After working in the corporate world for 30 years, I’ve learned quite a few lessons about dressing for the office. In my last job overseeing a Human Resources Department, I was often asked to talk to other employees about their work attire. It isn’t easy telling people what they can and can’t wear to work, and I almost always met with some resistance. I tried to provide the best guidance I could while not squashing their individual style. I hope I can do the same thing today with these five tips for dressing for the office.
Five Tips for Dressing for the Office
1. First Impressions Always Count
Whether we like it or not, people tend to form a quick opinion about you the first time they see you. They will do that using information that you provide through your interaction with them, tone of voice, manners and, last but not least, your clothes. It’s true! So you get to decide what kind of opinion you want these people to have through your behavior and your outfit.
If you want to be taken seriously, then business attire is a must. You don’t need a full blown suit; a mix-and-match blazer and pants are just as appropriate. Whatever you choose, you want to look neat, stylish and put together. The attention you give your appearance will let people know that you also pay attention to details, a valuable attribute in any business situation.
I would feel very comfortable meeting someone for the first time in a business situation with my outfit today. It’s neat, stylish and says I’m ready to work.
2. Always Be Prepared
Make sure you are dressed to handle any situation that could arise in your office. I learned this the hard way. In one of my previous jobs, I was the spokeswoman for a local government. Each year we had a theme for our local United Way campaign. Shortly after I started, I participated in the campaign, wearing a sports jersey to support our theme that year which was “honoring sports heroes.” One afternoon we had a building fire and a reporter from a television station in Washington, D.C. showed up asking questions. Part of my responsibilities included talking to reporters. Guess what I did? Yep, I had to go on the air, live, talking about the fire in my sports jersey.
After that day, I hung a blazer, blouse and pants on the back of my office door so I could make a quick change if needed.
Going back to my outfit, this look is appropriate to handle any business situation, whether that’s an impromptu meeting, lunch with my colleagues or a presentation.
3. Blazers Work Miracles!
That brings me to my next tip: always have a blazer handy! These structured jackets add polish to any outfit and give it a business vibe. Keep a black, beige or blue blazer in your office at all times. That way, if something comes up, you can throw on the blazer and elevate your look.
I wish I had taken a photo of my outfit without the blazer. It still looks nice but definitely more casual because the blouse is really a tunic. Rather than let the tunic flow freely, I’m adding the blazer to give my outfit structure and color, and to impart a business feel to my overall look. I picked up this blazer years ago at Dress Barn so it’s no longer available, but I linked to similar looks below.
4. Dress For Your Company’s Culture
Most of my tips come from years of experience in the corporate and local government worlds. The companies I worked for as well as the local government were conservative in their culture, so a business suit was my “uniform” just about every day. But that is not the case for every office or job. If you’ve been at your job for a few years, you should have a good idea of the kinds of clothes that will reflect well on your company. If you’re new to your office, learn as much as you can about your employer and steer your work fashion in that same direction.
This is not to say that you can’t inject your personal style into your office style. By all means do so, but make sure whatever you add still works with your company culture. Maybe you can wear a favorite scarf or jewelry. Shoes and handbags are also great ways to make a fashion statement. You don’t want to lose who you are in your work “uniform” unless, of course, you are required to wear a specific uniform as part of your job.
With this particular outfit, you get a sense of my personality with the gorgeous military-inspired blazer and the floral shoes, both designs that I love. The blazer is different than your run-of-the-mill black or navy standard business blazer. My shoes are not your standard black pumps either. They have a colorful floral design that matches my blazer perfectly.
5. Dress For The Job You Want
Again, if you’re required to wear a uniform, then this tip might not be helpful. However, if you have some leeway with your office outfits, then try dressing for the job you want to have some day. For example, if you’ve been eyeing that vice president job, maybe formal business attire such as a suit or a matching blazer with pants/skirt/dress is appropriate. Look at what the person currently in the job is wearing and start tailoring your office wear to a similar look. You want others to see you in that role. Dressing the part will help them do that.
This outfit is easy to replicate by anyone looking to enhance their work style. This is also the type of outfit I wear when I have to go to the office for meetings or other projects. It’s professional, shows respect for my employer and reflects my own sense of style.
I know that there are many other tips out there. These are just a few simple ones I’ve learned through my own experiences. Of course, they won’t apply to everyone’s situation, but I hope that they can serve as a guideline. If you have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
What I Wore
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Thanks so much for reading my blog. Have a great Wednesday!
Sharing this post with the always fabulous Jo-Lynne Shane on her blog.