Mirrors and the Office

mirrors at officeAre mirrors too girly to have in your office? Which mirrors are best for the office? Reader A wonders…

I am six-months into my first post-school job and am (as per your advice) slowly decorating my office. I’d really like to have a mirror in my office to check my makeup before meetings, etc. But, I don’t want to look vain.

I work for the state and have what can only be describer as a cube-pretending-to-be-an-office (a large cube with a door). Any tips on mirrors that are decorative but not over the top, and won’t break the bank?

Fabulous question, Reader A! We’ve talked about the mirror trick for interviews, how to liven up your office walls, and how to bring furniture into the office, but we haven’t specifically talked about mirrors in the office.  I’m curious to hear what the readers say here, because I have one very specific experience that has completely set my thinking on this issue. Here’s the story: when I was a very new first-year associate, I went to the office of a male associate a few years older than me to get an assignment. We closed the door at some point and, as I went to leave his office, I realized with some shock that he had a full-length mirror propped up behind his door, just leaning against the wall. (I suppose it was “with some shock” because this particular associate was such a guy’s guy, and I would have been so worried that a mirror would make me appear too girly that I never even considered one for my burgeoning office.) THIS IS BRILLIANT, I thought — he could check for wardrobe malfunctions (or, ahem, barn door issues), check for spinach in his teeth, etc. I bought a $10 mirror at Bed Bath & Beyond the next weekend, and never looked back. (And that male associate went on to great things, so his career was in no way limited by his mirror.  Instead, perhaps his career was aided by the lack of spinach in his teeth.)

So, for my $.02: if you have a door and a wall, lean the mirror against the wall behind the door — no one will see it unless they’re leaving your room after a closed-door meeting. I suspect the kind of mirror I’m talking about isn’t sold online — I swear I’ve seen them recently in huge stores like BB&B, Ikea, Target, and Walmart for not much more than $10, but perhaps it’s more common in fall when droves of kids are preparing their dorm rooms.  That said, for those of you (like me) who prefer to do most of your shopping online, there are many $40 mirrors available for sale online, including this nice over-the-door mirror pictured above (available at Amazon for $39.99 + $13 shipping).

Readers, what do you think? Are mirrors too girly (or vain) for the office? Should you get a more decorative mirror? Have you noticed mirrors in your coworkers offices?



  1. I think those decorative alumni mirrors also look completely appropriate in offices.

    • I would LOVE a new mirror, but not in our toilet. The onley office mirror we have is in the toilet that Frank camp’s out in most of the morning so if I realy need to check my lipstick, I do NOT use that mirror. I go out to the toilet in the hall, b/c our’s smells realy bad b/c of Frank’s poopie in there. FOOEY! The ONLEY time I realy can use the mirror by Frank is if I go in there BEFORE he gets in there and that is onley in the morning b/f I go to court. YAY unless he come’s in to look (or go), and then I get out of there quick! I can be very NIMBEL when I need to be. YAY!!!!!

  2. Anonymous :

    Isn’t this what a compact / the bathroom is for? I would find a full length mirror in an office really odd.

    • Odd Office :

      Our office furniture comes standard with a full length mirror on the inside of a cabinet. East Coast Biglaw, for reference.

    • Charlotte York :

      Same as Odd Office, I have a full length mirror in a cabinet. Full length mirrors are pretty standard in nicer built-in furniture. I’ve changed firms a couple of times and have been annoyed when I discovered the new place didn’t have the mirror I was used to having.

  3. Anonymous :

    I think it would also be appropriate to keep a handheld mirror in a desk drawer. Would work to catch spinach or flyaways, especially for people without a full office/door.

    • That’s what I do. I have a little framed mirror, like a decorative picture frame with about a 4″x4″ mirror instead of a picture. I used to just have it up on my bookshelf but needed the room for books and other decorations, so now it’s just in my desk. Although one can also use one’s cell phone camera to check for food in one’s teeth (have done that many times).

    • Odd Office :

      Agreed, if you are just using it for makeup checks, have a small mirror that has a stand in the back. It can live in the drawer or file cabinet until you need it. I haven’t tried this, but maybe you can put a mirror in a small (4×6) standing picture frame.

    • I have a little one for this purpose. I would totally have a full-length mirror if I had an office. Behind the door so it’s not in everybody’s face all the time.

      On the subject of mirrors, but outside the office: The first time I spent the night at the boyfriend’s place, I said “you can really tell this is a bachelor pad. No mirrors anywhere!” The next time I came over, he had mounted a full-length mirror on the back of the bedroom door, because “I want my place to be Parfait-friendly.” Aww.

