Reader Request: Guidelines for Work Wear Across the Working Spectrum

Ages ago, reader Grace asked if I could weigh in on the ins and outs of workwear. She said:

If you wanted an idea for a post sometime, I think one on different types of work wear for different types of work environments would be great. I work from home now, but am soon going to be working in a fairly corporate environment, which will be very different from my past offices, which have been more like where you work. Because of that, I’m thinking a lot about the fairly wide spectrum of “work wear,” and I think it would be cool to see/read your take.

Since I’ve only ever worked in business casual environments, I’m loathe to lay down guidelines for those employed by conservative law firms or casual graphic design firms. I could give opinions based on my own assumptions about these workplaces, but I think you’ll learn more from the format I’ve chosen here instead.

I’ve asked my friends and colleagues who are actually working in environments different from my own to discuss what they consider to be the most basic parameters for office-appropriate dressing.


As you know, I do not work in a “conservative corporate” environment. Sometimes I wish I did because I think the tone would be a lot chic-er! Having said this, I do work in a place (the civil service / government-public sector industry) that gives a lot of latitude for self-expression. The fact that few people make the most of it seems odd to me, an affirmed fashion-lover. My environment is observably schizophrenic. Senior management people of a certain age dress in suits. Young professionals dress in jeans. There are lots of middle-of-the-road, middle-agers in, um, less-than-fascinating separates.

Here’s what I do: On days when I’m not meeting with senior management or with clients, I wear what I like. In the summer (when dressing is easy – I live in Canada), I often opt for vintage-style dresses and skirts with sandals. I like to mix old and new. In the winter, alas, I’m battling the elements and I walk for hours a day, so I have to wear pants. Usually that means jeans. Really nice denim which I pair with chic footwear and a rich top like a cashmere sweater. I finish it off with an asymmetric sweater or a blazer and some luxe accessories. And I always wear an awesome coat/hat/scarf/gloves. After all, that’s what everyone sees.  Now, if I’ve got a meeting with the top guns, then I have to pull it back from the edge with a winter dress and tights or more formal pants, though my toppers are generally the same.

Are there rules I never break? Well, lounge/yoga/sweat pants are ALWAYS a “no.” I never show my abdomen. I never wear anything that is imperfect i.e. needs repair or is deliberately “distressed.” I am also very careful to wear perfectly fitting undergarments. Without them, I’ve observed, the nicest outfit can look sloppy.

Solo Lisa

My hometown Vancouver has a reputation for being rainy, outdoorsy, and laid-back. It’s not unusual for Vancouverites to go to the office looking like they’re going on a rugged hike or settling down for an afternoon of TV and video games. I work in the software industry which usually has a casual dress code, and as a technical writer I don’t deal with clients directly, only internal folks. My office is also in a really trendy part of town. The result of all this? I can pretty much wear whatever I want to work and still look more dressed-up than many of the developers and software testers. My outfits are more likely to garner compliments and questions like, “Where did you get that?” than frowns of disapproval.

That being said, I do have some rules for myself. Nothing too low-cut, too short, or too revealing is a big one. Software is a predominantly male industry after all, and I’d rather my attire say, “Look at me, I’m a capable member of the team who also happens to be a girl, and a stylish one at that!” than, “I’m going to the bar after work for all-you-can-drink highballs.” You’ll notice that although I take risks with pattern, texture, accessories, and colour, I try to cover up as much as possible. Cardigans, tights, leggings, and camis do wonders for maintaining modesty. Another rule I have is no sweatpants, yoga pants, or exercise trainers, ever. Truthfully it’s more for my own sake than for professionalism. If there are no limits on what you can and can’t wear, it’s easy to backslide into sloppiness. Sweater dresses, tunics, blouses, dark wash jeans, and tall flat boots are all easy everyday options that look a lot more put-together than Lululemon and a pair of Nikes.

Un femme d’un certain age

Thanks so much, Sal, for inviting me to participate in this post!

Having worked full time in since my early 20’s (in the late 1970’s), the question of What To Wear To Work has occupied a prominent place in my style development. For the first fifteen years of my working life – with two short exceptions – I worked in small offices in small towns. If there was any dress code in these workplaces, it was along the lines of “be clean and neat,” which for me usually meant pants or jeans and a a top of some kind, loafers or sandals. Aside from the fact that most of these jobs paid poorly, sometimes there were sartorial occupation hazards like having to clean out a dusty records storeroom. (And at one job at a fish wholesale company, I had to walk through the processing floor to get to the office. After slipping and landing on my arse in a pile of fish guts while wearing my favorite pair of jeans, I soon learned to “dress down.”) So my workwear and weekend wear mostly overlapped. The concepts of Power Dressing, so popular in the 1980’s, were foreign to my work life.

When I moved to Los Angeles in 1993 and found myself working in management in a slightly more corporate environment (administrative department in a creative business), pantsuits quickly became my best friends. Getting dressed in the morning was a breeze: Pick a suit, pick a top, shoes and accessories. That lasted for only a few years. Beginning around 2001, a shift in corporate culture toward Business Casual for all but the top execs gradually rendered dress codes as obsolete as a kickstand on a tricycle. So my suits began to feel like overkill.

I really struggled for a few years, trying to sort out a more casual yet management-appropriate wardrobe. For a while, I ditched the suits in favor of trousers and the occasional skirt with a coordinated-not-matched jacket. But in the last couple of years, most jackets have begun to feel too stiff and mannish, and I’ve migrated toward cardigans. I’ve also eased up and will wear dark wash jeans during the week, as well as slim ponte knit pants under a tunic. I’ve worked to collect softer (often knit) but coordinated pieces that make it easy to pull together a daily outfit. Solids are my friends, as are neutrals. I’ve found that Eileen Fisher offers many basic pieces that “play well together” and conform to the long-over-lean silhouette that’s a friend to my shape. The Pantsuit Years taught me rely on very basic wardrobe pieces that can be accented and changed up with accessories, and that’s a strategy that still works for work. Accessories are also easier to update to help keep a look more current.

I’m still a bit “old school,” and feel that dressing for work puts one in the mindset for work. What constitutes “professional” dress is very fluid these days, but I think it’s important to make the effort, within the context of environment and business culture.


The conservative corporate environment is all about wearing an outfit that doesn’t distract from what you’re saying, and doesn’t restrict any movements you may need to make for your job. Ultimately, think classic shapes with a ladylike twist. First, classic shapes: pencil skirts, A-line skirts, trouser pants, blazers, sweaters, simple pumps (with closed toes) that you can walk quickly in, in case you have to hurry to someone’s office for whatever reason. Avoid anything trendy or new (e.g., the open-toed bootie) — if that style of clothing wasn’t seen 5 years ago, think twice before wearing it. It’s OK if things are fitted, but nothing should be distracting: Your cleavage shouldn’t be showing, your shirt shouldn’t be gaping, and your skirt shouldn’t be too short or too tight. It doesn’t hurt to invest in good foundation garments, like slips (necessary for a true wrap dress) or camisoles.

