rinse that aren’t skintight and you pair it with a statement necklace and some flats.
If any of you are interested, I can come up with a post with actual outfits online that can be paired together for a cute look that is professional and appropriate. Let me know in the comments!
(In the meantime, I do post a lot of my own outfits on Instagram)