Do's and Don't Guide To Dressing In Retail
Dress for a business environment, with a spin
By: Karin Eldor
Monster Contributing Writer
You've always heard that first impressions are key, and never more so than in the workforce. Whether you work in a corporate setting or as a store sales associate, the way you present yourself to coworkers and clients can speak volumes about your level of professionalism.
Perception is everything!
Perception is everything!
When it comes to working at a retail company’s headquarters, the dress code is often more lenient compared to more corporate industries such as law and finance. Many retailers have adopted a “business fashion dress code” – which means dressing for a business environment, with a stylish spin.
So what does this all mean? Consider this your ultimate “do and don’t” guide to dressing in the retail world and always exceeding expectations.
Just a note: every retail company’s rules are different, so please use this as a guide and adhere to your HR department’s guidelines. A good rule of thumb is to take note of what your boss and superiors are wearing to the office.
At Head Office With The Ladies
Opt for button-down dress shirts, short- or long-sleeve knits, and sweaters or T-shirts with an elegant, stylish and/or classic twist.
Don’t: Sheer tops or tank tops/camisoles that can pass as lingerie.
Dress pants are key! Between tailored, "cigarette" pants to even a more flare cut, take the opportunity to mix and match your fashion-forward tops with classic trousers, and vice versa.
Don’t: Leggings are tough to pull off, even in the most lax environment. These have to really be worn with caution, i.e. keep them professional with a long tunic-style knit on top.
Jeans: If you’re in a work environment that allows denim (beyond the more casual “denim Fridays”), stick to sophisticated jeans and pair them with a dressier top. You want your look to remain polished even if you’re rocking denim.
Don’t: Very distressed jeans, especially jeans with holes, are a no-no.
Shorts can be tricky – during the summer months, opt for shorts in refined fabrics, such as silk, linen or wool blends, and pair them with tailored jackets, blazers or if possible, a dress shirt. As well, try to stick to basic colors like black, white or navy.
Don’t: Bermudas, cut-offs and culottes should be reserved for the beach.
Dresses: Stick to ladylike looks (à la "Mad Men" and Michelle Obama), namely shifts, dresses with cap sleeves, and even shirtdresses (especially with a belt). On a side note, maxi dresses can be a good choice during the summer months, just make sure to go more sophisticated rather than bohemian.
Don’t: All-out lacy numbers, too many frills, sheer fabrics, or anything that ‘ more nightclub or cocktail party appropriate has no place at the office.
Skirts: Pencil, A-line, pleated, maxi and tweed skirts are good ideas – just be sure to watch for hemlines.
Don’t: Short skirts are totally inappropriate for the office!
Footwear: Some corporate environments frown upon open-toe shoes altogether, but if you're in a more fashion-centric setting, then you can have more fun with your shoes.
Don’t: Flip-flops and athletic sneakers (lifestyle/urban sneakers are an exception) should be avoided; they belong more on the beach and gym.
Accessories: Here is an easy breezy and sometimes cost-effective way to add more pizzazz to your look – throwing on a funky necklace, bracelet, earrings, belt, or scarf can take your outfit to a whole other level of style and originality. Just don’t overdo it, you don’t want to jingle-jangle all day long!
At Head Office For The Guys:
Here are some guidelines on how fellas can dress to the nines without always donning a suit and tie.
Tops: Dress shirts, sweaters and polos are versatile options; if you want to mix it up, layer a V-neck knit over a collared shirt. Don’t be afraid to have fun with your dress shirts and don some with stripes, checks and gingham – it’s a good way to have fun with pattern play.
Don’t: Save the tank tops and muscle T-shirts for after hours; these should be avoided at the office!
Bottoms: Opt for professional-looking pants such as suit pants, tailored pants and even “urban” pants (5-pocked pants that have a denim cut). On more casual days you can wear chinos and jeans – again make sure to keep them sophisticated.
Don’t: Overly distressed jeans and shorts should be avoided altogether.
Footwear: Loafers and dressy lace-ups will take you far.
Don’t: Athletic sneakers and flip-flops should be reserved for weekends. There’s even a gray line when it comes to open-toe sandals for guys at the office – tread carefully and take note of what the others are doing. You can really only get away with these in high-fashion office environments.
At Store Level For Everyone:
When it comes to sales associates at store level companies usually have strict dress code guides as they are dealing with customers and representing the brand. Whether or not you are required to wear a uniform, there are general grooming guidelines that should be adhered to:
-Make sure your hair is properly maintained: no one wants to be served by someone with unkempt hair. Wash it and style it appropriately, and for the ladies, tie it back in a nice ponytail or chignon, or wear a headband for a low-maintenance yet sophisticated look.
-Look clean & proper: These are simply the basics of proper grooming. Make sure your fingernails look clean and nicely maintained, and for the ladies, if you’re exposing your toes, make sure they look pedicured.
-Maintain good posture, don’t chew gum and smile – these are always in style!
Whether you work at the head office or in-store, a good rule of thumb is to follow your instincts: when it comes to your outfit, when in doubt, it’s likely not a good idea.