Similarly, I think you want to avoid articles of clothing or accessories that make people think of other activities. For example, wearing leggings might be seen as too sporty, or platform shoes (particularly if you can’t walk in them) would be seen as a little too glam (if the observer is fond of you) or stripperish (if they’re not).

On a typical day, I think a sweater and trousers are fine. However I’m a fan of keeping a blazer in your office that you can throw on top of outfits if you’re heading to a supervisor’s office or to a meeting with clients and want that extra boost of confidence. (A blazer is also great because it should have pockets for your ID card and Blackberry.) I’m also a fan of showing personality, even within the constraints mentioned above. Personally, I tend to wear all-black outfits (hey, I am a New Yorker), or colors with colors. For example, in the outfit shown above, I’ve chosen a red sweater, a turquoise necklace, a simple black pair of pants, and a gray tweed blazer. Mixing colors, textures, and even prints can be a great way to have fun with your wardrobe, and color in particular can be a great way to elevate your mood on a dreary day.

I work as a Teaching Assistant (a pitiable name for the underpaid doctorate student who runs full classes of undergrads all by herself) at a big Midwestern university. There are a few pressures which guide the way I dress as a graduate student instructor.

First, my department is generally pretty casual—it’s not unusual for a lot of grad students to teach in jeans or tee shirts and there’s no dress code to speak of.

Second, I’m a young instructor so the age gap between me and my students is generally only 5 years or so.

Third, I teach literature, so I have the luxury of a classroom interested in aesthetics.

For me, work wear means I’m comfortable moving around a classroom, more or less modestly-covered, and I look approachable. These are all important for making me feel at ease in the classroom and among my students. Early in the semester, I tend to dress more formally and wear bigger shoes which make me feel authoritative when I’m nervous about a new class. Throughout the semester, I tend to gravitate toward just-above-the-knee high-waisted skirts and a lot of pretty blouses, but I’m not afraid to mix it up with colors, patterns, and accessories.

The only rule I never break is that I need to be able to sit comfortably without a skirt or dress riding up. Otherwise, I’m lucky to be able to wear almost anything I like.

The New Professional

My work environment is business casual, with leeway on both sides. Denim is acceptable on Fridays and weekdays, if there are no major events and we don’t have any meetings with external contacts. Generally, the higher your position, the more you lean toward the business side, and vice versa. This was my first full-time job out of grad school, and I’ve been here for over three years now. Even so, I’ve had internships and part-time gigs in a variety of offices, ranging from all-casual to not-even-a-casual-Friday. All of this, plus a promotion and year-long shopping diet, has shaped my thoughts on and application of style at work.

Work wear to me is clothing that is appropriate for the business you are conducting. Like it or not, your physical appearance will influence peoples’ perceptions of you. Of course, appearance is more than just what you’re wearing or how your hair looks. It also includes posture, confidence, and behavior. Even when all of these things are in place, people can get hung up on your clothing if it is in any way inappropriate. You are an extension of your employer when you are at work, and should present yourself accordingly.

I have a lot of personal rules for work wear, most of which don’t apply to casual wear. And when I say “rules” I mean it loosely—I waffle regularly. Here is a sampling: Jeans at work twice a week, max. Never should bra or bra straps be at risk of being exposed. Skirts should be no more than an inch above the knee when standing up. If it’s tight enough to necessitate a thong, it’s too tight. Shoes should not be too “sexy” (either color, strappiness, or height). No sneakers or sandals. Camis under everything buttoned, remotely low-cut, or short in the torso (bend over the check the last two). Cardigan or blazer over sleeveless tops in meetings. No clubbing tops (this one applies to my clothes in general).

In addition to my “don’ts” I have a lot of “dos.” Do use color, preferably more than one at a time. Do incorporate interesting textures like tweed and dobby dots. Do take menswear and make it your own. Do mix your neutrals—black with brown, brown with gray, cream and white with everything. Do use jewelry, belts, and scarves to kick an outfit up a notch. Do experiment. Do walk tall, no matter how high (or low) your heels are. Do be practical and consider your day’s activities. Do produce work that looks as good as you do. Do go bare-legged if you can, and wear fun tights if you can’t. Do iron and mend clothes and shoes regularly.

Work wear, in summary, is an opportunity for me to express my professional self at work. Creativity counts in my profession, and I use my physical appearance to give others confidence in my abilities and professionalism. There are enough odds stacked against women in the workplace as it is—dressing appropriately and smartly makes me feel better and my work performance benefits when I am confident in myself.

Lisa from Privilege

Luciano Barbera Suit, Manolo Ballet Flats, Pearls

I have spent my career in technical industries. As these are still populated largely by men, the management dress code I know is taken from the masculine template, and rarely leavened by support for personal expression. Severity varies. In the office of a startup, on Friday? The atmosphere is collegial, forgiving. Presenting to potential clients at the New York Stock Exchange, the day of the 2008 stock market crash? A battlefield. Your first day as the new VP when at least 10% of your team wanted the job you just took? Altogether internecine.

Of course, even the highly visible sometimes have positions of power, and can test a lot of limits. Look at Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, here, sporting heels, ruffles, and cleavage. As Facebook prepares their IPO she has the world by the, um, tail.

But sometimes we fight from boggy ground. So pick your sartorial battles. Under fire, dress for the situation first, and eke out personal style at the margins. In my case, personal style means dignified, luxurious, feminine details. “Feminine” is culturally determined, of course. You may prefer to add more exuberance, or even rebellion. To each her own.

Let’s decode the outfit above.

1. A grey suit cannot be questioned. (Neither can navy, nor black, but right now my impeccable suit is grey.) For personal style, and to signal that you are not slavishly imitating men, choose a slubby, wool/silk blend with some sheen, especially one that drapes like a dress. Suitable for meeting COOs. This is Luciano Barbera, via Wilkes Bashford.

2. The white tee looks formal enough under a jacket. However, when you meet with the client team to work, you can chuck the top layer and metaphorically roll up your sleeves. Instantly approachable. Also helps avoid annoying shirt flappage or resultant over-tucking. From the GAP.

