What NOT to Wear to the Office

what not to wear to workSo there’s this great piece on USA Today about how “business casual” can be confusing to some people — this one 24-year-old PR executive was shocked (shocked, we tell you!) when she wasn’t allowed to attend a meeting dressed in Bermuda shorts and flip flops.

So I thought it might be fun to have an open-thread today about what attire makes you really raise your eyebrows. Obviously, every office is different, but I think we can all do a public service by listing which garments and accessories someone might want to think twice before wearing.

For my own list:

  • Any shorts (or any pants that are less than full length — ankle-length pants and capris will be questionable at some offices!)
  • Flip-flops (whether they’re plastic or leather, rethink)
  • Sandals of any kind; peep toe shoes are also often questionable at the most conservative offices
  • Tall boots (even knee-high used to be questionable, but over-the-knee styles are definitely questionable)
  • Anything that is overly noisy in the hallways (flip-flops are the primary offender here, but other things qualify also — corduroy pants, for example)
  • Denim, or items cut like denim (e.g., 5 pockets) — cords, khakis, etc.
  • Lace or sheer clothing
  • Sleeveless tops or dresses (worn without a cardigan or blazer on top)
  • Any item that can be worn to the gym (sneakers, yoga pants, terrycloth wristbands, large shapeless t-shirts)
  • Anything too short, tight, or low-cut

Readers, what “think twice” list have you compiled from your time at the office? Any fun “I couldn’t believe she wore that” stories that you’d care to share?

Comments

  1. Great topic, Kat!

  2. Outerwear. We have a receptionist who protests against the excessively chilly lobby by wearing her white, puffy coat all day long, usually paired with too-tight, low-cut shirts, leggings, and heels. The whole look is inappropriate, but the coat in particular gets attention and drives several of her superiors nuts. She is not responsive to suggestions of changing her appearance, and seems resistant to the thought that dressing in layers, or covering up more in general, might prevent her from needing the coat in the first place.

    We are a business-casual IT company in the north-east, FWIW. I regularly wear knee-high boots, denim (Fridays), sleeveless, and occasionally a leather bomber jacket (also only Fridays, and only into work, not all day). I don’t think any of those are inappropriate in my office.

    • Chicago K :

      Our dress code actually states that we cannot wear our coats at our desks. Maybe you can suggest she buy a space heater?

  3. In addition to everything everyone else has already pointed out (though my office is ok with cropped pants and open-toed shoes), I’ll add anything that is too “themed.” At my previous office, there was a woman who often wore an outfit consisting of a dark blue “suit” with gold rope and coin embellishments, and matching blue suede knee-high boots with gold chain detailing (big chain links, too–not little dainty ones that might have passed as classy). Not even counting the fact that the skirt was too short and too tight, and her hair and makeup were more appropriate for evening than work, it was just wrong! It struck me as an approximation of pirate business formal.

    • I guess this is a know your office situation. On my pirate ship we are mostly business casual pirate wear which ranges from parrots to wood legs, but when we do a raid we are supposed to be in business formal since we are meeting with the villagers we are responsible for pillaging. Boots are the norm so that outfit would be fine for a day like that (though not suede because of the water situation)

      • Do you encourage people to have multiple hooks (gold, silver, etc) or is that an item that doesn’t have to match the rest of your jewelry?

        • I think a hook is like a wedding ring — it doesn’t necessarily have to match. However, I might consider having a “formal” hook for dressier occasions, because my everyday one tends to get a little dinged up.

          Love these comments! :)

          • Honeycrisp :

            For what it’s worth, I have found that taking my hook to the jeweler about every 3 months for cleaning and rhodium plating really minimizes the look of everyday wear and tear/pillaging/meet and confer sessions with opposing counsel.

        • NO GOLD HOOKS. I showed up with a gold hook the first day of my new ship because I wanted to make an impression and it ended up being so embarrassing. The metal is too soft for any sort of swordfighting. Lucking my mentor pirate let me borrow one of hers, and now I save it for holiday parties only.

