What to wear, what to wear? When it comes to work that can be a tricky question or a simple one, depending on your attitude. Do you prefer to be a glamorous showstopper making all heads turn when you enter a room? Or are you a person who prefers comfort before style and opts for sweats and sneakers most of the time? Either way, how you present yourself in the workplace will often determine what kind of impression you make on your co-workers and supervisors: Slacker or Superstar.
No, you don’t have to give up your individuality. Though it is a good idea to remember that work is for work and parties are for later. Leave the way out there extremes for after-hours. You’ll almost certainly be given dress code guidelines to follow and they are usually clear cut and not unreasonable. It is expected that you be neat and clean and well groomed. That’s not too much to ask.
Can You Smell Me Now?
Bathing is a very good thing. Smelling like you just put in a full day’s work in the fields or just rolled in with a hangover from an all-nighter at a club is disgusting. Too much perfume or heavily scented lotion is not a good thing either. Quite a few people are allergic or ultra-sensitive to scents. A little bit is okay but if you leave a vapor trail, try to tone it down to just a drop or two of perfume. You and your associates will be working in close quarters. Try to be considerate.
Does This Dress Make My Butt Look Big?
Seriously, that’s not the real point but it is funny. You should be comfortable and able to perform your job well in whatever you choose to wear. But there is a difference between being comfortable and being sloppy or risqué. Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts:
1. Do wear clothes that are neat and clean. Don’t wear ragged, frayed, or torn clothes. Sweat pants aren’t particularly attractive nor do they project anything near professionalism. Keep those for working on the car or in the yard. Try to convey that you are serious about your job and the company you are working for.
2. T-shirts are okay if your company’s dress code allows them (they usually do). Make sure they fit properly (aren’t too tight or show your midriff), and stay away from t-shirts that have any vulgar or offensive language or images on them. You will get taken aside about that. Tank tops and little strappy tees are verboten, too.
3. Keep your skirts at a modest length. You may have the world’s best-looking legs but, rest assured, people will notice them even without your skirt being too short. A good rule of thumb is that your skirt be no shorter than one hand’s width above your knee. That way you can sit and bend over without embarrassing yourself or anyone else.
4. Too much cleavage is way too distracting for a work environment. It will not help you advance and may actually hurt your standing with management. Enough said about that. You know what’s appropriate.
5. Hats are up to the company. Some allow hats only on casual Fridays. Make sure you know just exactly what ‘casual’, ‘business casual’ and ‘business professional’ mean where you work. Some companies prefer you dress in ‘business professional’ (as in with a tie) only on the days that the bigwigs of upper management are going to visit.
All that said, it is still possible for you to be you. I, for one, always keep a shawl on hand (it helps that I went through a compulsive crocheting phase and now have lots of them in all different colors) because it’s been my experience that most offices, and especially call center type buildings, seem cold enough to store meat in. A shawl or sweater or light jacket is a great layering technique that will keep you at a nice comfort level and can make a fashion statement at the same time.
Just use good common sense and take some cues from what others are wearing. It will go a long way toward making life easier in the business world you are now a part of.
Janet has over 14 years experience in the Administrative and Customer Service fields and has gleaned much knowledge to share with others about how to survive and succeed in an office environment. She has developed a website http://www.flamingdaisies.com dedicated to education and enlightenment about Domestic Violence and Abuse.