What Not to Wear to Work
By Amanda Frank
Monster Contributing Writer
How you dress at work is important, even with “corporate casual” established as the office standard. The quintessential method used to size up someone is the head-to-toe glance. When you catch someone stare like that you know you’re being judged. Even if you don’t, your colleagues and managers notice and appraise.
Stringent dress codes, for the most part, have left the building. I’ve turned down a well-paying job because the boss said suits were mandatory, which made the job sound more unpleasant than pulling a boulder up a cliff in a pantsuit and heels. Even though I was a newly single parent and could have used the money it was such a deal breaker, I couldn’t budge.
My reaction was a sign of the times. That company went out of business this year. Failure to adapt meant they couldn’t attract enough young blood to save them from attrition. Similarly companies need to attract new talent. Gen Y talent for whom fulfillment and time take precedent over money. Dangle before you a relaxed work atmosphere and you can’t resist. Just don’t get too relaxed.
Corporate casual encompasses a large grey area of what is acceptable (as long as you’re well put together i.e. outfits match and don’t reek anything goes p.s. people can tell the difference between fresh laundry and Febreeze) but there’s definitely delineation at the far end of the spectrum.
For the sake of your career, consider banishing these office fashion faux pas from your wardrobe.
1. Sneakers. Of all the items not to wear to work, athletic footwear ranks highest in its ability to put a sweat sock in your career.
2. Flip-flops. Another shoe-in for demotion is the flip-flop. Perhaps it’s the incessant clippity clop of sole smacking heel. Or maybe it’s the shameless baring of feet. Either way, you wouldn’t wear a bikini wrap at work and try to pass it off as a skirt. Much the same way flip-flops aren’t actual sandals.
3. Wrinkled shirts are a top-three offender. An iron can turn a pauper into a prince. Gift yourself a good quality steam iron, it’s faster and easier to use than a traditional iron.
4. Heels that clank. Now here’s a dilemma because I wear heels that clank, or rather my gait causes my heels to clank. If you wear flats like me, try sticking some felt furniture pads underneath your shoes. Actually do not try this, you’ll just slip, fall, get a concussion and sue me. Invest in a pair of rubber-soled shoes. If you wear high-fidelity high heels, walk on the carpet as much as possible.
5. Low-waist pants. Other than your gastroenterologist, no one at work wants to see your crack or your ratty old thong unceremonious riding up it. Wear a long enough shirt.
6. Jingly jewelry. Your office mates can hear you coming from miles away; on a neurological level you’re interrupting their minds’ ability to focus on whatever they were previous absorbed with before turning their attention to hating you.
7. Dirty bra straps. All bra straps should be concealed, especially dirty ones.
8. Hood ornaments. Necklace pendants that droop into your cleavage, beckoning the eye to wander and the brain to turn to mush.
9. Scrunchies. Unless your office is throwing a 1980s dress-up day, do not bring your scrunchie to the office. In fact burn your scrunchies. They are like so over.
10. Too much make up. Don’t become a caricature of Mimi from the Drew Carey Show. Never use electric blue eye shadow or mascara at work.
11. The same thing you wore the day before. You’re telling your colleagues you didn’t sleep at home last night. Maybe you got lucky, maybe you didn’t. Either way, it’s evident that you didn’t wash your clothes. No one will want to get close enough to confirm that assumption olfactorily. Change it up a bit. Save Tuesday’s sweater for Friday and help keep the mystery alive.
12. Tracksuits. Mall mommies will revolt and demand their uniform back.
13. Fishnets. Not just the stockings, in case some of you needed clarification.
14. Animal print. Let’s play word association! Mrs. Robinson. Office cougar. Cougar-in-training (if you look young enough to get carded at the liquor store.)
15. Clothing you slept in. I can see this might be a temptation for new grads adjusting to life that starts at 8AM. You’re not fooling anybody. And we know you didn’t shower. Find another way to save time in the morning.
16. Negligees. Tops that belong to midnight visits in trench coats can’t do double duty at the office, even if you tuck them under a blazer.
17. T-shirts with decals that make political statements, religious references or crude jokes. You’re sure to offend somebody.
18. Aerodynamically tight top and pants assemble, unless you work for the circus and walk a tightrope, perhaps then it’s justified. Balance it out with a long and loose top layer.
19. Heavy perfume, cologne or aftershave. Best to avoid the cheap stuff, Pepé. What it lacks in price, it makes up for in punch.
20. Dresses without underwear. Underwear says “I’m professional”. Not wearing any says a million other things. I think you get the idea.