3. 8mm pearls and pearl/diamond studs. Pearls are fancy, in the corporate world. Particularly big pearls. When I want to say, “I’m one of you,” I wear classic or vintage gold jewelry. When I want to say, “I’m a powerful woman who respects tradition, and I am dressing up to honor this occasion and you,” I wear big pearls. Whether my message gets across, of course, will depend on how I perform. Clothing only puts you onto the field.

4. Flat shoes. I believe in flats. I know that’s controversial. But if you have to wear clothes like men, they look best with shoes like the ones men wear, in the proportions for which they were designed. To say nothing of comfort, and the joys of feet firmly on the ground. These flats are Manolo Blahnik, and the quilting (look closely) adds more texture to the look and more female to my day. Again, style at the margin.

5. Hair. Ah. Corporate hair. I have not entered a corporate office in a year and a half. My hair has grown out. If you are luxuriating in long hair, a low ponytail or bun is just fine. However, if you are a Sturdy Gal who hates fussing, short is easier. The photos below show two past incarnations of Corporate Hair, on the right from corporate marketing materials, on the left from a vendor badge to the New York Stock Exchange.

Hair For Executive Women

6. Glasses in the right shape and color. I realized, once I started wearing reading glasses to work, that they make a good accessory. For reading documents, glasses on, serious assumed. For communicating with people, glasses off, signifying that I do in fact want to connect. My face is best suited by rectangular frames in a light tortoise shell. It’s worth sorting through frames and finding ones that work. The pair at top cost $12.95 at CVS. Dressing for this corporate environment is never about commercial brands; personal/professional brand signaling demands too much bandwidth.

Asian Cajuns

Lar: I feel really spoiled when it comes to work-wear. I work in a small marketing firm as a graphic designer/project director. Basically that means I’m considered artsy-fartsy, so I can be a bit more creative with what I wear than most working a nine to five. On days when I know I don’t have any client meetings my clothes are fairly casual – the way most people would dress on casual Fridays. I wear jeans, boots and a tee. When I’m meeting clients I throw a blazer on top of my casual clothes or wear an simple dress. (Still with boots though – love me my boots!) The key to keeping things from looking too casual is to make sure your clothes (even cotton tees) are ironed, rip-free and spot-free. I also usually wear boots or some sort of heel (it doesn’t have to be high) instead of more casual and comfortable shoes like flipflops (never!) or sneakers (I don’t actually own a pair). Both of these photos of me and Cath show you what I wear when I’m dressing more formally. On my more casual days I usually have on dark jeans and a more relaxed top. Cath is my inspiration when I have to be more formal…

Cath: Compared to Lar my municipal government work-wear is formal, but it really isn’t too strict. My go-to uniform is a plain shirt (preferably silk, but usually cotton), a cardigan or blazer, pencil skirt, black tights and dark heels. If I run out of black tights for the week, I’ll switch over to black pants – not very exciting, I know. On days that I don’t have meetings I can get away with wearing jeans, but I try to keep it pulled together with a blazer and heels. I have a couple of office-appropriate/Audrey Hepburnish dresses that I wear when I want to look really professional, but those are rare occasions – so much so that when I wear a dress my co-workers usually say, “Ooohh, what are you all dressed up for today?” I really love the look of suits, but since I don’t need them in my line of work and hate having to take things to the dry cleaner I stick to separates from places like Zara, H&M, Ann Taylor and The Limited. On weekends I usually steal from Lar’s closet, because she has much cuter clothes than me!

* * * * *

Was a working environment similar to yours covered here? If not, what are your parameters for appropriate work wear?

Originally posted 2011-02-07 06:07:08.

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74 Responses to “Reader Request: Guidelines for Work Wear Across the Working Spectrum”

  1. Lauren

    Thank you for this post! Like the reader who requested this topic, I too am currently working at home but looking into getting a regular day job soon. This will be really useful to me during the next couple of months. Thanks again. 🙂

  2. Chalkdust and Boots

    Last year I worked in a conservative environment (private school with octogenarian headmaster) where female faculty had to wear a skirt/dress and hose every day of the year. Peeptoe shoes/shoes with an open back and boots were also verboten (New England in winter gets cold, ya’ll!). Although I don’t mind dressing up for work, it was tough not to have any other options. Most of the time, we tried to show our individuality by wearing fun patterns and colors in our dresses, tights, and even shoes. Accessories were also a place to let loose. Anyways, my kind of work environment is rare, but it does exist. Alas.

  3. heather

    Thank you for posting this. I work for a state Department of Education, and the way that many of my peerrs dress really astounds me. I’m starting a new position tomorrow working with school board officials and principals, needless to say I’m tailoring my closet to appear to match them in status. These are definitely helpful notes!

  4. Cynthia

    None of these environments is totally like mine. I’m in an academic setting, but I’m tenured faculty and in my 40s, so I can’t dress as young as Tanya. Yet, I don’t want to be one of the middle-aged middle-of-the-roaders in less than inspiring separates that K-Line mentions. Secretly, I want to dress like Privilege, every day, but I would look way out of place dressing that way when most of my peers still wear jeans to teach (or have started to edge over into the middle-aged khaki blahs). Everyone would assume that I wanted to be department chair when the current chair resigns, which I do not.

    My basic rules are: non-skimpy, non-tight clothing in separates, sensible shoes, carefully balancing the fance with casual, and with a well-fitting suit in reserve just in case I need it. As a scientist, I have granted myself membership in the “creative” class and I use color and pattern to express myself within those boundaries.

    • Katharine

      “Everyone would assume that I wanted to be department chair when the current chair resigns, which I do not.”
      Now there is an interesting point. Most work-related dressing advice does emphasise “dress for the job you want to have” with the implication that EVERYONE’S ambition is to climb the corporate ladder to the top.

      I do not. I don’t want any kind of supervisory/managerial position; the increase in salary isn’t worth the headaches, the perpetual meetings, and the end of the hands-on work I actually enjoy.

      I also work in the public sector, and as a graphic designer, so I allow myself a lot of freedom in dress — and part of that freedom comes from accepting that I am completely devoid of conventional ambition. I avoid the too-casual (yoga pants, distressed jeans, and the oatmeal boredom of khakis-plus-casual-sweaters) and the too-revealing, but revel in such things as my 14-hole oxblood classic Doc Martens.

    • Rad

      I love how the standard rules don’t apply in academia. I don’t want to be chair or any kind of administrator either. At least in our department, dressing like our (awesome but not stylish) chair would mean wearing cotton blend mock turtlenecks/polo shirts and “stepdad” jeans (his term- tapered mid 1990s acid washed numbers that he wears heavily belted, perhaps demonstrating his slender physique in his early 60s).
      I remember interacting with our Dean of grad studies during graduate school. She wore the craziest hippie get-ups, often mumus and printed head scarves, perhaps as a gentle reminder to us Midwesterners that she had come from Berkeley?