        • Thanks! I am trying to plan what to wear to my trial pillaging session, so I will wear my silver hook and save the gold one for once I am hired.

          • mrs_gberg :

            Apropos of almost nothing, Tycho Brahe, a famous astronomer in the early Renaissance, lost his nose in sword fight in college and kept several false noses of metal for normal wear. He saved his gold nose for formal dinners and visits to the court…

      • academicsocialite :

        Amazing. There definitely need to be a separate pirate-only workplace dresscode.

        I once had a gig with a formalwear-only ship. It was exhausting keeping up with everyone else’s 24k gold thread eye patches and Hermes scarves. Not to mention we spent everything we pillaged on YSL pantaloons.

      • hee hee

      • I am also wondering about eye patches. I have a plain black, but I want to show some personality. Do you think it would be OK to have some of those patches covered in a fabric that complements my suits, or is that going to be to “matchy-matchy?”

      • I cannot believe I didn’t see this thread when it was first posted. I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time.

    • In all honesty, I would love to attend a pirate business formal. Maybe for the NYC Corporette meetup?

    • My pirate ship has business casual Fridays. Will I look overdressed if I wear a shirt with ruffles?

      Best. Corporette. Thread. Ever.

    • I just read this entire pirate sub-thread out loud to my husband. Thanks for the laugh, ladies!

  4. I work at a law firm in DC, and we are business casual with denim days every Friday (a concession to our LA colleagues who wear jeans every day). People generally don’t do sleeveless without a blazer, cardi, or wrap to cover themselves with when they leave their offices. I think sleeveless is too casual. (That said, I think it’s completely overboard to suggest that baring your arms is somehow “showing off your body” as a PP said.)

    Sandals and knee high boots are just fine, but to reiterate a theme going on here, it’s more about style. I’ve got sandals I would wear to work, and sandals I wouldn’t.

  5. My pet peeve is open toed shoes without a professonial-looking pedicure (I’m in Biglaw in NYC). At least here in NYC a pedicure in the warmer toe-baring months is very important — and this is coming from someone who is extremely down-to-earth in terms of makeup, hair, etc. A summer associate two summers ago would constantly wear open-toed slides (which by themselves were borderline) with no pedicure whatsoever — just ungroomed overgrown toenails. Not good.

    • Anonymous :

      Out of curiosity, do you consider polish to be mandatory for open toed shoes?

      I don’t wear them to my office (they wouldn’t fly) but I live in flip flops for summer weekends, and I don’t polish my toenails. I do, however, take care of my toenails/feet (cut/file my nails, take care of my cuticles, buff, pumice stone etc). Basically everything you’d do as a part of a pedicure, minus the polish. I think this looks fine, but I’m curious if others are secretly criticizing my lack of polish.

      Thoughts?

      • AnonInfinity :

        I think that no polish is fine for flip flops, but could look weird if you were wearing peep toed dress shoes. Maybe it’s because the peep toes are kind of shiny and would highlight the non-shininess of unpainted toenails?

      • I think it depends on your shoes. If they’re not patent, I think no polish is probably fine. If you are wearing open-toed patent shoes, then maybe polish would look better.

      • Anonymous :

        Sorry, to clarify, I don’t ever wear dressy open toed shoes or sandals, only casual ones (flip flops, Born flat sandals, etc).

      • I think proper buffing takes the place of polish, regardless of the shoe.

      • Anonymous :

        Oh, I think feet without polish look gross. I know they may not be gross, I know the polish isn’t a forcefield that will protect me from feet germs, but still, I think it’s soooo gross. I don’t know why. Slap some Sally Hanson on.

        • Anonymous :

          i agree. but thats just my opinion and i know others disagree. i also cant stand the french pedicure.

          • I also find the french pedi very off-putting. I am also incredibly skeeved out by long (or long-ish) toe nails of any kind, even polished. I think short and neat is the way to go with toes. It’s actually probably the reason I find the french pedi so off — the white tips make it look like you need to cut your toenails!

            I am of the peep-toe is fine opinion, but with that goes the obvious caveat that your toes should look neat, and to me long toe nails even if polished just don’t look neat.

