You Are What You Wear: Five Ways to Dress Better for Work

The fashions at the unnamed place I work at often shock and awe me. As someone who likes to take risks with my fashion, there are some places I just don’t go in the professional world. Yeah, I wear my super-high heels, but the heel is not a toothpick stiletto, and the shoe itself besides being 4″ high, is conservative. I wear fun colors, but I don’t distract others from doing their work.

Where I work is business casual, jeans and sneakers are not permitted, neither are cargo pants, shorts or flip-flops, but I’ve seen it all. If you work in a place like I do, here a few basic tips to keep you looking professional and put-together that can easily improve peoples’ perception of you.

It’s a little bit of tough love, from me to you…now if only Human Resources would post this to our company website…

1. Tight-Fitting Clothing

This is just wrong on so many levels.

A personal pet peeve of mine: when you wear clothing that is too tight for your body, it’s disruptive to the people around you and is definitely perception-altering. (i.e. you look sleazy).

Please don’t squeeze into your size 6 pants if you’re wearing an 8 or a 10 after the holidays, it’s not cute. If you wear regular underwear, I’d prefer not to see your panty line, and if you wear a thong, your pants should not be going up your crack. I shouldn’t see your muffin top and/or every other curve of your body. Pants should not cut you under the butt, which means that bunching shouldn’t appear on the backs of your thighs, this is a sure sign that your pants are too tight.

The solution: Wear clothes that fit you. Plain & Simple.

Wearing clothing that is too loose makes you look frumpy. This woman looks like she lost ten pounds by changing the fit. (Photo credit: ABC News)

2. Too-Loose Fitting Clothing

Equally unattractive is wearing clothing that is ill-fitting, too loose, has lost its shape or you bought a size up because you were “feeling fat”. Wearing clothes that are too loose or fit you incorrectly look frumpy, old and usually make you look like you weigh about 10-15 pounds more than you actually do. If you want a piece that’s more forgiving, try a well-structured, wide-leg trouser pant or a top with darts or seams under the bust. The trousers will hide the full shape of your leg, while still looking chic and a looser fitting top with seams or darts will appear more structured and give you a more feminine shape without being revealing.

I shouldn't be able to see down your shirt during a meeting

3. Revealing Too Much

It’s fine to wear a top that shows off your girls when you’re out on the town, but I’d prefer not to see your cleavage while we’re sitting in a meeting. If you’re especially busty, you should be wearing minimizing bras, higher necklines, or camisoles underneath your top. I shouldn’t be able to see your bra if you bend over.

Baring your belly isn’t a great option for professional workplaces either. Keep it under wraps with a top that hits just below the rise of your pants (which also, by the way, you should be at your natural waist or a little higher, hip-huggers are not okay for the workplace).

Excessive body art (i.e. if your entire arm is covered from shoulder to wrist) should also stay under wraps while you’re at work, unless you work at tattoo parlor (in which case you can probably disregard everything here, since you’d get to dress far more casually). While it might be your way of expressing yourself it’s distracting to others around you and detracts from looking like you’re a serious employee.

Even a dressier or trouser short is not appropriate to wear to work and these pumps are just a little too sexy

Skirt too short? Your skirt’s hem shouldn’t fall more than two inches above your knee and if you’re taller than 5’7, it should only fall an inch above, because your legs already look much longer. Unless it’s excessively scorching outside, a pair of nylons (they’re itchy, get over it) are also in order.

4. Sneakers/Flip-Flops/Jeans/Inappropriate Shoes

Unless it’s a dress-down day, or you work in a casual environment, you have no business wearing any sort of denim to work. If you do have a dress down day, your denim should be well-structured, a darker, cleaner wash, and should fit you well. Mom jeans need not apply: you look like a slob. Sloppier seconds: worn out, ripped up, acid washed, destroyed…the list goes on. Save it.

She may being wearing a suit, but she looks like she's stretching for a jog

Unless you have a legitimate medical reason to be wearing sneakers or flip-flops, (you broke your ankle, you have a disability, etc.) these are the furthest things from professional for work. Sneakers say, “I look like I’m going for a jog,” and flip-flops, “I don’t give a sh!t about my job.” Is that what you want your boss to think about you? I didn’t think so.

Sparkly skinny, too-high stilettos should also be saved for nights out, especially if you can’t walk in them. There is nothing worse than watching a girl in the cafeteria teeter on the tiles.

5. The Right Undergarments

The underpinnings make the outfit, it’s true. Buy a bra that fits well, and that your girls aren’t popping out of…in the middle or on the bottom. Additionally, your bra shouldn’t emphasize your back fat, but rather should help minimize it, so buying a bra that fits really helps your whole top-half. (In addition to the fact that your clothes will fit better if you have the right undergarments!)

Don't make Pam's bra faux pas!

The same way as your bra aids your top-half, your undies do your bottom half. Buy underwear that fit well, don’t bunch and that you don’t have to keep adjusting (watching you pull out your wedgie in the hallway when you think no one is looking is just not cute. And even if you think there’s no one there, there’s probably a hidden security camera catching you in the act…)

Additionally, shapewear, though occasionally slightly uncomfortable to wear, is actually your best friend and isn’t as much of a pain as you might think. Try on a pair of shapewear tights under your pencil skirt, and you’ll see exactly what I mean: a very worthy investment.

Which fashion faux pas are being committed where you work?!

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