Founder and editor of corporette.com, Kat Griffin, helps her readers dress stylishly (yet appropriately) for work. Stay tuned all week here at Lucky Right now, where this former lawyer will be guest-blogging about everything from her current office-girl obsessions to her favorite 9-to-5 fashion tips.
Dressing professionally is hugely dependent on WHERE you work. For the past three years, I’ve used my blog, Corporette, to try to address the fashion concerns of women working in a conservative workplace–the young women lawyers, bankers, MBAs, consultants, and other “overachieving chicks” who have to dress professionally first, fashionably second. I firmly believe that these two goals–professionalism and a flattering, fashionable look–are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to look stylish at every office, whether it’s a creative fashionista environment or a more buttoned-up conservative workplace.
For young women who are just starting out (particularly the summer interns or ladies just starting their first jobs), though, I think it’s helpful to just give you a rundown of things that MIGHT be suspect at your office. I’m not saying don’t wear these things–but seriously take a look around your office to see what your superiors are wearing, and perhaps reassess your wardrobe. Fitting in with office culture is a big part of fitting in, period (not to mention advancing), and unless you’re literally working in fashion, your outfits should not speak louder than your work, your words or your general presence at the office.
A roundup of possibly eyebrow-raising clothing:
Any shorts (or any pants that are less than full-length, like cropped and capris styles) will be questionable at some offices!
Skirts shorter than 2 inches above your knee (or so) might be considered scandalous. Look around your office and make sure your skirts aren’t inappropriately tiny. At my first real job after college (working for a magazine in a business-casual environment), one of my editors took me aside to warn me that my skirt was a LOT too short. Her guideline then was that you should put your arms by your sides, and see if the skirt is shorter than where your fingertips hit. (Um, mine was.) However, you may be able to get away with shorter skirts in wintertime with opaque tights, but in summertime, play it safe.
Denim, or items cut like denim (that is to say the five-pocket look, such as khakis, cords, etc.) might be 100% acceptable if the silhouette is closer to trousers rather than jeans.
Lace or sheer clothing.
Sleeveless tops or dresses (worn without a cardigan or blazer on top).
Any item that can be worn to the gym (sneakers, yoga pants, terrycloth wristbands, large, shapeless T-shirts).
Anything too short, tight, or low-cut.
Anything you would wear to a cocktail party or to a club. Make sure that sequins or a neon print will fly at your office before you wear them!
A few “maybe don’t go there” types of shoes:
Flip-flops (whether they’re plastic or leather) are off-limits unless you’ve seen multiple superiors wearing them.
Sandals of any kind are also often iffy at very conservative offices.
Tall boots (knee-high styles can still be risky, but over-the-knee styles are definitely a no-no) walk the line, although hopefully you won’t be wearing these in the summertime anyway.
Anything that is overly noisy in the hallways (flip-flops are the primary offender here).
Really high platforms are usually a no-go–sometimes even high, high heels can be inappropriate (particularly if you can’t walk in them–choose a pair that allows you to move smoothly and elegantly and go up from there).
These shoes are lovely for many activities, but working at an office probably isn’t one of them.
My readers and I just had a big discussion on the topic of what not to wear as an intern–please come over and check it out.
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