Smart dressing at work: A handy guide to nailing your office wear



Smart dressing at work: A handy guide to nailing your office wear

Here's a guide on what not to wear in office, and what to wear instead, a look into the dos and don'ts and the struggles that women face while choosing a work outfit.

“I heard this for years from friends, ‘I can’t find anything to wear,'" Anne Klein’s new CEO, Liz Fraser, recently told the Washington Post (paywall), when asked about her re-invention plans for her classic workwear label. "They wanted more style and less fashion," she explained.


It isn't easy being a working woman. The struggles and stress of a workplace aren't limited to the daily order of work at the office, but also include the daily office wardrobe. Ask any working woman, the struggle to wear something just right at a workplace is a lot of pressure.


In US offices, a pair of suit and tie or a shirt is the staple uniform for men. For women, however, it id far more complicated. Women are expected to be feminine but not too feminine. They are expected to be smartly dressed, but not too casual or too formal. This limitation itself is a contradiction and opens a gulf of problems for females to make the right choice, as there are innumerable ways in which their work outfit could go wrong. Too colorful, too tight-fitted, too sexy for a workplace, too casual, too macho - these are all potential pitfalls.


Despite the absence of a specific work wear code in the US, there are conservative industries, such as law, journalism, and finance, that require fairly formal clothing. Silicon Valley, meanwhile, is a bulwark of informality, where hoodies and shorts rule the roost and everyone can be seen in their finest casuals.


In between these two poles, are a number of offices that fall at different points along the corporate-to-casual see-saw. Your workwear is no longer just fancy pants, suits with starched shirts or well-fit dresses. Different rules and the work environment determine what clothes you wear at the office.


In an interview with Quartz, Kat Griffin, founder of the New York-based, a fashion and lifestyle blog for lawyers, bankers, MBAs, and consultants explained the problem for female dressing at workwear. “The problem for a lot of workwear companies is that they are trying to move with the trends, although a conservative office today still looks very similar to what it looked like 10 years ago. She further explained, “The athleisure trend, the ripped-denim trend, all the different trends that you see at more casual offices, are still largely inappropriate for conservative banks or law firms or places like that.”


Despite conservative offices relaxing their rules about formal wear to some extent, all offices are not in the same league. In the quest to get the almost-perfect office wear, here are some rules you should consider while making a choice every day.

Source: Pinterest

For the sake of your professional advancement and career safety, try considering these points before stepping out of your homes. All pictures are for representational purpose only.

#1 Cropped Pants

Source: Nordstrom

Corporate office: A pair made of suit fabric that ends just above the ankles can be done.

Business-casual office: Yes, but follow the same criteria as a corporate office setting.

Creative office: Yes again. Just stay away from weekend cargo pants and dumpy wide-leg styles.

#2 Leggings

A model,fashion detail, walks the runway at the Niyazi Erdogan show during Mercedes-Benz Istanbul Fashion Week March 2017 at Grand Pera on March 23, 2017 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for IMG)

Corporate office: Strictly no. Not even in your wildest dreams.

Business-casual office: Still no.

Creative office: Proceed with caution. Wear them only with a dress and team up with a layering piece (that is, with a long jacket or a tunic that covers your posterior).  

#3 Shorts


Model runs the catwalk during CIA Maritima runway show on October 7, 2017 in Lisboa CDP, Portugal. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)

Corporate office: Never.

Business-casual office: Still no.

Creative office: It's a green signal here. But stick to a tailored knee-length pair with a silky top and a jacket. Anything shorter should be avoided or paired with tights.

#4 Jeans


Corporate office: No way.

Business-casual office: If and when denim is allowed (most likely on Fridays), opt for a pair of polished, dark jeans. Avoid baggy jeans and distressed denims at all costs. 

Creative office: Skip the weird washes, slashed through denim but subtle colored denim are acceptable. Always pair your jeans with a nice top and a jacket/blazer.

#5 Strappy Tops and Dresses

 Anne Dudek attends People's 'Ones To Watch' at NeueHouse Hollywood on October 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Corporate office: Sleeveless dresses and those with thick straps are doable, just keep a cardigan or a jacket handy for meetings.

Business-casual office: See the wardrobe code for the corporate office. "Flutter or cap sleeves are acceptable, too," says Michelle T. Sterling, founder of Global Image Group, an image-consulting business headquartered in New York City.

Creative office: “Never wear straps so thin that you need a strapless bra,” advises Jennifer Baumgartner, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist, author of You Are What You Wear and the owner of InsideOut, a wardrobe-consulting business based in Washington, D.C.

#6 Bare Legs

A model walks the runway during the Agnes B Paris show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2018 on October 3, 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images)

Corporate office: It depends. "Don't go without hosiery until you see a senior doing it," recommends Kat Griffin.

Business-casual office: Sure, but opt for shoes that cover more skin instead of sandals. "In our workplace, hosiery is encouraged, but we do make exceptions for the summer," says Lauren Mathisen, a recruiter for Jones Lang LaSalle, a commercial real estate firm headquartered in Chicago.

Creative office: Absolutely! Nude hose can actually make you look stodgy. But a mini-skirt is a deal-breaker and should be avoided under all circumstances.

#7 Open-Toe Shoes


Corporate office: Doubtful. Slingbacks are okay. "I've known judges who have worn peep-toes and red ones at that," said Kat.

Business-casual office: Yes, but the more covered up they are, the better. Also, avoid backless footwear that makes flapping noises when you walk.

Creative office: Go ahead, straps and all. But keep flip-flops (especially if they’re rubber) for the beach trip.


*Credit: Real

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