      • Courtney

        One of the things I love about acadamia is that one can demonstrate a variety of things with wardrobe, including subversion of stuffy fashion rules, reappropriation of “menswear” in any now-not-male-dominated field, affirmation of one’s own identity (including ethnic and religious identity), etc. etc. I tend to aim for the stylish, colorful, somewhat funky dressed-up side of things, as a. it makes my work life more fun, b. it establishes some presence without demanding authority and c. choosing to often wear heels and a dress makes my ongoing feminist/liberal point of view less threatening to my students. I swear.

        • Anon For Now

          One of the things I DID NOT love about academia, particularly in rather male-dominated fields, was the assumption that if you cared about how you looked, you couldn’t possibly be serious about your work. “Caring about how you look” meant wearing something other than jeans (or shorts) + t-shirts (or sweatshirts) and very sensible, ugly, shoes.

          Or maybe that was just my experience.

          • Cary

            A lot of academics have very dusty, dirty jobs so won’t dress up because anything they do wear will get wrecked in a chem lab/art studio/scary looking rock crusher.

            Even as a administrator I totally appreciate the leeway especially on days when I really don’t have the energy to make a really sharp looking effort.

    • Jenny

      I work in academia as a professor and I’ve noticed that fashion runs the gamut, from “covered and don’t care otherwise” to “beautiful, creative, accessorized, arty” to “on-trend.” Thanks to Sal, I’m moving from point A to somewhere else on the spectrum! And yes, I do appreciate that freedom.

      One thing I do notice is that very few female academics seem to wear makeup. Not sure why that is.

    • Anne @ The Frump Factor

      Your comment really resonates for me because I am also a college professor. “The suits” are management and a lot of faculty wear blah khakis. I try to find a comfortable middle ground and, like you, I don’t want to look like I’m trying to climb the ladder, either! Even though there isn’t really any ladder to climb…… Huh. We have a couple of VERY stylish young professors, but I can’t really do what they do, either (nor do I have the energy!)

  5. Grace

    Sal, this is pretty much my dream answer to that question. You’ve outdone yourself pulling these responses together. Awesome. Thank you.

  6. Liz @ It's Great To Be Home

    This was SUCH a great post, thank you! And thanks for including a range of ages and styles. I’ve transitioned from a fairly traditional and stuffy job to a more casual yet still professional job, and I’ve had a bit of a hard time figuring out my new work wear. Thanks to your guest posters for the tips!

  7. Rad

    What a great feature! I especially enjoyed Privilege’s input, both because of her experience and her work environment is the most different than mine. Interesting that Kath, Nerd, and K.Line all work in the public sector, which typically has a more relaxed dress code than the private sector.

  8. Miss T

    I have worn any and all of those looks in any number of different work environments. I think overall governing influence is WHERE you live, not the particular industry. I live in the SF Bay Area and we have our own dress code that transcends the particular industry. This is governed by the weather, the commutes required, the recreational activities that people engage in before/after work, the predominant age of the working demographic, etc. We have tremendous flexibility here, and you could not really guess what someone does for a living by looking at what they wear to work.

    • Mistie Watkins

      I’m from Florida, and I think you are right to a certain extent. From what I have seen, Florida tends to be a lot more casual than other places.

      • Miss T

        We may not think about it, but climate has a lot to do with it, too. In relatively “seasonless” places like California and Florida, there is a different “baseline” for work clothing choices. It can be really tricky in the Bay Area too, because of microclimates: Often it can be sunny and in the upper 70s at my house in an inland valley and foggy and in the mid-50s 7 miles away at the office, which is in an industrial park along the Bay. (And they don’t give weather forecasts that specific, either; you are expected to just *know*). That presents some serious challenges in dressing appropriately for work. Everything I buy for work has to be sort interchangeable-versatile-flexible. And the thing is, you get judged on the appropriateness of your clothing to the weather/season as much as the appropriateness of the style. Co-workers definitely look at you funny if you show up in a turtleneck and it’s 75 degrees. Of course, at your house, it could have been in the low 40’s. But that sort of savvy — to anticipate/accommodate the difference in the microclimates — is expected here.

        • Sarah Eagle

          God, you’re making me miss the Bay Area and all of the societal implications of knowing how to dress for rather extreme variations in weather!
          However, one thing that I’ve learned after living in Boston for as long as I have, is that you must keep the weather in mind. I’ve noticed that men and women simply have to keep warm and dry, especially during heavy snow/ extreme cold. That means that there is a certain laxity to dressing in order to accommodate these extreme variations in temperatures. Although it usually involves wearing snowboots and taking your nicer shoes in a bag and giving up on the nice jackets, because at some point, cold is cold.

  9. Sharon

    Fantastic post! It’s fun to really see the range of possibilities available to working women. I work as a graduate assistant on a college campus, so although I’m technically business casual, I often lean toward the “casual” side if I’m not going to be running into higher-ups. It really varies though. I liked seeing the “rules” some of these other women have that I share: dress for comfort (I have to walk across campus pretty often) and jeans no more than 2 days a week (I try not to wear them two days in a row, either). Definitely agree, no matter how casual you dress, make sure your tees and jeans are in good condition (no spots, distressing, fading, or tears!) and no workout wear / yoga pants or sneakers.

  10. Michelle

    Great roundup of bloggers in various work environments and of varying ages, Sal! Thank you!

  11. Duchesse

    Really interesting, thank you! Only Lisa looks like a sr. executive in the corporate world; that’s the look I see in the boardroom. I advocate dressing for the job you want, as long as you don’t seem preposterously overdressed. All of you look at home in your clothes and selves! (Lisa, you can go up to 10mm on the pearls 😉

  12. Lisa

    This is such a great article – my grey suit contribution aside. So interesting to see the pictures and hear the thought process. Because it seems that we all think alike, all pay attention to similar concerns, but because we’re in different environments – look how differently we dress! Sal, thank you again for the opportunity to share here. Very much appreciated.

  13. erindyan

    I am so so lucky with my dress code. As long as it’s not club wear I can pretty much do whatever I want, plus we can wear jeans on Fridays!

  14. GingerR

    The web site that Lisa linked to has an excellent motto for workwear –

    To be noticed without striving to be noticed.

    Unless you work in the fashion business “work” isn’t a fashion show. It’s work.

    • Sal

      Since many of us spend the majority of our lives working, I disagree. Those who love style, fashion, and clothing and who express much of their creativity through dressing can and should find ways to dress within the parameters of work-appropriateness while still having fun and showcasing their own tastes and passions. Work shouldn’t feel like a stylistic prison, and there are always ways to dress expressively AND appropriately. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, as these guest posters have proved.

