In three weeks I’ll return to my job as a managing editor of a group of magazines where I’m also the editor of one magazine for landscape designers and contractors. I enjoy working in a creative field where the office atmosphere allows me to express myself in how I dress with the exception of a few corporate rules, such as wearing jeans only on Fridays.
Many offices these days are more casual than they used to be. However, some are still very conservative and formal. I think it’s important for anyone looking for stability and growth in their career to read the culture of their company dress code correctly.
I know a lot of people advocate for wearing what you want, no matter your size or shape or age. While I don’t disagree with this, I do think your job is one place (and wherever you may worship, too!) where certain trends or looks are not appropriate. This has nothing to do with keeping women, or men, from wearing what they want outside of work. But at the office, here is my advice for what not to wear:
1. Anything sheer without proper layering.
While you may want to step out in a sheer blouse with just a bra underneath on the weekend — as I did for this photoshoot below — this is highly inappropriate for work. Same goes for sheer palazzo pants that women wear over bathing suits in the summer. These are bathing suit cover-ups — not regular pants meant to be worn with underwear.2. A bare stomach.
Show your midriff in pants, skirts, with cool cutouts on a dress. No matter your size, rock that crop top — as long as you’re not doing it in an office setting.3. No bra.
I realize this is a major feminist issue for some, and while I applaud your right to choose whether you want to wear a bra or not (as my friend Mandy wrote about for a previous post on this blog), the workplace is one place where I believe a bra is necessary. I simply believe that there’s a time and a place for everything, and this is one area where I err on the side of being more conservative at work. At the end of the workday, though, do as you please!
Ugh! Flip-flops. I get a lot of flack for being a flip-flop snob, but I’m just not a fan of the rubber flip-flops that I basically used as shower shoes in college. And those definitely aren’t a good look at work! I have a pair of Reef flip-flops that I love for the beach or running errands. But otherwise, and especially at the office, please go for real sandals. It’s fine if they’re a thong style that goes between your toes, if your office is that casual. But make sure they’re nice leather or fabric. Leave the shower shoes for the gym.
5. Anything that’s too short.
Here’s a good test — Can you bend over without flashing everyone? Then it should be OK for work. Think about what you’re buying before you buy it — is it a tunic meant to be worn with leggings? OK then, it’s not a dress to be worn with bare legs. Does the skirt barely cover your butt when you sit down? Then it’s probably too short when you stand up, too. Use some common sense about the length of skirts and dresses, please!6. Ripped jeans.
Seriously? How are these professional looking? If you’re able to wear jeans any day, or if it’s just on Fridays, please wear clean jeans that aren’t too baggy or too tight and most definitely do not have holes or fraying. That look is for after-hours only. When you wear jeans to the office, you want to think, “Would the CEO of the company think I look too sloppy in this if I were called in for a last minute meeting with her?” Don’t be caught looking like a slob!
7. Sloppy sweatshirts.
If it’s a cold day, or your office is as cold as an icebox like mine is, I understand that keeping a hoodie or sweatshirt handy may be tempting. But again, think about how a sweatshirt looks versus a cardigan, pashmina or even a blazer (ponte knit blazers look polished but are just as comfortable as a sweatshirt!).
These rules may seem strict to you, but I wholeheartedly believe in the saying: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” You always want to give the impression that you’re put together and responsible. Avoid these office faux pas, and you’ll be on your way to bigger things!