      • I consider polish to be necessary in the summer, yes. But you can easily use a light pink/natural color if you’re not into bright-colored polish.

        The great thing about a pedicure is that it lasts for such a long time. I never get manicures because I chip the polish within two days. But a pedicure lasts me nearly a month.

        • Agree

        • Wow – a month? I’m incredibly envious. I don’t paint my toenails because I teach and train in martial arts and nail polish will get scraped/smudged literally every class – not worth it. I do keep my feet baby soft and nicely pedicured though (sans polish!).

        • Second that. A flesh/natural toned polish (or even a coat of clear) is better than nothing; and good grooming is necessary. I like Essie’s flesh-toned (for me) colors like Ballet Slippers and Mademoiselle. They are very sheer and don’t stand out–which is better than standing out in a bad way!

        • I hate pedicures because I hate people touching my feet for that long. Manicures are okay because everyone will see my hands. In general I just do it all myself. If my toes are not painted, but I’m wearing flip-flops or something, it is just because I’ve been unusually busy.

      • I don’t think polish is required. But if the piggies are gonna be out there for everyone to see, they should be clean, neat, and groomed. A coat of nail polish usually helps in getting this image, but I don’t think is per se necessary.

    • My two cents – I think nail polish is necessary for open toed shoes/sandals…

      • Anonymous :

        Original Anonymous with the pedicure question, here. Seems the consensus is showing your toes = get a pedi. My follow up curiosity question is whether the respondents also think that a manicure is always necessary, or are feet somehow different?

        • I think it’s necessary to keep your nails neat and your hands looking nice, without ragged cuticles, calluses, etc. Basically the same as for your feet, but for the feet, you need a pedi to accomplish this.

        • Sadly, the older one gets the more likely a pedicure starts to be “necessary” — whether because we have screwed up our feet in heels or because we can’t quite bend or see well enough to do it ourselves :)

        • We aren’t allowed to wear nail polish on our hands in the OR (or fake nails, or have nail whites more than a 1/4 inch long) so for me, pedicures are a must (as much for the 45 uninterrupted minutes to read trashy magazines) but manicures are a no-go.

  6. Anonymous :

    Random observations FWIW:

    HR here won’t do anything about dress code violations unless there’s a complaint (no anonymous complaints allowed). Most of the complaints are from women about other women.

    Some of the IT department look like filthy hobos but they’re young and very competent.

    Some of the women from Asian countries wear really short skirts and club-worthy outfits.

    I truly ached for the one male manager (nicest guy in the world) who had to tell a young intern she had to change because her bra was visible through her shirt.

    Some of the women-of-color can wear bright suits and they look absolutely conservative and incredible. On white women the same suit would never fly.

    That’s all.

    • Say what? :

      Why would a bright suit look conservative on a dark skinned woman, but not on a white woman?

      • This is not race-baiting, if that’s what you’re thinking. Think bright fuschia pink. I am a woman of color and when I wear this color, I don’t get a single comment about it. When my (white) cubicle-mate wears something similarly “loud” she would get at least one non-pliment (you know, like, “That’s an interesting [blouse, top, etc...]“).

      • i agree that some colors are easier for women of color to wear than white women (and also vice versa!).

        i think it has less to do with one’s race/ethnicity and more to do with what color flatters your complexion – and skin tone is definitely a big part of that equation. bright pink (like in Pollack’s example) might read as “lawyer Barbie” or too “loud” on a fair-skinned or white woman, but on a darker-skinned woman might be a flattering pop of color.

  7. All the assistants not dressing properly makes my skin crawl – and are all reasons why I am nitpicky about what I wear to the office.

    Some of the ladies in my office wear flip-flops, t-shirts and capris as often as they can get away with it. We are in Houston, and I understand we’re business casual, but it just looks sloppy nine times out of ten. (We’re retail, and western retail at that, so jeans and “bling” are worn by our buyers, but not me.)