  15. kate

    This was so interesting, Sally. Thank you. My favorite was the grey suit. I agree with her about flats! What was missing was the self employed, non-office folk (like me!). We have no pressure to dress in any way, which is why you see so many moms mid day at the grocery store in yoga wear. Still there are some who make a big effort to avoid this and to dress deliberately. Do a post about them. I don’t blog about fashion much (except once when I was forced to admit that my outfits are often identical to those worn by my pre-teen hooligan sons–jeans & stripey t-shirt. That’s what I’m wearing right now, come to think of it), but I love clothes! I read lots of clothes blogs. My only regret in not having daughters is boy clothes are so boring! I comfort my self with the thought of all the money I’m not spending on their clothes, and I knit my boys colorful sweaters with hoods and pockets because that’s what they like. I love to live vicariously through your shoe wardrobe. Keep up the good work!

    • Lisa

      Kate, glad you liked my grey suit. Thank you. I am now self-employed too, with only long-distance client contact so far, and have transitioned in the past 18 months from wearing my son’s surf shop hoodie to a slightly more appropriate get-up:). Just for my own state of mind.

  16. malevolent andrea

    How about those of us in healthcare who don’t wear scrubs to work? (And don’t get me started on how, sadly, wearing what looks like sloppy pajamas on 90% of the wearers has somehow become the norm in any kind of even tangentially medical job over the past 15-20 years. Scrubs belong in the OR.)

    Anyway, here are my special challenges. I wash my hands many many times a day, so 3/4 length sleeves are my friends. Likewise I can’t wear rings or bracelets, and most necklaces interfere with the lanyard I have to wear my badge on, so earrings are my only jewelry option. I need to be able to stand, walk, crouch, reach overhead, and bend, which means comfortable shoes, camis under the vast majority of my tops, and pants or knee length or longer skirts only. Because I work with kids, I need to look approachable and non-scary, but professional enough that the parents trust me to know what I’m doing. Oh, yeah, and everything needs to be washable, and you never know from day to day if our offices are going to be too cold or way overheated. I’ve been in the same field for 25 years and I still struggle sometimes in the balance between comfortable, easy care, and able to move and too casual or too bland. It’s enough to make a person want to give up and wear scrubs with cartoon characters on them some days. 😉

    • DocP

      I’m a family physician. I usually arrive at work wearing an outfit similar to Lisa’s. My top usually has 3/4 sleeves. I avoid scarves, but find a short necklace (above the neckline of the top) works. I have a great earring collection. This outfit works for meetings, hosptial administrative times, etc. When seeing patients, including childern, I wear a long white lab coat. If you prefer not to wear white, then also come in other colors. My suit/trousers are dry clean only, but I can’t remember the last time that was a problem. My tops are almost all machine washable.

      • Jen

        Great to hear comments from other health care folks! I’m a pediatrician & will echo Andrea’s requirements: I need to be able to move around easily and be comfortable on my feet for long periods of time. No chunky necklaces or scarves because they get in the way of the stethoscope. I do wear my wedding ring and a watch (analog, of course, so I can time heart and respiratory rates) but no bracelets (chunky ones on the right hand also interfere with the stethoscope). And I have my own “rules”: no bare arms, no bare legs, no open toe shoes, no cleavage, nothing too tight. Pretty much 100% of my workday is patient care, so I don’t have to dress up for meetings and the like. The only folks I’m impressing are my patients and myself– basically, I want to look polished yet still approachable.

        I used to just go with the black pants + colorful top + tasteful jewelry formula, but that got a little boring, so here I am, trolling fashion blogs for inspiration. I do feel a little caught in between: corporate-style dressers like Lisa and Corporette are a little too formal for my needs and personal taste, but the more casual styles are sometimes *too* casual or impractical for my work needs.

        Anyone want to go in on a DoctorChic blog?

        • DocP

          Jen, I have no idea how to set up a blog, but I would be interested in following and commenting.

        • DocP

          Jen, I sent Sally my email with a request she facilitate getting that info to you.

          • Cat

            I am so glad that you all addressed the healthcare dress code. I have spent the last 4 years in acupuncture school (with a lab coat) and will be graduating into starting a private practice (sans lab coat). Luckily, I will have the room to dress basically how I want, but I want to come across as the professional I have worked so hard to become. Trousers? Dresses? Skirts? Do I dress basically how I have been as an intern (anthro/ jcrew/ retro chic)? Or is it more appropriate for an acupuncturist who is also a primary caregiver to be more casual?

        • EC

          Surgeon here. Spend a lot of my days in the OR accessorizing with my clog collection. Clogs have gotten progressively more elaborate in the last few years, but I still have my requirements…has to have a hard finish so if I get something on it, I can wipe it off easily, has to look good with cornflower blue scrubs, has to be pretty but not too girly (in a very male dominated field, so it’s a line I walk)

          In clinic, I’m currently in a culture where everyone wears their white coat, so I have a rotating mix and match staple of wool slacks and silk tops. I’m moving to a different location and am thinking of trading the labcoat for a blazer at times in clinic, we shall see. I tend to like to wear nice shoes in clinic, and will wear peep toes but not sandals. I wear a short pearl necklace pretty frequently — pretty, conservative, resonates nicely with my white coat, and I can hang my wedding rings on it if I need to go to the OR.

          Would love a doctor chic blog!

  17. marisa

    this is fun! i work in a manufacturing facility, but in the offices – we’ve got the full range from jeans&tees (with sneakers or work boots) to suits. um . . . i’m pretty close to jeans&tees – although if i wear a t-shirt, i at least make sure it’s a nice one, and i wear cute jewelry and either boots or ballet flats.

    i would love to wear something more fun. i’m going to check out solo lisa, wwanw, and cath & lar for some more inspiration. thanks sally!

  18. lisa

    It was really interesting reading the other participants’ responses. Thanks for thinking of me for this post Sal!

  19. Trystan

    Another great site is — this group blog is by teachers & soon-to-be teachers at different levels (K-12 & college, I believe) & different parts of the U.S., so you can see a bit of a range of workwear styles.

    I think what we wear to work is hugely important. The impression you make on your boss, coworkers, & clients (internal & external) is vital in any industry. Whether you like it or not, you will be judged on how you look as part of how you do your job. It’s part of the package. You dress to get the job & dress to keep the job.

    Looking professional, appearing engaged & current, looking like a creative & original member of the team — these things can all be reinforced by your sartorial choices. Successful companies today don’t want corporate clones. It helps to make your mark, both with you work & your personal style. If you’re remembered in a positive way, you’re more likely to get plum assignments, promotions, etc.

