Your company may be flexible with the expectations of what is appropriate, but that doesn’t give you a pass on professionalism.
The last thing you want to is be seen as a sloppy or provactive at work. But the truth is when casual dress codes are implemented it’s a slippery slope. A 2016 study conducted by OfficeTeam “47% of senior managers viewed their employees dress at too casual and 32% said employees showed too much skin.” But the more casual the dress code the muddier the waters get on what is acceptable work attire.
Whether we like it or not the opinions of others do affect the opportunities for career growth. It’s your personal responsibility to be seen as a leader whose skills, abilities, and passion for your work out pace those around you. Your work will show that, but that will only take you so far when you are seeking a promotion or trying to land a new client.
But If everyone else is in jeans and tees shirts will I not look like I am trying to hard?
That’s an easy answer. No. You will look like you respect your work and yourself.
To make it easy to look your best for work follow the 3 A's of great style.
Authority, Appropriateness, and Approachability.
I go into more detail about the 3 A's of Great Style in another post you can find here.
Here are 3 ways the 3 A's can be translated in your work wardrobe.
Jeans + Tee
Too Casual Look:
You can't tell at first glance if this is a work look or a look you would wear to go shopping on the weekend. Light colored denim is the ultimate casual weekend staple, which means to wear it in the office you have to anchor it with classic business pieces.
This look gives you plenty of coverage. But where the real question of is it suitable for work would be the fit and the wash of the jeans. Lighter colored denim calls attention to your lower half which isn't bad but if these jeans are too tight that pushes past being appropriate.
The visual interest of the accessories and style of the look are all very basic. The only thing that this look might say about you is that you like pink in various shades.
Just Right Look:
The tailored structure of the trouser jean and blazer set a focused work tone in a casual look. These two pieces say that you take your role seriously and are ready for the next level in your career.
The formula for this look is the same as the Too Casual-Tee + Jean + Completer + Flat. But with the float away cut of the pant and more substantial shoe and bag you will stand out because you look the part.
The bolder print in the tee paired with the print and color in the shoe shows your creativity in your deliberate choice of pattern mixing. Pairing this with classic shapes in your jewelry, jeans, and blazer you are saying you are grounded in your drive to succeed.
Too Trendy Look:
This look misses the mark because it feels flighty. The mix of ruffles, cold shoulder, floral print, and metallic loafer says trend chaser. Which could give the impression that you don't know who you are or what you want from your career.
A cold shoulder top is always inappropriate for work unless you work in an industry that lends it self to trends. That would be retail or fashion focused journalism.
This look says too much about what you like. Having too many things for the eye to look at is distracting from the clear message you are wanting to send.
Just Right Look:
The sharp lines of the pencil skirt, button down, and tote act as classic guard rails for the print and color play. You are showing you can be inspired by trend and make it work for you.
This hits all the right notes of sticking to a business casual dress code with a knee length skirt and button down.
You are using the trends sparingly to raise the tone of sophistication. The abstract floral pattern and slight bell on the cuff of the sleeve say you knowledgable about what is current and be choosy for what works for you to create a modern look.
Too Short + Too Long Looks:
In both the too short and too long looks your influence is lessened because your coworkers attention will be on your hem length. One feels more at home in Sunday School while the other says Saturday night.
In the too short look you are well above the knee length rule which is the standard for skirts and dresses in the workplace. A maxi, even this one that is a conservative version, says you are checked out in off duty style.
Either of these looks says you may not being taking your job seriously. You are either hiding or really seeking attention. Neither of these will have people connecting with you for the right reasons.
Just Right Look:
This dress alone would feel too dainty for work. But paired with the structure of the vest you are ready to do business on a casual Friday. The overall look shows you know how to wear feminine pieces and maintain a strong presence.
The hem hits just at the knee. The perfect wear it work length. The vest acts as an anchor to make the dress suitable for the office.
The pattern mix on the dress plus the yellow bag shows your creative. But the vest, neutral boot, and subtle jewelry shows you know how to keep your fashion office appropriate while having fun.
My challenge to you this week is take a look in your closet and measure the pieces you wear to work against your career goals and the 3 A's.
Ask yourself questions like:
"Do I see myself wearing this when I lead a meeting?"
"How would I perceive a superior wearing this?"
"Would I wear this to the interview for my dream job?"
If you aren't dressing for your career goals everyday you are doing yourself a disservice. You deserve to be empowered to do your best work in the clothes you wear. This will show to your clients. your boss, and your peers.