Throughout my career, I have changed industries, countries and positions and office dress codes have changed as much. When I started working at an office alongside my Master’s studies, I started doing some research on office dress codes. Very soon I realized that as much as work environments have changed, so have dress codes and the traditional do’s and don’ts guides were not up to date anymore. When I looked at fashion magazines, they offered the newest trends. However, they rarely focused on office apparel. And if they did, it was most of the time not really what I considered appropriate for my jobs.
I guess a lot of you might have the same struggles and I have put together my personal do’s and don’ts. Please bear in mind that it really depends on the company and working culture you work in as well as on the geographic region and climate. In general, smaller companies in the creative field and start-ups are more casual when it comes to dress codes. On the other extreme we have law firms and banks which require a much more formal style. When in doubt, dress more formal – I think it is better to be over than under dressed. Once you get to know your work environment and your colleagues, you will get a better feeling for what is appropriate.
Please Cover Up
Revealing clothing is never appropriate in a work place – whether you work in a startup or an investment bank. Depending on the country, your skirt should be around knee level (in the US and countries with more traditional cultures the knees have to be covered). I think it should not be necessary to tell you that showing your cleavage is not appropriate no matter where you work in the world. In general, bear in mind: if you would not wear it in front of your parents, you should not wear it to the office either.
Keep your makeup simple and choose a style that looks fresh the whole day. For more info, check out my post about Office Makeup Etiquette.
I love high heels and, therefore, also wear them to the office. However, if you cannot walk in them or you feel uncomfortable, please do not wear them. If you can walk as fast as your boss in high heels to be able to discuss important topics while walking to the next meeting, you are fine. If not, choose some nice (pointy) flats.
Again, it really depends on the industry and environment. In more traditional industries, you should stick to a colour range between black, navy and dark grey, with the exception of brown or beige on a Friday. I always worked in industries that were in between and I also love to experiment with colours. To one of my job interviews I wore really funky neon high heels to a grey suit and a couple of months later, my interviewer told me she was totally in love with my shoes during the interview. I think it is important that you feel confident. I feel confident if I add a dash of colour – even if hardcore dress code stylists will disagree with me here.
Not all fashion trends are appropriate for the office. I remember a season when the magazines recommended wearing shorts paired with a jacket to the office. Or, my favourite at the moment: grey pants in sweatpants style. These things are a clear NO GO.
These simple rules should help you navigate your daily office style. I will dive into the topic a bit deeper in a couple of weeks.
What is your favourite office style? Do you have further recommendations for all the glamour queens out there?