  20. Elly

    What a great post, thanks Sal! Yours is one of the style blogs I read which really changed my opinion on wearing different clothes for different parts of your life, so this is an excellent round up of new bloggers I didn’t know about before.

    I only work part-time, in retail, so I’m on my feet all day. Our shop can be quite cold too, and when I work upstairs in the office it’s freezing! But I’ve started to dress more interestingly for work, after a period of jeans and huge sweaters. I’m collecting interesting jumpers and chunky jewellery to wear over the top, as well as lots of pretty printed scarves in silks and cottons for my neck when it’s a little colder. Plus I’ve totally taken your underlayers tips on board! Even though I’m on my feet, I’ve started to wear low heels and boots to ‘train’ my feet: I have a wonderful collection of heels but because of my job and reliance on walking/public transport, I can only wear them occasionally. ‘Training’ my feet has meant I can wear awesome shoes any time I want! Because it’s creative retail (a bead shop) I can wear exciting clothing and jewellery because it shows the customers my artistic flair. When I’m at university, I do the same, but maybe throwing in some shorter, tighter, slightly more punky looks 🙂

    My previous job was again in retail, but we could only wear black or white (seriously) – so being able to wear colour again is refreshing! The only thing I’ve found is my boss sometimes comments (negatively) on my outfits, because they can be a bit ‘out there’ – but who cares, I feel awesome and look great!

    • DocP

      If your boss is making negative comments, I would take that as a huge red flag.

  21. Break fast habits

    Fabulous post Sal, so practical, interesting and involving the blogging community in a really creative way. I especially loved Lisa’s post; for me, she’s absolutely spot on about the glasses and the flat shoes. I’d never thought about the ‘suit draped like a dress’ advice before but it’s perfect, and something I’m definitely going to look out for here in Germany. Thank you!

  22. kristin

    What a great post, Sal! This topic is something I struggle with often. My office dresscode is “business casual” which seems to translate to “black and boring” to my boss. It feels like I have 2 separate wardrobes – one for work and one for play. I have recently been challenging myself to combine them more. I have been working towards dressing “expressively AND appropriately” as you say, and I am always sort of pushing the limits (bright colors, vintage glasses, etc.) while still looking professional. Thanks for this awesome post!

  23. Susan Tiner

    What a fun article. I regularly read Lisa, K-Line and Un femme d’un certain age, so it’s a kick to see them here looking spiffy in their work clothes. I love all the details too, like Un femme’s scarf and boots, Lisa’s pearls, glasses and flats.

    Sal, I recently was introduced to your blog by Lisa as one who is just getting into the process of discovering personal style, and appreciating some experienced input. I love your blog and am working my way through your self-guided mini-makeover.

    Thank you for your great ideas and hosting these lovely ladies today.

  24. jennifer

    My philosophy is a combination of dressing for the job you want and dressing for what you want your look to say about you. In my particular job, my audience is always people who out rank me and out-earn me (by alot). So, I dress as close to them as I can, regardless of the fact that I don’t want to “be” any of them. While I don’t want their jobs, I do want them to listen to me and not focus on my clothes. By dressing in a similar manner (as close as I can afford), they don’t notice my clothes, they notice me. In most situations, a sort of upscale business casual is called for. When I need to wear a suit, I have one well made, simple black suit that always works. I tend to splurge on a few key accessories and this is where I play with pattern or color. They do wonders for any outfit. I’ve had to spend more on individual items and as a result have been making fewer purchases. The funny thing is, my look is far more pulled together than it has ever been because I’m more conscientious about what I buy-and my closet is WAY more organized.

  25. Cathy Benavides

    Lisa From Privilege makes me want to work in corporate America. Her style is so classic and understated, but there is something about it that’s empowering and fierce. I think it’s her direct eye contact and her amazing flats. I am in total awe. Thanks for this seriously amazing post!!

    • Lisa

      I can’t think of anything more wonderful to hear. Thank you. Never underestimate eye contact:).

  26. Kate K

    What a fantastic post–thank you to all of the bloggers included. I loved The New Professional’s list of personal dos and don’ts. I’m a children’s librarian at a small town public library and I’m the youngest person on staff by 15+ years. When I started my job right out of grad school, my personal rules were very strict. I relied heavily on suit separates and sizable but conservatively styled heels, which, in my mind, established me as a competent and mature professional both among my coworkers and in the community. I also wanted to disprove the strange notion that in order to be fun and whimsical and creative, a children’s librarian has to wear themed sweaters and arts and crafts-y jewelry. Beyond that, I absolutely focused on being appropriate: no low-cut blouses, no sheer things, no skin tight pants and no belly or back baring outfits. (My test? Can I bend down to a low shelf or bend down to talk to a child and still feel covered?)

    I’m approaching my fourth anniversary at my job and I’ve found that my personal dos and don’ts have changed. While I still *absolutely* make sure I’m covered and business casual appropriate, my suit separates have been languishing in my closet and I’m now wearing clothing that expresses my personality and my style more and more. I’m wearing bright, patterned dresses and fun flats and slouchy boots and colored tights. As an example, today I’m wearing a black and white gingham shirt dress with sweater tights and slouchy black boots. Definitely a shift. For a while, I began to worry that this shift away from my pseudo-corporate look was a sign that I was becoming less professional but I think what’s actually happened is that I’m comfortable in my job and in the quality of the work I’ve done and in my relationships with my coworkers and with the members of the community. I’ve proven myself as a professional and now my outfit doesn’t have to “say” professional as much as did in the past.

  27. WendyB

    Fascinating. The only one I identify with from my corporate days is LIsa from Privilege! Of course, I was a troublemaker and wore heels and red lipstick with my suits … and never pearls … but her outfit is basically “me.” Funny what she says about reading glasses. I totally should have worn glasses to counter the effect of the red lipstick! Argh! Why didn’t I think of that.

    • Lisa

      Bwahaha. The glasses were only because I couldn’t see the damn computer screen any more:).

    • Kelly

      Wendy – I never thought about combining red lipstick and glasses. I’ve been shying away from bright lip color lately because I felt like it was too “fashiony” for work but maybe if I wore my glasses that day too, the “stupid fashion” impression and the “smarty pants” impressions could meeting in the middle and I could just be neutral 😉

  28. deja pseu

    It’s so great to see the variety and how different environments generate different dress “codes!” If I had my druthers, I’d still probably be dressing like Lisa for work…so classic and professional!