    When I worked in more formal offices (always as an assistant) I try to keep the basics just that, basic. If I want to “express myself” I find a neat piece of jewelry or a scarf or something like that. Granted my idea of “neat” is a lot more understated than some, but that’s kind of how I get my occasional need for color without feeling like a peacock in the penguin exhibit.

    • And just because you *can* dress is flip-flops at work doesn’t mean you should.

      • I feel bad for lawyers who have assistants that don’t know how to dress. I’d never send my assistant to bring a client to a boardroom or want her to interact with a client in any way face to face if she was dressed inappropriately.

        The worst offender I worked with was a woman who purchased everything second hand. Her philosophy appeared to be that as long as it fit, it was acceptable.

  8. I run a small software company in the Midwest, and our dress is very casual (flip-flops are fine, and our CEO regularly wears a sweatshirt and jeans unless he has an outside meeting). So I’m not in the same culture as most of you by any means. But I had to share this story: several years ago, I had to take a young, gifted programmer to an insurance company client site (fairly conservative). He very much did not want to go, and he expressed this by showing up in kakhi shorts and a t-shirt. Once on site, he immediately removed his sneakers and walked around in his athletic socks for the entire visit. Seriously.

    Luckily, he was able to quickly fix whatever problem the client was having. He is also very funny and charming in his own way, so the client chalked it all up to the eccentricity of brilliance.

    • khaki. you knew what I mean :)

    • Eww. Walking around without shoes is just plain gross.

    • Thank you!!! I was reading all these comments and was wondering if anyone from the software industry posted their thoughts! It is VERY common in the software industry to wear jeans, sneakers, and flip flops. The most innovative startups and mid size companies in New York City usually wear jeans, sneakers, and flip flops. If you wear a tie the whole office teases you the entire day – so where are you interviewing today? The motto is come be yourself and be comfortable because we have to dive on in and get this work done. Of course if you are representing the company to a major client you may have to show up in full corporate suit attire – but it depends on the client and situation. Personally I have found the companies with dress codes were less exciting less innovative places to work. They don’t really invest in the IT department nor deeply care about the software they create. As such I tell recruiters one of my requirements is that any company they present to me must allow jeans and sneakers. As a result, I get the calls for media, entertainment, e-commerce etc and I don’t get bombarded with the calls for the jobs in industries I find lets just say less interesting. Also, if you work in NYC, you will probably walk a portion to work. One day it will be pouring out, your umbrella will flip inside out, you will be wearing flip flops because you have done this so many times that you know your shoes and socks will never dry before the end of the work day – boots never seem to work either – and you just hope your pants will dry out because you are soaked up to your knees. I am not in my 20s. I believe America is behind the times in the dress code and vacation policies.

  9. Tired Squared :

    At my internship, we had an administrative assistant who was in her 40s/50s, who felt like she was still “perky enough to go braless.” She was also fond of strappy tank tops (not just camisoles, but the low-back and cross-strap-back types)… and in pale colors, like yellow and white. So you know, not only was her tummy and back flab hanging out, but you could also clearly see her … outlines.

    I’m not sure what the appropriate term is … perhaps “headlighting?” Either way, it’s definitely not okay to show … outlines in the office!

    • Tired Squared :

      Oh, and obviously this isn’t as bad as the “Braless Wonder” problem, but she also was fond of platform flip-flops. So you could also hear her coming from miles away.

      … at least it gave you time to stick your nose (and eyes) into a filing or something!

  10. Body glitter

  11. When I started working I heard a good rule of thumb: If it doesn’t need to be dry cleaned, it is not business casual. Obviously the rule can’t be too rigid, and I have a few pieces of clothing that don’t fit this rule, but I find it to be a good rule of thumb.

    Also, I think that fit, fabric, and the rest of your outfit determine whether a specific piece of clothing is appropriate. I have a pair of capris that I will wear with flats sometimes, but I make sure my “top half” is even more put together and completely covered up. A nice shell and cardigan sweater with good jewelry, for example.

    • By this measure, almost none of my wardrobe would be business casual. Then again, I push the limits of what’s dry-clean-able.

    • I don’t get paid well enough to follow that rule; my office is welcome to implement it if they want to increase my salary commensurately.

