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.

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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

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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.