  29. the enchanted home

    Ok call me a nerd, but I happen to think the red teachers outift was darn cute, the red ginham shirt, the pencil skirt..helllooo, thats adorable. I think the “less is more” concept applies to all these styles here as in less frou four, less ornamentation, less sinage on clothes, less gadgets and gizmos, more on the classics, with a twist is fine but keep it classic always and you never have to doubt what you are wearing or feel like the elephant in the room (or the office)
    Great and thought provoking post!
    Doing a great giveway..a beautiful french chair, come visit to enter!

  30. K-Line

    Man, I love this post! So many ways to dress. I particularly like Lisa’s ultra-professional look. That’s the direction I aim for when I’m meeting the fancy peeps at work…

  31. AW

    In my current work, I’ve got to be able to go from meetings with board members to painting with or feeding young children in a single bound. So I wear lots of skirts and trousers, washable / disposable t-shirts, and blazers and cardigans that I can take off when I need to get messy. And comfy shoes for walking across campus, to the train station, etc. It’s a pretty conservative uniform, but I’m working on mixing it up.

  32. Angeline

    I love all the diverse opinion in the post and in the comments! Thanks for giving me to opportunity to ramble on a bit!

  33. Erin White

    I love the new professional tips…I, too, am finding myself in that world, and needed a bit of inspiration from someone who has felt as fashion-less in that world as I tend to do from time to time

  34. Katie

    I adore posts like this because they provide such wonderful examples to pick and chose from. As a museum curator, my work clothing is dictated by my day. Within a week I can be out in the field collecting specimens, sitting at my computer designing an exhibit, leading 100 4th graders in a squid dissection, giving a talk to the public, giving a talk to my peers, or, as happened a few weeks ago, cleaning up vomit while having a python wrapped around my neck. So my style includes dresses, skirts, jeans, sweaters, pearls, and the occasional pair of waders. But as I continue to navigate through my own definitions of style and carve out a sartorial niche for myself in my work environment, I love having so many resources for inspiration at my fingertips.

  35. kate

    Oh malevolent Andrea, whoever you are, how right you are! Scrubs can make the most fit, figure-blessed woman look… shall I say? deeply un flattered. Strangely they do not have the same effect on men–is it because we look at the men and think, “OOOOOh, doctor!”? I hope not. As for the unscrubbed hospital and healthcare employees, fashion forwardness is not a hallmark is it? I never thought about why that might be until I read your comments. I used to teach elementary school, where scrubs have not yet invaded, but the practicality/hand washing/lifting bending/comfortable shoes/etc issues are much the same. I always thought the ideal balance would be to have 2 days a week with meetings/public interactions where I would need to look sharp, and the other 3 days I would be happy to wear jeans and t shirts.

  36. FirstTeacher

    What an excellent post. Loved the pics and analysis. If you ever run a post such as this again, would love to see what other mothers who are the primary caregivers for their children are wearing. Mothers of children under 10 who want to look like grown-ups working in their chosen profession are struggling. There are those who wear jeans or yoga pants with a tee shirt and athletic shoes daily (these ladies damage the FullTimeMum Brand – so to speak). Then there are those who dress in frocks and maryjanes in the manner of cute 4 year olds. Then there are those who are trying to look polished (non-trendy) and put together so they are taken seriously by their children, spouses, school administrators and paid professionals with whom they may come into contact throughout the day. People like us are looking for outfits that bridge the gap between playground and boardroom…if that’s even possible.

  37. Mardel

    Thank you for this great accumulation of persepctive. I love Lisa’s post with the suit, but her points most reflect my own corporate history. However, as I increasingly realize that I will probably not go back to work along that same career track, and probably not even the same industry, I am finding many people make good points and bring new perspectives to the issues.

  38. jody brettkelly

    Hi there, nice to meet you. Jody here from California. I just came over from ‘Privilege”. It’s fascinating to see all these outfits as I haven’t had a job in an office in so long. (though I still wear suits out to dinner!) I love the dove grey of Lisa’s outfit. I agree with her, love the grey. It gives you authority but makes you approachable and it’s so flattering to all skin types. I had a dove grey Armani suit when I worked in London and I never tired of it through winter and summer. Love the outfit of red and camel shoes and the two girls at the bottom just look so cute and having a good time! (which I think you’re allowed to at work!)

  39. Vixen

    This post is great and the comments are so interesting. At my office, there is a “suits all the time” rule and clients can drop by anytime. I’ve notice that other women attorneys tend to dress in drab suits in shades of black, gray and brown, since those are considered “court appropriate” colors. Due to the “suits only” rule I have to wear suit too, but I usually express myself with colorful accessories like belts, scarves and shoes. They are the pops of color in my outfit. I spend days with my blazer closed, so my tops usually don’t get much stage time. The result is that I stand out and often trigger compliments. Instead of viewing this reception as an akward thing, I try my hardest to accept it as my attempt to be the exception to the “I’m dressed like a man to be taken as seriously as a a man” attitude that seems to be all too common in my field.

  40. Tara

    It’s been four years since I left the corporate world to be a stay-at-home mom, but “back in the day” I routinely dressed in pantsuits, with pearls, as Lisa demonstrated. The one difference is that I typically wore heels. (I liked that heels put me eye-to-eye with a lot of the men, who sometimes tried to use stature to their advantage.) And Lisa, I like that you included a simple tee shirt in your ensemble. That was typically my choice, too, for the mere comfort factor.

    I also like the red skirt with the check shirt. That outfit would actually be a nice addition to my daily wardrobe now.

  41. Inder

    I love this post! All of the different perspectives and workplaces are awesome! So cool! I’m a lawyer, but I usually look more like What Would a Nerd Wear? than Privilege. I wear a suits when that is called for (I call this my “lawyer uniform” or “dressing like a lawyer”), but my daily uniform is a blouse, cardigan, and skirt. Sometimes I wear a mismatched jacket instead of a cardigan. Sometimes I wear a dress. I work in SF, so tights are a year-round staple. I hardly have any pants.

    To me, this uniform is pulled together and conservative, but leaves just enough room for expression and color and fun. I like to have lots of pieces that work for the work-week and the weekend, rather than two separate wardrobes for work and casual. My wardrobe would be far too dull for a style blog, but it works for me, and I have fun with it. Whereas suits still feel like “playing dress up” to me, my daily uniform is *me.*

  42. Tracey

    My work wardrobe is so varied. I spend a couple of days each week in my client’s office. They are engineers and dress what I like to call “smart casual”. My cubicle-mate is a great example of how men can be dressed well, without being boring. Yesterday he had a maeve shirt, striped purple and green tie, grey cardigan and grey pants. So I try to keep up, without wearing suits. I do wear my trouser jeans about once a week, but always paired with dressier tops. Today I’m wearing black pants, red cami, olive green knit top, denim blazer, red flower pin and olive green fluevog shoes.