    • I think the point was that if it’s something you can just throw in the washer and dryer, normal cycle, with your jeans, it’s probably not nice enough. Maybe a shell for under a suit but not pants, jackets, or sweaters. Cotton just doesn’t look that nice once you’ve washed it a few times and there aren’t that many other fabrics you can throw in the washer.

      I also live in New York and I think we tend to dry clean more stuff here because so few people have washer/dryers. I have a few things that I would throw in the gentle cycle instead of dry cleaning if I had control over my laundry, which I don’t.

      • My washable Tahari suit is one of my favorites! The fabric is great and you can’t tell it’s washable until you look at the label.

        • I have a great pair of grey trousers from BR that can go in the washer…

          The rule I’ve heard is: If you could wear it to the beach, don’t wear it to the office. (Bye bye, flip flops, capris, short bright skirts, t-shirts…)

  12. Charlotte :

    Suits that are clearly from another era, and not in a good way. I work in a gov’t office where we have to appear in court frequently, and one senior lawyer here wears no clothes that have been purchased after, say, 1990, if that late. In addition to them being severely out-of-date, they are worn and shapeless, giving her a haggard appearance. She just generally looks more unprofessional than she probably realizes.

    One particularly memorable outfit was the “festive” one she wore to a Judge’s Christmas luncheon party: [bright!] tomato red heavy-knit sweater with matching knee-length skirt; light pink, too-long lacy skirt peeking out from skirt hem; large green-wreath necklace with matching earrings. I was a bit embarrassed to be there with her.

    She wore the worst outfit in recent memory during an intern interview which I attended: old, worn chambray/denim-type pants, a “themed” turtleneck and a woolly cardigan with cats on it. Inconceivable. Denim is not allowed in our workplace, period.

    The worst thing I have seen an attorney wear in court was a woman who wore a black polo shirt and long, gauzy hippie skirt — and the judge said nothing.

    • Now I really want to see this woman. Court attire has gone downhill. I see too many female attorneys in court who wear cardigans instead of jackets and cutesy dresses, even in trial. I don’t get it.

  13. freddie_my_love :

    I’m a law student, and this might be just to obvious for anyone to mention, but is it always necessary to wear hose when you’re wearing a skirt? I’m working at a US Attorney’s office in the Pacific Northwest this coming summer, and I’m completely willing to wear hose if it’s expected, but I just can’t tell if it is or not because I’ve only seen men in the office (who are obviously all wearing pants). Thanks!

    • I don’t think so as long as other women in the office don’t. Women partners in my office don’t, so I don’t — when it’s warm. I do think it looks weird if it’s 50 degrees out.

    • Wear them the first day and then look at what other women are wearing. I hate, hate hose. I think they are incredibly silly (why wear something that is the color of your legs and designed to look like you have nothing on your legs?). But, I will always wear them when I need to be safe and feel out a work situation (interviews, trials, etc). But on a regular basis, I never wear them and I have found that here in the Northeast most women my age (early 30s) and younger tend to not wear them except in special work situations like the above.

      I think there have been a bunch of other posts on this over the years. Other tips on bare legs in the workplace include not going bare if you’ve been bug-bitten or have anything else going on (cuts, scrapes, etc) that would attract too much attention to your legs and make you look less put together.

      • I agree – you can wear them on the first day, then then take them off once you arrive and get the lay of the land.

        I too hate hose, but in situations where you’re not familiar with what the dress code is, it never hurts to “overdress” (and I would include hose in the “overdress” category) and then tone it down a bit once you see what’s acceptable.

      • Anonymous :

        Because my legs are red, veiny, and blotchy, and pasty white. :( That said, I look better in skirt suits than pants.

    • I practice in a large city in the PNW, and can’t remember the last time I saw a female attorney in hose (other than heavy tights for the winter).

    • I never wear them. They’re uncomfortable, don’t conceal anything and I rip them within one wearing. If I have bruises from sports, I just wear pants.

