Saturday, December 1, 2012

Workplace Attire for Modern Women

Whatever IT is, avoid over-doing it.

Clothing should be professional and polished, without being distracting or drawing unwanted attention. 

If you're at a new company, take a mental note of the unofficial standard you see set by your peers and superiors. As a general rule, emulate the behavior of those who are one and two levels superior to you in your organizational structure. Of course, you might have a really eccentric boss...but you're smart enough to avoid emulating BAD behavior, right? I knew you were. 

Example: Your office has a "business-casual" vibe. It's fine to go the extra mile and throw a blazer over that blouse, but you might not want to wear a suit every single day. 

Ok, so what if you're in a really casual environment? Maybe you spend a lot of time in the lab, or just have a very laid back corporate culture. So is it ok to wear jeans every day? Suuuuure. But let's not be ridiculous. 

Keep it simple, with well-tailored denim in good condition. Avoid "destroyed" denim or jeans with embellishments like giant pockets, high-contrast stitching, or rhinestones (shudder). Also, avoid going TOO casual. Unless you're performing hard labor, it really isn't acceptable to wear jeans and sweatshirts to work.

Don't be too sexy.

In the workplace, *sexy* makes people uncomfortable. Wearing revealing clothing can cause unwanted tension between you and co-workers of either sex. 

SKIRTS: don't go too short. Pencil skirts usually hit right at the knee and work great in office settings. Mini skirts are plausible,  if worn with tights. Avoid any skirt that hits more than 3 inches above the knee. Pay attention to vents and slits, which might show more leg than you anticipate. Also keep in mind that your skirt might ride up as you move around.

SHIRTS: Your biggest concern here will probably be the bust. You want to make sure that button-down blouses don't gap or pucker in a way that exposes your undergarments. If you find yourself between sizes, maybe moving a button would make the smaller size work for you.

Think about body type. If you have a larger bust, tight clothing and low necklines will just look more provocative on you than on a more slight figure. It's just reality. Don't believe me? Here's an Eileen Fisher top in regular and plus size.

Even though the top is the same, cleavage is much more noticeable in the larger busted woman on the left.  

PANTS: Again, you don't want anything to be skin tight. If you're going to attempt a more fitted silhouette, don't opt for a pant in a very bright color. Coated denim, leather, and other shiny options are more appropriate in the club than the office. Also, watch for pants that gap in the waist when you bend over and lean forward. Spring for alterations to correct this, or invest in a nice belt.

LEGGINGS: (sighs) Ok, fine. But only on Friday. And only with a long top. If they look like yoga wear or pajamas, you're doing it wrong.

FOOTWEAR: You can rock a power heel in the office, just do it right. I would steer clear of anything with more than 4" of heel, of course. Keep away from anything that is overly strappy or has an unreasonably high heel/platform. It shouldn't need to be said...but a lucite heel is never appropriate in the workplace. I've seen some rare high-fashion exceptions, but in 99.9% of cases, it's a fat NO. Odds are, if it's endorsed by Kim Kardashian, it probably doesn't belong in any office environment. Think Ann Taylor instead of Bebe. 
Ok for a night out, but not appropriate for the office

This shoe (below) has a very subtle platform, and comes in a variety of workplace friendly colors. It's a worthy edition to any professional wardrobe, and a personal favorite of mine

I particularly like that it is real leather, unlike pleather varieties that don't breathe as well. Genuine patent leather is easier to care for over time

I like the hidden platform style because it is a discreet way to add height, without the discomfort of an unreasonably high heel. This style is popular and very attractive without pushing it too far. 

Get the details right. 10 Quick Tips.
  1. Commuting on foot? Invest in quality flats. Sneakers and flip flops look unprofessional, even if you're just going from A to B. 
  2. Do your pants have belt loops? If so, you should be wearing a belt. Opt for more refined leathers, and avoid vintage or western styles that tend to be more casual.
  3. Winter gear should look professional too. Don't stomp around in bedazzled rain boots, or walk into the office in a tacky scarf.
  4. Throw out clothing that has any tears or stains, even if they're small.
  5. Always remember to remove the basting strings from pockets and vents in your clothing. In fact, regularly check your clothes for rogue strings and snip them off!
  6. Keep an extra pair of tights or hose in your desk drawer. That way you'll never be caught with a run.
  7. Don't let your roots grow out or walk around with chipped nail polish. Go "au naturel" if you can't keep up with the maintenance.
  8. If you're going to push the envelope, don't do it in multiple ways. Skirt a little short? Ok... But a skirt that's short AND shiny AND tight? Not on your life.
  9. Two words. LINT ROLLER.
  10. Don't stress out. Everyone is allowed to be less than fabulous on occasion.

I hope this has been really helpful for the ladies out there. Most of you are already doing it right, so keep up the good work. If you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear them.