Making Corporate Fashion Choices

29 October 2013

It would be a travesty for me not to talk about style and fashion in the workplace. A simple google search will show you that this is an evergreen topic of discussion. There are plenty of guides telling women what to wear, what not to wear and most of them always feature women in some form of suit. Doesn't work for me and probably everyone who works in casual or business casual settings.

Not every workplace style guide is applicable to individual situations but there are some general rules for working out your workplace style

  1. Dress for your environment: Believe it or not, I spent the first year of my career as an associate in an accounting firm. Heels and powers suits were the norm. Then I switched to working a field engineering job and lived in the same 3 pairs of jeans for like forever. THEN I moved to an office job and even though I could still wear my jeans, I had to ditched the holey, stone-washed versions. Truth is as the office and job description changed, my style evolved as a necessity because I have to dress for the job and position. Some offices are uber formal, some are super casual. You want to follow the trend BUT...
  2. Use fashion as a tool for standing out: You want to blend with the style environment of your workplace but still standout from the crowd. Let your personality shine through your "uniform". That stand-out factor can be hairstyle, choice of accessories, use of color etc. It's that thing that makes you memorable and yes, being memorable is important
  3. Dress like a woman: I don't know if I should duck flying objects after typing that but it has to be said. Even if you work in a male-dominated environment. ESPECIALLY if you work in a male-dominated environment. I entered college in 1994 and have been in school and work situations that are predominantly male ever since. Up until five years ago, I dressed like the tomboy I was. There was a time a policeman stopped me on my way home from work, noticed my name on my driver's license, looked at me quizzically and asked "are you male or female?" So yeah, I'm totally writing from experience here. The way you dress influences the way you are perceived and I've found that it can be either second-rate wannabe male or competent female or somewhere in between the two.  I'm not advocating frills, bows and flowers; what I'm saying is don't hide your gender behind your clothes 
  4. Unless you work in a club, clubbing clothes are not office clothes: There's an envelope of professional dressing and some businesses have it well-defined in their human resources manual and some do not. I'm not going to put my personal definition on what constitutes professional vs unprofessional dressing; all I'm gonna say is when your name comes up, your colleagues should think of your job competence first before they think of your bizness ASSets.

I'll be writing about being a working mother throughout October and sharing my personal experiences. Emphasis on personal. I realize that everyone's situation is different and what works for me may not be the best for someone else.

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