    • Get a sense of what the women in general are doing, rather than a (potentially rogue) woman or two. When I lived in SD, not wearing hose was par for the course. At my current Midwest office, there are a few women who go without hose in court – and a lot of women who talk about their lack of decorum later.

      Not much you can do for the backstabbing, but make sure you are looking at the general dress code rather than a few exceptions.

    • downtownist :

      Freddie – I clerked with a US Attorney’s office in the Midwest. Hose were a must. My suspicion is that the same will not be true in the Pacific Northwest. However, I’d plan on wearing them for the first day or week until you can get a sense of what is appropriate.

      • You’ll have to feel out your own office. I know the USAs in Houston all wear hose, from what I’ve seen (a former office shared an elevator bank with them).

        FWIW, most women here don’t wear hose to court anymore — even federal court.

  14. I’m in law, bf is not – he’s in government. He rags on me for my need to dress up for work while he can show up in anything! He lives in ratty t-shirts and jeans and -gasp- in the summer he wears shorts! In his industry (tech) he explained that it’s the people that don’t look like they have anything to prove that have the most “street cred.” If someone in his field showed up in a suit to work, everyone would assume he is overcompensating for a lack of skill.

    The nerve! I wish that’s the way the rest of the world worked – when clothes didn’t make others guess your competence level at first glance! (And I totally realize there are folks out there that are awesome at what they do in the corporate environment but dress against code, and I imagine it takes others much longer to trust them/their work). Sigh…

    My bf also said that if the government had shut down and he was considered essential enough to go in, he would have – but if they weren’t going to pay him, he wasn’t going to show up in pants :)

    • This attitude is rampant in the sciences – if you appear to care about how you look, you can’t possibly be serious about your work.

      I had asked a while ago about attire for a meeting that was going to skew heavily towards basic scientists/computer people, was thinking about bringing a couple of casual (think nicer end of Athleta) style dresses. I didn’t, but as it turned out, I totally could have. I figured out the “dress code” for women in that situation – just about any type of clothing is fine (dress, skirt, pants, boots, whatever), but you must look as if you didn’t do more than wash and comb out your hair in the morning. No overtly visible make-up, either. So it’s a fine balance between looking nice but looking like you don’t care if you look nice.

      Sometimes this attitude is more exhausting than the hose/no hose, sleeves/no sleeves, and peeptoes: Yes or No? situations.

      • I frequently find myself in similar situations, and I totally agree with you.

        One of my co-workers has a story that I found amusing. She was at a training on presentations and public speaking, given by a male public speaking instructor. As I posted elsewhere on this thread, my agency is very casual, so for trainings, nice jeans and a solid tee and jacket are the norm for women, nice jeans and a button up are the norm for men. Most of the people in the meeting were scientists.

        The public speaking professor berated the group for 20 minutes on not being professional, not wearing suits or ties, etc. He told them that no one would take them seriously if they weren’t wearing a suit.

        His suit was horribly wrinkled, and he came back from lunch covered in food. He also spent a good part of the day talking about audience analysis, and adapting to the situation you’re in. Needless to say, if he was after credibility, he got very little of it.

        I think the key in situations like that is to look comfortable and put together. I often layer in a way that I can quickly dress up or dress down an outfit if I’m not sure what I’m heading into. I don’t normally wear a lot of makeup anyway, but when I know I’m on the way to a casual meeting, I’ll skip the eye-liner and make sure that the rest of my eye makeup is neutral.

  15. It looks like, at least in part, a failure in employee management. I don’t imagine the woman in the article dressed more formally every previous day of her employment and that this was the first instance of her misreading her office. I wonder if a heads-up when she started working there would have nipped this in the bud. (That said, I wasn’t impressed with her defense in which she sounded self-righteous, not surprised, by the standards.)

    • I agree – depending on your industry, “business casual” can mean almost anything. Reminds me of a wedding invitation I got that said the dress was “dressy casual”. In both cases, if read literally, those words mean the opposite of each other. It also varies wildly by region. If I were dressing inappropriately for the job, I would want someone to pull me aside and tell me – before we were walking into a meeting that I wasn’t properly dressed for.

