How to Step Up Your Working Wardrobe

How do you step up your wardrobe when you want to be considered for a promotion or raise? Reader U wonders for her business casual office…

I work at a company where there are no strict guidelines to what we should wear. Most days, we are fine wearing casual to business casual. Even with my position as a forecasting specialist, i am not requested to wear something more formal. Jeans with a formal top or a dress are my go-to when we are requested to wear something more presentable. However, I am applying for a supervisory position and have start wearing more formal clothes, specially because I need to be at my best. What is the most appropriate clothing that I could look presentable enough but won’t look like I’m trying hard to impress people? Slacks don’t really fit me well – tiny gal with longer torso. Thanks!

We’ve talked about how to look professional in a laid-back office, how to transition your wardrobe from a very conservative workplace to a more casual office,  as well as how to look professional without being overdressed, but we haven’t talked, directly, about how to step up your wardrobe when you want to be seen as more managerial.  I’m particularly interested to hear what the readers say here.  For my own $.02, this is how I would approach it: [Read more...]

How to Wear Ankle Length Pants to Work

how not to wear cropped pants for workCan you wear slim ankle length pants with a blazer to look professional? Reader M asks a pertinent question:

Can you comment on how to wear slim ankle length pants with a blazer to create a professional look? I tried this last week and missed the mark because my shoes were too casual I think. Would love your input on this.

Oi.  OK.  We know I’m not 100% on board with this trend, generally thinking that cropped pants are too casual for very conservative offices.  That said, logic dictates that they’re here to stay, so we may as well talk about how to look as professional as you can in them.  So I just looked at a zillion pictures of cropped pants — some by themselves, some with matching blazers, and a very few with mismatched blazers, and I have a few notes.  But first, let’s look at the picture above, which I think shows some of the worst styling mistakes I’ve seen, and demonstrates both rules really well: [Read more...]

What to Wear with a Black Dress

1What do you wear with a black dress? Reader L has what might seem like a silly question at first…

Hi, I have a silly question, but could you talk about what colors you wear with a black dress? I like saturated bright and jewel-tone colors, and combining them with black feels too stark, so I get a lot more wear out of navy blue, charcoal, and black prints than solid black. But I’m looking to incorporate a more polished, professional style into my work wardrobe, and excluding black limits my options for basic work dresses a lot. I’m always cold in the office so dressing in layers is a must, but the only thing I have that seems appropriate is one gray blazer. What else should I look for to layer over black dresses? I’m a designer in the tech industry, so I have a lot of leeway, style-wise. Thanks for your help!

We’ve talked about what to wear with a gray suit, but we haven’t talked about what to wear with a black dress. I know Sally at Already Pretty had a post a while back on “wearing black with intention,” and Angie at YouLookFab has also tackled the issue. I’m going to be less refined than either of those two fine ladies, though, and say: whatever you want. [Read more...]

‘Geek Chic’ Glasses and the Office

2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter - ArrivalsCan you wear hipster/geek chic eyeglasses to the office — especially if you’re young?

I’m hoping for your input on a quandary I’m having. I’m starting my first real job this summer so trying to build an adult wardrobe now. I am nearsighted and strongly prefer glasses to contacts for everyday wear. I love my (only) current pair; they’re big and plastic and perfect for me. But can I pull off “geek chic” in a professional (though not very conservative) environment, especially as a 21 year-old intern?

As a fellow glasses wearer, I’m curious to hear what the readers say here.  I think that ‘geek chic’ glasses can be great — I’ve even recommended them to a reader who was wondering how to to make her look edgier.  However, there is a sliding scale with these things.  The wackier the glasses are, the more that people will remember (and form opinions about you) based on your glasses, at least at first.  In other words: if a particular boss thinks you look like a bit odd/hipster/weird/[insert negative word here], you are probably not going to get a lot of work with that person.  You may say, “fine, I wouldn’t want to work with someone that stodgy anyway!,” and an outward statement about your personality can be a great way to whittle down who you work with.  (Glasses are in a different ballpark than heavily tattooed arms, but you may want to check out that discussion as well.)    That said… you don’t want to be so limited that only a few people in the office want to work with you — so if your office is filled with more “stodgy” types than not, you need to exercise caution.  (And just in terms of style, I personally prefer not to have a certain pair of glasses be my trademark, but that’s just my $.02.)  (Pictured above: I was sort of surprised to see Jenna Lyons wear what I would classify as geek-chic eyeglasses to an Oscars party, but if they become your trademark look then I suppose it’s weirder not to wear them.)

So here would be my approach:  wear multiple pairs of glasses.  [Read more...]

Business Casual — Without Being Overdressed

someecards.com - Are sleeping bags business casual? How do younger women do “business casual” in a male-dominated environment — without ending up looking like the mom (or younger sister) of the group?  Reader S asks:

I have a question about work attire: is it possible to be “over-dressed” for work? Without getting in to too much detail, I work for a medium sized engineering firm as an engineer. I am the only female engineer in my group so it’s really hard for me to gauge what would be deemed appropriate work attire for my office. Most of the men dress business casual (as in jeans, or khakis at best, and a polo shirt- even on client meeting days) during the weekdays, with casual Fridays being jeans and a t-shirt. I usually wear dress pants, and an appropriate top; Fridays I wear jeans and an appropriate top. Am I overdressed? The only other person who wears dress pants is the group manager. I should mention I’m only 3 years in to my career.

I can totally see this being a problem. The guys are wearing jeans and polos and look like regular workers — meanwhile, if you wear jeans and a t-shirt you end up looking like their scrappy younger sister, and if you wear trousers and a nice top you look like the mom of the group.  We’ve covered whether you can dress “too nice” for work, and also how to transition to business casual from a more conservative environment, but I don’t think we’ve really talked about this exact question.

For my two cents, here are a few tips — I’m really curious to hear what the readers have to say on this one, though. [Read more...]

What “Business Casual” Means for Students Who Are Networking

Shirred Side Cowlneck SweaterA lot of companies and networking groups have parties for students over the holidays — I can remember attending more than a few in my younger years.  The perennial question, as Reader N wonders:  what do you wear when it says “business casual attire”? Perhaps more importantly, what things shouldn’t you wear for winter networking events?

I’m a college student who is interested in finance, and go to a lot of information sessions for banks. The dress code is usually business casual or business attire. Other than just wearing a suit, what can be appropriate in these situations? A dress like this Metallic T-Shaped Tunic Sweater from Express (picture) or this Merona Sleeveless Empire Dress (picture) with tights and a jacket? Black slacks and a nice sweater?

This is a great question, and I want to start by saying, again, that when you’re networking — at least for a conservative job — the goal is is for your clothes to be muted enough that people remember your brains (or your words or your resume), NOT your outfit.  A few basic rules, just responding to your question: [Read more...]