In any given profession, workplace attire is one of the important factors that can lead to certain favorable and at the same time non-favourable outcomes. Be it the highly coveted job you are after or the promotion for which you have worked tirelessly for. All other things being equal, it can all come down to one thing, which is your outward appearance.
Now, what’s considered to be a good work outfit will differ depending on various factors like industry, norms, culture, and roles. No matter the circumstances, idea behind any good attire is the same, that it should look good, boost confidence and make life easier.
I spoke to 10 experts for advice on the matter, they were all very kind to provide detailed and helpful answers. The list below contains top tips given by them for looking great at the office:
1 ‘First impressions are extremely important’
Julia Esteve Boyd is an International Etiquette & Image Consultant at The Etiquette Consultant. “First impressions make lasting impressions – no matter the industry.” According to Julia, “If you are extremely formal in a casual workplace or extremely casual in a formal workplace, you look like you don’t belong there.”
Furthermore, following are the general tips which she offers to her clients; they are gender neutral and allow for individual style and fashion tastes:
Know your audience
When meeting with clients, find out as much info about them beforehand. Age, generation, job titles, even location of meetings etc., this will give an idea of how to get dressed for a particular event.
Different teams within the same company?
If you are going to their environment, dress according to their codes unless you are very superior in rank and want to stand out for that reason. “My husband wears fairly smart attire most days and loves, loves, loves when going to the Marketing Department for a meeting because he can wear his jeans!”
It’s okay to not fit exactly into the mould. You can personalize, just be aware of the visual boundaries you see in the dress codes around you. It’s always better to be a little overdressed than underdressed, there’s nothing worse than being the only one turn up in sneakers!
2 ‘No one-size-fits-all’
Joseph Rosenfeld is a Fashion and Personal Style Strategist. Joseph works primarily with tech executives and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and New York City as a personal style strategist. He doesn’t believe that there is a one-size-fits-all answer for all people.
Joseph said, “Wardrobes should be full of items that help to make life easier, save time, boost confidence, and make communication more effective. Clothes are tools that help to tell your story. So, be sure to tell a story that reflects the very best of who you are. Knowing the clothing styles and colors that work best for you in a given situation ensures a successful outcome and supports a healthy mindset intention.”
3 ‘Start with the limitations’
Marty Estelle Lundstrom is the founder of Polished Professionals. According to Marty, “To consider what to wear to work it is important to start with the limitations. Nothing ripped, torn, wrinkled, or risqué are appropriate in most office environments. And, if you would wear it to the gym, the club, or the beach, don’t put that in the category of ‘office appropriate’.
“Once that side of the closet is out of the equation, now you have the rest of the closet to work with. Nothing else is really off limits in the office but it has to be styled appropriately and tailored to your particular business.
“Consider this: an international, large law firm partner may be expected to wear a suit at all times. Denim may not be an appropriate option for him/her. But, an advertising executive that works in a more creative environment may be able to style his/her denim with a blazer and be perfectly office appropriate. It’s advisable for folks to take cues from executives about what is and is not appropriate in each office environment.”
4 ‘Don’t underestimate the power of presentation’
Lindsey Bennett is the lead designer at Azazie. She believes, “There is a lot of confusion swirling around what is appropriate to wear to work that allows you to be both professional and show your style. You can’t blame people for being confused because the answer will vary depending on age, gender, industry, region, etc. What I consider appropriate as an employee in the fashion industry in San Francisco is very different from what I would suggest my friend starting out in finance on Wall Street should wear.
“I think there are a few good rules to stick to. For women, jeans are okay as long as the other elements of the outfit raise the bar. Meaning, pair your jeans with heels, a blouse, or a blazer. You don’t need all three but at something to make it look like you didn’t jump out of bed and grab the outfit you wore around the house on Sunday.
“The nice thing for men is they can wear their jeans with a casual button up or polo style shirt so long as they rock some sleek leather slip ons and a nice belt.
“The important rule is to not underestimate the power of presentation. While as a society we have relaxed on many social dressing norms, how you present yourself still matters especially in a work environment. Don’t wear anything with stains, holes (that aren’t supposed to be there), and leave the shoes that need a visit to the cobbler at home.”
5 ‘Stand out in a positive way’
Erica Waddell is a Chief Designer and has her own clothing line with a retail location in LA. Erica said, “Standing out in a positive way is almost never a bad thing in an office. Wearing fun colors and exciting patterns shows that you are willing to take creative risks. It’s a great way to get attention. And guess who else notices? Your boss! Often, a bland workplace makes people feel uncomfortable wearing something bright or busy. In reality, those who don’t dress that way are envious of those with the guts to do so.”
6 ‘Let’s talk appropriate first’
Vanessa Valiente of V-Style Blog is a Personal Stylist. She regularly styles hundreds of professional men and women and has lots of proven, personally-tested tips and tricks to share.
On work attire, Vanessa said, “Let’s talk appropriate first. It’s always a good idea to keep overtly sexual, costume-y and casual styles separate from your work wardrobe.
“Overtly sexual: meaning don’t show off your cleavage, expose your bra, your midriff, your upper thigh, or pair extremely tight-fitting pants with a short shirt.
“Costume-y: meaning over-the-top items like headdresses, gargantuan earrings and petticoat-type skirts.
“Too casual: meaning distressed anything, sunhats, shorts, cotton tanks and casual sandals.
“If you skip all of the above, you can wear just about anything from bold prints, midi-pencil skirts, berets, puff sleeves, tiered skirts and more.
“The key to being appropriate without compromising on style, is embracing 1-2 items that are fashion forward (that includes accessories) and then pairing it with a work basic, i.e. navy ankle pants, the perfect shell, or comfortable closed-toe pumps. It is all about balancing the equation.”
7 ‘Your dressing should reflect the role you are in’
Roy Cohen is a career coach at Career Coachny. He’s a best-selling author and is often contacted by clients around time of crisis.
On office attire. Roy said, “How you dress should reflect the role you are in, the role you aspire to, and the prevailing dress norm for your company and industry. If there is a disconnect, in any way, you have the potential to alter other people’s impressions…generally, in a not so positive direction. If you are too casual – or too formal – you convey that you may not “get it”; that you really don’t know how to fit in.” And your colleagues and management may extrapolate, unfairly, that you may not be qualified to assume other responsibilities, too.”
8 ‘The best outfit is a solid colored ensemble’
Isabelle Tan is a Jewellery Designer and Co-founder of A Gilded Leaf. According to her, “The best outfit is a solid colored ensemble, accented by small flashy (but subtle details). As for the small accents, my go-to accessory are my jewelry. Wearing simplistic, minimal jewelry is ideal for all seasons.”
9 ‘Dress for success’
Nate Masterson is the HR Manager at Maple Holistics. No piece on office dressing will be complete without the say of HR dept, so I spoke to Nate in this regard. He said, “Dress for success. Unless you feel that you would stand out too much, there is nothing wrong with suiting up or going business casual. The way you dress is a projection of yourself, and since this is an office setting, it is best to be tasteful. No extra cleavage (women), no extra chest hair (men). A great rule of thumb is: dress for the job you want to have, even if you are not quite there yet.”
10 ‘Ready to face anyone’
For more authoritative view on the subject I spoke to Ian McClarty. He’s the CEO and President of PhoenixNAP. With the staff of over 600 employees, Ian regularly deals with these issues. He said, “I want everyone in my company to be dressed to impress. Dressing appropriately means that they can be ready to face anyone, whether its a client, a potential business partner, or other important individuals, they won’t worry about how they look. In the company, it is office policy to come to work wearing formal attire. Meaning, employees are required to wear formal business attire.”