In Style

Working Woman Chic: Various Types of Professional Women’s Fashion At the Office

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.

Michelle-Williams-Marilyn-Monroe-MY-WEEK-WITH-MARILYN

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.

Well.

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.

bigstock-laundry-woman-bored-housewife-home-cleaning

THE NEW MOMMY PROFESSIONAL

This was me, and no one could tell until I told them I had a baby under a year old.

Know why?

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.”

Still.

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)

Any other tips and types you want to add to this list?

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Am my own Sugar Daddy. Am a millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using TheBudgetingTool.com. I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I have 11 side incomes that are on track in 2020 to make me $50K - $75K. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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27 Comments

  1. Cera

    I personally stopped reading this because it struck me as *negative *negative *angry *angry. Are you frustrated with the world, do you hate the way you look or do you have a vendetta against women in general. I have to know, are you a man or one of those women that talk nastily about other women. Or perhaps you’re one of those that never see beyond the surface just superficially shallow.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I’m sorry you took it the wrong way, it wasn’t meant to be like that at all but if no one can take any criticism, who will ever improve?

      Reply
  2. Emily @ Urban Departures

    This post made me LOL. Your descriptions of the different women professionals are bang on. I have a good work wardrobe and consider myself well-dressed for work, if not a bit overdressed compared to my other female counterparts (who mainly fall under the TRANSITIONING PROFESSIONAL). However, since I’m nearing the end of the pregnancy, I am now the “Maybe you should stay at home because I don’t want to clean up potential bodily fluids if you go into labour professional”. I have only two pair of shoes that fit my swollen feet right now; one of them is pretty scuffed pair of ballet flats (totally work appropriate a year ago, pre-scuffs) and the other is a pair of birkenstocks (there’s a no-open toe shoe policy in the office). Oh, and my dresses (aside from the glorious Aritizia bodycon ones you recommended on your blog during your pregnancy) are now all above knee or tunics; with each passing day, my dress hemlines go up.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I’m overdressed for work too 😉

      Those Aritzia dresses will save your life. Trust me. I wore them all the way to the end, even post-pregnancy…

      Reply
  3. Erin

    yes please – your outfits are so chic! maybe some examples of pieces that can be mixed and matched multiple ways for spring and summer?

    Reply
  4. Anne - Money Propeller

    You would die where I work 🙂
    Beer tees are on the lower end, but don’t raise eyebrows.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I’d be considered too dressed up 🙂

      Reply
  5. Cassie

    Guilty as charged on the needs to go shopping professional. It’s a work in progress. Would love to see some outfit inspiration 🙂

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Check out my instagram feed in the meantime!

      Reply
  6. Jenn

    Yes please!

    Reply
  7. Tre

    I want to work in your building! Mine is mostly full of the new mommy or needs to go shopping. There was one lady who had skin tight dresses & Louboutins. No one believed me when I said she was a CFO.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I’m not saying my place is perfect.. I basically see a lot of what I noted above.. a LOT of skintight stuff.

      Reply
  8. A

    I agree with you except when it comes to nude fishnets. If you’re otherwise conservatively dressed, they’re ok. From a distance, you can’t see it’s fishnets and if someone’s close enough too see it, they definitely should not be looking at your legs!

    Reply
    1. Tania

      @A: I love nude fishnets too, in a smaller pattern. The large fishnets always look like a costume.

      Reply
      1. save. spend. splurge.

        Don’t get me wrong, I love the look but it just doesn’t look right in the office…

        Reply
    2. save. spend. splurge.

      Well they shouldn’t be looking at your legs but they do anyway and can’t help it. This, having been confirmed by my very platonic and married guy colleagues.

      Reply
  9. Kathy

    You touched on heel height but I’d add any shoe that makes you look like you are in “hooker” mode. That includes the super high platform heels and above the knee boots in shiny vinyl. The same goes for tight short clothing. I’ve become addicted to a blog by Mary Orton called Memorandum (formerly The Classy Cubicle). She focuses on super stylish professional apparel in a variety of price ranges and breaks the posts down to conservative, casual and creative office environments. Hope it is ok to give her a shout out since her blog fits right in with your post today.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Oh my goodness yes!!!!! I like Mary’s blog a lot but I find her looks a little too classic / conservative / preppy for my taste.

      Another good blog for work stuff even though she only posts examples is Belle of Capitol Hill Style.

      Reply
  10. raluca

    yes please!

    Reply
  11. anon

    Hi there, love this blog. Im in the casual side – jeans and tshirt. I own the business (day care center) but I spend each day washing dishes & tidying there. I could tell someone else to do it, but its ok I need to be there to keep an eye on everything. I let the manager deal with everything so the parents never realise Im in charge – unless they ask. I like surprising people and underdressing … that way you can see how they treat the staff. The other day a mom came in and was surprised by the car I drive (new bmw) so I guess she has realised Im not just kitchen staff 🙂

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I guess…. but sometimes it’s a good idea to at least have an outfit to look like a professional when you need to. I understand the wanting to surprise people bit, but not when it’s your business and you want people to perceive you as competent even if your clothing literally has nothing to do with it (don’t want to give them ammo to think otherwise), at least, that’s my mindset 🙂

      Reply
  12. Sense

    Yes, def. interested. I fall into the ‘needs to go shopping’/’too casual’ categories. I work at a University and also am a student, so there is basically no dress code. Male and female colleagues (even–especially!–the senior ones) will walk around in bare feet and a tank top and shorts in the summer.

    Even when I worked in a real office, I wore some version of khakis/polo every day, and sensible shoes. The problem with my profession (in the outdoor sciences) is that I could get called into the field from the office at any time, have to hike long distances, sweat/get really dirty, etc. So wearing really nice things just isn’t done or worth it. The problem comes when I need to go to meetings and conferences and look professional. How do I do that? I just have no practice ‘cuz I can’t dress that way for the office! (I also really don’t like wearing dresses because they require me to wear something other than really comfortable shoes, and ‘cuz I am not a huge fan of my legs (I have terrible exzema on them so there are patches that just do not tan–so I am super pale!).)

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      GASP!!!!!!!!!! tank tops and shorts!? oh*faints*

      I’ll post some professional outfits, in the meantime, check out my saverspender Instagram for inspiration.

      Reply
  13. Paula

    Oh yes, definitely interested!

    Reply

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