      When he mounted some specially designated hat hooks in the entryway, that is when I knew he wanted me around for the long haul. “Because home is where you hang your hat,” he said. Aww.

    • People's Republic :

      This is what I do, too. Lipstick, food in teeth, flaky dry winter skin — all need a mirror now and then!

  4. Wildkitten :

    I would stare at myself all day long and never get any work done.

    • Ha — I once had a co-worker who kept a mirror in her office who was quite amused by the number of people who would look at themselves in her mirror rather than her when they were talking.

  5. I just can’t get behind this. I understand how it’s useful, but I feel like it just comes off really vain. I keep a compact in my desk to check for food in my teeth and flyaways, but a full on mirror is just out of place, especially in an office that’s more of a cubicle. This opinion may be colored by the fact that most of my colleagues don’t seem to care about appearance so I’d feel extra vain with a mirror in my office.

    • Agreed. Plus, any wardrobe malfunctions that occur during the day (untucked shirt, button open, skirt tucked into tights, etc) can be checked by glancing down at yourself or running your hands down the back of your skirt/dress. The only thing a full length mirror will identify is wardrobe malfunctions that you should have identified in your mirror at home, before you fixed the problem (sheer top/bottoms, etc).

    • agree. i work in an old school male manufacturing company. you’d look stupid and girly with a mirror. don’t do it.

  6. Former Navy Lieutenant :

    I’m planning on buying a full length mirror for behind my door, but I’ll probably wait until they hit the stores in August. Full length mirrors were common in offices military offices, where both men and women are concerned with looking smart in uniform.

    • Same for Naval Academy faculty offices. Not sure that _all_ have mirrors & mini-closets, but many do. “Concerned with looking smart in uniform” is not vanity, it’s an acknowledgment that proper appearance is part of the job. Civilian faculty too, BTW.

      • I am also in the camp that feels decorum should be the standard for everyone. It is not vain in the least.

        • I am a judge and have a full length mirror behind my door for the same purpose. Only wish I had done this when I was in practice!

  7. Le sigh. I really dislike the suggestion of this question that if something is too “girly” or “feminine” that it is bad and should not be in the workplace. How about “how clever of us to think about having a mirror to prevent wardrobe malfunctions” instead?

    • Wildkitten :

      Eh. Girls do not belong in the workplace. That’s why we have child labor laws.

      • HA.


    • I agree with that sentiment. Also, I just don’t think this is such a big deal. The only person I have seen with a mirror is a guy I used to work with in gov’t. There may have been others I just didn’t notice, because it was behind the door or just not very prominent (I only noticed this guy’s because we were friendly and would talk in his office a fair amount). If you want a mirror, buy a mirror.

  8. BankrAtty :

    All of the male attorneys in my office have mirrors–one has a full length mirror, the others just have mirrors on the wall.

    • I would think that for trial attorneys especially, this would be common.

  9. Legally Brunette :

    All of our offices come with a built in mirror (not full length, just big enough to see our face/shoulders). East coast Big Law.

  10. Senior Attorney :

    I have a great antique mirror I inherited from my father-in-law. It’s about four feet tall and 2 feet wide. I have it hanging next to my office door and it’s very convenient for checking my appearance as I’m leaving for meetings or whatever.

    • Me too. I have something like this hanging in both my office near the door and near my front door at home. It’s for checking myself before I leave.

      When other colleagues don’t have them in their offices, they have stopped in to use mine.


  11. I have a vanity mirror on my desk. Similar to this: http://www.amazon.com/Aquatico-Ferrara-Adjustable-Pedestal-Platinum/dp/B002BDU7DO/ref=sr_1_46?s=furniture&ie=UTF8&qid=1398363254&sr=1-46

    I work in a cube so I usually keep the magnifying side turned towards the wall. If you work in an office I’d just arrange it so that if someone was sitting across from you, they weren’t staring back at their reflection. (If that makes sense.)

    It seems to be the norm in my office, almost everyone has a vanity mirror or a small wall mirror at their desk. Handy for checking your teeth and also for keeping people from sneaking up behind you. ;) Our ladies’ room (and possibly the men’s room) has a full length mirror if I need one.

  12. If you have an office, I’d put a mirror opposite a window to reflect light, make the space seem bigger — same tricks as you’d use mirrors for in a home. It’s not “girly” or anything, it’s just refreshing decor with the side benefit of being able to check for stuff in your teeth on the way to a meeting.