      I’m actually a fan of written dress-codes, or at least guidelines that have examples of appropriate dress. My agency’s dress code is just “dress appropriately for your office.” Um, thanks.

  16. Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law– “Dress for Success Chapter” (this is literally the entire chapter).

    “I don’t care what you look like as long as the brief is good.”

  17. Because everyone’s outrageous stories seem to be about assistants, I’ll share one about someone who is superior to me. As context, we work in local government where people dress all over the board. This is more, “I think she got dressed in the dark” than inappropriate:
    Hair, obviously greasy
    Light blue button down
    Light yellow cardigan, poorly fitting
    Dark green and blue plaid pants. Seriously.

    I was sitting in a meeting with her and couldn’t stop staring. While she is not someone who’s style I would ever emulate, it’s usually not this bad. And for the sensitive: yes, I am being catty and judgmental. :-)

    • Anonymous :

      Wonder if this is a depression or psych issue. In all seriousness, maybe her life is rough and she’s given up.

      • Oh, I don’t know. There’s more than one senior female partner at my firm who dress in ways that would have Stacey and Clinton on What Not To Wear using a backhoe to dump their wardrobe into the garbage can at the beginning of the show. They’re not depressed, though; they’re just senior in their profession, don’t care about clothes, and are good enough that they don’t actually have to care. They’re at the point where their reputation, seniority, and work speak for themselves.

        • Plenty of chaired, tenured profs dress like this: elastic waist pants, polo shirts, baggy mid-length skirts with sneakers, wildly striped socks, crazy hats… and sometimes all at once! They’ve made it, and now they’re gonna do what they want.

          I was *amazed* when one of those profs gave me advice about dressing for my new job. She told me that in the early days, she always wore skirt suits with heels, hair in a bun. Now you’re more likely to find her in a tie-dyed t-shirt.

    • Anonymous :

      We have one employee like that. She’s very high level and has twin toddlers, so some days she will look like she just rolled out of bed and threw on the first thing she found. It’s not that she doesn’t know how to dress or is depressed, but sometimes she just doesn’t have the time.

  18. business hanging out :

    The worst I’ve seen is a woman with a very generous hourglass figure wearing a spandex dress that hit mid-thigh in the front, and about 2 inches below derierre (sp?) in the back! Every step she took swooshed the back of the dress up another half inch, and I just worried that at any second her “business” would be all over the office! Why, WHY would you think this is a good idea? To be fair, this same woman also wore the type of strappy tank top one would normally wear under a completely buttoned shirt (in case of gaps) as her shirt for the day. She had a thin jacket over it, but you could see EVERYTHING. Again, “business” all over the office!

    • sounds like you’re talking about my boss!

    • Anonymous :

      I’ve seen pencil skirts where the slit is cut too high in the back and The Business is clearly on display.

      • This very much needs to become a Corporette meme. For business, you must dress to cover The Business, at all times.

        • I would say, unlike everything else that is a relative contraindication and the sage advice of “know your office/culture,” covering The Business is something we can all agree on. This thread has made me giggle more than once today.

    • downtownist :

      I actually have seen The Business once. A coworker wore a skirt suit with much too short pencil skirt to work and subsequently to a patio happy hour. The pencil skirt barely covered her butt, and when the wind picked up the right way, I saw buttcheeks more than once. I was mortified (kept thinking – what if she wore that suit to a client event?) but didn’t know how to tell her that the booty, it was a-showing.

  19. Huge pet peeve:
    I’m not a “real” corporette. I manage a dog daycare, and when I have office and marketing days I get to wear my nice grown up clothes. All other days I’m a uniform diva.
    BUT…just because the uniform for my employees is jeans and logo tshirt, doesn’t mean you get to be covered in dirt or holes. I work with a lot of 18-20 year olds, and they honestly don’t know what professionalism is. Part of my job is to teach them, so when they’re done with college and start their jobs they don’t embarrass themselves in the corporate world.

    • Hey Anonnynonny :

      If you’re achieving anything…you’re a real corporette.