    The rest of the week I’m either working from home, or chasing my toddler. Again my trouser jeans work really well for going from lunch with a contact to meeting my little guy at the play gym.

    Then I have a small amount of my closet for events. In theory these items should also work for seeing clients, but often they feel too dressy for my work environment. So they get saved for fashion events or a business woman’s lunch.

    So I look for clothes that will work in a variety of situations. My big rule is never to wear my yoga pants for anything other than exercise or a quick run to the grocery store.

  43. Lisa C

    I’ve been lurking here for a while, but I am so glad to have seen this post. I’ve struggled a lot with my professional wardrobe- I went to a hippie college, worked at a camp where my daily wear was usually a swimsuit, shorts, and a tank top, and then finally got a professional job… where the biggest names in the industry are known to wear jeans and Hawaiian shirts.

    Right now, I’m swinging between good outfits and lazy outfits. My goal is to make the lazy outfits less frequent as time goes on. We’ll see how that one goes…

  44. Former TA

    I’m all for feeling good about how you look and dressing appropriately, but university TAs don’t need to dress nearly as nicely as your featured TA did. Heels and a skirt? What?? As an almost-PhD with many years of TAing and lecturing under her belt, I though that this look seemed way over the top, even if it’s cute. She looks much younger dressing this way because NO ONE ELSE dresses like this, and it may actually undermine her authority in the classroom. It reminds me of all those adorable first-year grad students at conferences presenting their very first poster in a suit. Maybe it’s the difference between the humanities and the sciences (I’m a geologist), but I think that if you want to be taken seriously as a TA, you should dress far more casually than the example shown here.

  45. what would a nerd wear

    former TA–thanks for your input, which i’m sure is true for some departments in some schools. however, to make the claim that “no one else” dresses like i do is a claim without any supporting evidence as you present it–have you been to every department in every university across the country? at the university where I teach, I commonly see T.A.’s–from first year to seventh year T.A.’s–dress in professional attire.
    moreover, i would question your claim that professional appearance always constitutes overcompensation. i often teach a business writing course, and one major part of my students’ grade is based on “professionalism,” a skill which seems to be waning in college classrooms but is crucial for their success on the job market. part of my pedagogy is modeling how i expect my students to treat classroom work–if i clearly take it seriously, my students are more likely to do so, as well. what if T.A.’s could use their work in the classroom to model professional appearance and behavior, as a way to teach students–who increasingly show up late, in pajamas, and without their textbooks to class–the importance of one’s professional appearance?
    it is ludicrous to perpetuate the misled idea that “if you want to be taken seriously” as a scholar, you must necessarily disregard your appearance or worse, cultivate sloppiness in your personal habits.
    lastly, i might include that despite your appeal to your own ethos, i would question whether you should express so condescending that 1. you have taught more classes than i have, 2. that the classes we teach are at all similar, 3. that you speak on behalf of all graduate academics.

  46. Jackie

    When I was a TA, I remember dressing up more because I thought it put a little bit of welcome distance between my students and me–this came to me after the first semester in my grad program when one of my students asked me out after the final exam! Then again, I was never the kind of TA who wanted my students to call me by my first name either; as a young-looking 22-23 year old woman, I was concerned about boundaries more than some of my peers (who occasionally did date students or teach in jeans).

  47. workerbee

    This is a great post. I struggle with this topic daily. I work in a rather conservative, male-dominated industry that thankfully does have relative flexibility on wardrobe. In our office we have everything from Priveledge to faded polo and jeans depending on your role. I work in marketing so luckily I can get away with a few things because we’re supposed to be the “creative type” but just about everyone in my group dresses somewhat conservative & feminine (pearls, soft pinks, flowy, skirts). I listen to alternative rock, my dream would be to be in a band and in another life would have multiple tattoos, so the ultra femme look is totally not me, nor can I (in my own skin) comfortably pull it off. I of course change my attire depending on if I’m going to a team meeting or chatting with the CEO but my usual wear is very Corporette or Nerd an I normally throw in some sort of quirkiness to feel like I’m getting to show some self-expression.

    I unfortunately have a nickel allergy so I am allergic to jewelry that’s not the good stuff, so accessories are limited. For me it’s a fabulous watch, unexpected (but appropriate for work) shoes, bright colored cardigan, or my favorite accessory, some tell-all glasses. My rule with things like that is that if I’m going to do something that could be seen as outside the box that it has to be name brand and has to fit your personality 100%…otherwise you look like you’re trying too hard. Someone may look at my thick plastic frames and think hmmm not my style…but when they realize they are a $500 pair of Pradas they instantly become fashion-forward and interesting (and most comment to me later that they wish they could pull something like that off, or have the courage to try). I bargain shop for 90% of the things I own, so throwing something like this in gives the illusion that the rest of my things are pricier too (who needs to know I spent $11 on my work pants 5 years ago?).

    Contrary to what most blogs and advice say, I also dress understated (always appropriate!) most days and I feel that this has helped me tremendously. I’m not saying my advice is the best for everyone’s situation, but because I am not dressed to the 9s all the time, I seem more approachable and my work stands out vs. my outfit. I also find that more gossip or comments get made about the girls who load the makeup on and dress up everyday than those of us who tame it down. My role requires me to be in a solid teamwork environment, and I feel like I can get the yes, I’m a girl, look at me now let’s move on, over and done with. Leave it to my boss to dress like a power-player. As long as you don’t look like you don’t give a hoot and can show that you have the potential to look the part of a promotion, your wardrobe shouldn’t be the end all be all that holds you back, it’s your work. When I do dress up it’s inevitable that I will get comments left and right which i think helps me even more…because they realize they get to work with the cool, down to earth girl that loves sports and beer (did I mention I work in a male dominated industry) and I can clean up NICELY. 🙂

  48. Daisy Avalin

    Love seeing what the options are across and indeed within industries! I work in retail, so it’s a uniform for me, which I have somewhat subverted!.
    Bootcut black trousers, with pockets to hold pen/knife as needed.
    Thin layering tee, short or long sleeves depending on weather/temps, under work polo shirt (which I actually don’t wear 90% of the time – I overheat easily, and even the medium-weight polos are too hot!) There is also a pork fleece jacket which I wear for any outside work.
    Plain black slip-on trainers – not supposed to wear trainers according to the dress code, but my role is mostly stocking/cleaning which means lots of bending/stretching/kneeling, so I need to be comfortable. Luckily, my manager is on board with me being comfortable, and the trainers don’t look like trainers so what upper management (who I very rarely see) don’t know can’t hurt me!