    (That said, totally jealous of ppl with offices — working in high-tech, it’s 100% cubeville, no matter how high the pay grade. No real walls here.)

    • Philanthropy Girl :

      +1. I have a decorative mirror (maybe 16″x16″ plus frame) in my office that I use for reflecting light. It makes the space brighter. I have lots of large blank walls and my TJ Maxx find was a far better bargain than trying to fill them with canvases of framed artwork.

      That said, I don’t use it for make-up/wardrobe check or anything of that nature. I have a private bathroom (not because I’m that important, but because my office is a repurposed studio apartment in my senior care facility), which is where I go for any primping necessary. I do feel a bit silly checking my hair or tucking in my blouse with the number of people who parade past my office, so I appreciate the privacy of the bathroom for that sort of thing.

  13. Our office has a big full-length mirror right by the door, and by the elevator, so I’m covered, I see myself all over the place. What I really want is one of those big 3-way mirrors like they have in dressing rooms to put in my house, maybe one that hangs on the wall, but folds in so it doesn’t take up so much space. Has anyone seen anything like that for sale? I’ve looked around, but just haven’t seen anything, but haven’t made an extensive search yet.

    • I think Ikea has one.

    • Senior Attorney :

      You can also make your own easily using three cheap full-length mirrors and attaching them with hinges or velcro. Check Pinterest and you’ll find lots of how-tos.

    • You can get a similar effect by combining a wall-mounted mirror with a door-mounted mirror. I have a setup like that in my hallway. The door mirror is on the inside of a closet door, so it’s usually out of sight, but when I need to check out my rear view, I just open the closet door.

      Mount the door mirror first and lean the wall mirror on the wall until you’ve figured out the best placement for it.

      There are over-the-door mirrors that you just hang on the door, no drilling required. They would probably be great for cube walls too.

  14. I work in a cube setting that necessitates having my back to the “door.” I keep a small mirror pinned to the wall next to my monitor that lets me see who is approaching my cube. This keeps me from being startled every times someone walks quietly up to me and starts talking. It’s also helpful when I have headphones on.

    Everyone in my office knows what it is for, because I usually address them by name before I turn around.

    Sometimes I also use it for lipstick.

    • Anonylicious :

      I’m thinking about doing this because my office door is behind me and I hate it. (Two-person office, and as the FNG, I didn’t get to choose my desk.)

    • Agreed. The small mirror concept was first introduced to me by my coworker from China. She said it was for good feng shui, but it’s main use it to keep people from sneaking up on me.

  15. In my previous office my back was to the door, I had a mirror about 8 inches square mounted where I could see people approaching me.
    Now I am in a cube, I have the same mirror propped on an out-of-the-way ledge.
    I think this size is small enough to be unobtrusive but I can check out my appearance if needed.

  16. Anonylicious :

    I’ve been meaning to get a mirror because this whole “back to the door” thing is driving me batty.

  17. I put a large framed mirror on the wall in my office because it was inexpensive and easy way to decorate. I like it because it makes my office feel bigger and I can check my appearance before a meeting. I also meet with clients in my office, and I think they appreciate being able to check themselves before leaving (I practice family law and sometimes there are tears involved!).

  18. I work in finance at a large insurance company, and my cubicle is the first one people see when they walk in the door. Would it be too much to hang a Star Wars poster in my cube?

    • Wildkitten :

      There are many classy and professional ways to display Star Wars in your cubicle. I don’t know if a poster is one. I think after age 20 posters are only okay if they are framed, and I can’t fit a framed poster in my cube. Can you?

  19. Anonymous :

    I have noted with some dismay that people will ignore/not mention a completely fixable situation. I have teeth that do an amazing job of catching poppy seeds, spinach, herbs…you name it. BUT I forget that this happens. Is there a time when you would encourage someone to check a mirror?

    I have an iPhone and would not hesitate to switch the focus on the camera to look at my face, and I usually have a flossing sword/toothpick on me that I can use in private/discreetly.

    Last month I also tripped going up the stairwell. I was in a straight skirt and black tights. I had inadvertently added 1-2 inches with a rip in the rear vent. I didn’t notice a draft until I left for the day without a coat and was walking across a field to local baseball game. It wasn’t risque, and I wished someone had mentioned it because I had a pants suit that I could have switched into…thoughts?

  20. I think this is a know your office thing. I’m in East Coast Biglaw and our furniture does not come with mirrors. I can only think of one person in my entire 500 person office that has a mirror and it sticks out big time.

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