    • You are living my dream. I debated opening a dog daycare before they became popular. There was only one in my state and it was just $5 a day at the time! I decided to go to law school instead. Now every major city has 5+ dog daycares and they charge $20+ per day per dog. Sigh.

    • For some reason, dropping my dog off at daycare makes me reevaluate my life choices every day…why am I working a job I hate so I can pay other people to spend all day with a dog I love? I am totally envious of you, Atlantia. Rock on.

  20. I work at a bank, and we had someone get injured. She showed up for the next little while bra-less, and with no shirt under her jacket. Other times, she would wear a cut-to-the-sternum sweater and no bra, and she couldn’t get away with the no-bra thing any more than my grandmother could have. I was completely astounded.

    • Oh, I forgot to mention she had her arm in a sling. Apparently that was her excuse for showing up without her clothes on.

      • It sucks, but I can kind of see it – if you live alone and your arm is hurt badly enough that you can’t get on a bra or a shirt, your options are limited (though there must surely have been some sort of shirt she could have gotten on the same way as the jacket or sweater . . . .)

      • When my arm was in a sling, my roommates dressed me and my boyfriend washed my hair. I never thought about how impossible it would have been if I lived alone. In retrospect, I probably would have asked a friend to stay with me or asked a coworker to meet me at the office early to help me button up.

  21. tranquiljd :

    I used to work for a firm that set an all-time low in terms of appropriate dress for the office. The dress policy was “business professional” during most of the year. However, on non-court/EBT/client meeting days during the summer, we could dress casually, the interpretation of which was left to the individual. The associates and support staff handled things well. Men tended to wear either khakis or dress jeans with polo shirts and blazers. The women wore sheath dresses, knee-length skirts, dress jeans, dress pants, nice tops, with cardigans or blazers. Then, there were the partners. One partner, who was the oldest in age yet the youngest in terms of seniority, always dressed nicely. The others? Shorts. Bermuda shorts. On men over 50. With the worst legs you’ll ever see inflicted on human beings. My supervising partner was the youngest (46) and had a penchant for madras shorts, topsiders, and Yankees team player shirts, all of which were apparently purchased in his sophomore year in college, judging from their condition. Worst thing about it is that they dress casually ALL YEAR ROUND – they consider it a perk. When I was interviewed, my partner wore a faded checked shirt and jeans that looked as if he’d spent the previous day wearing them to clean out the garage. I honestly believed that he was an HVAC repair guy when he first walked into the room.

  22. Another no-no: unwashed hair! This should be obvious but I’m amazed at how many otherwise well-dressed attorneys have greasy, unkempt locks..

    • Would be a bird nest with daily washed hair :

      I think unkempt is the key word here. I don’t wash my hair more than once or twice a week in winter (more often in summer), but I style it every day/keep it neat and I doubt most people would ever know I didn’t wash it every day.

  23. I’d agree with you on the flip flops and any gym wear. But aren’t jeans what everyone means when they say “casual Friday?”

    • Not everyone. I think it’s a know your work place kind of deal. “Casual Friday” for my job means a dress (non-suiting variety — can be wrap or shirtwaist, etc.), or a skirt + sweater, or plain pants (*not* jeans or cords) and a cardigan, etc. Never ever jeans.

  24. Sydney Bristow :

    I saw a woman wearing a tie-dye floor length dress and another woman wearing black suede pumps that had clear lucite heels to our swearing-in ceremony. We were explicitly told that business formal dress was required. The woman with the shoes didn’t stand out until we were lining up to sign the book. The woman wearing tie-dye however, stood out right away. Definitely not in a good way.

  25. For those of you the other day who were looking for maxi dresses/skirts – I ordered this long skirt from old navy, and it is AMAZING. Very soft, flowy, and the cut is unbelievably flattering. Don’t know how long it will last, but I plan on wearing it to death. I do wish it came in more colors… I usually only wear Old Navy for tees to wear as cover ups/to work out, but I’m really pretty impressed with this skirt. As a bonus, hubby loved it too!

    http://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=55402&vid=1&pid=839715&scid=839715002

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