Dressing appropriately for work can be challenging for many people, especially if you’re new to the workforce or a particular industry. Different industries have different expectations and requirements. For example, a law firm is likely to require much more corporate and professionaldress than a tech start-up might.
One of the best things you can do is observe how others dress and slowly modify your own wardrobe or clothing choices to adapt to the environment. (If you’re going in for the interview and don’t know what kind of place it will be, read our tips on what to wear to the interview). There are also some good, general rules to dress appropriately for work, no matter what the environment.
1. The Basics
The basics are clean, properly fitted clothes. Whether you work in an office that promotes casual dress (think t-shirt and jeans) or in a highly corporate environment where suits are required, making sure your clothes are clean and fit properly is a must.
Too tight clothing is uncomfortable to wear and doesn’t look appropriate, whereas too loose clothing looks sloppy and, depending on the environment, could even be a job hazard. Dirty clothing can make the wearer look slovenly and may in fact violate the organization’s hygiene policy.
No matter what you’re wearing, these two basic tips are keys for dressing appropriately in every work environment.
2. Wear Comfortable, Appropriate Shoes
When it comes to shoes to wear to work, comfort, appropriateness for the environment, and safety are key concerns. Do you find it hard to wear and walk in stilettos? Does your work have any hazards that might require you to wear safety boots? Are you client-facing? Do you need to walk a lot?
These are all important considerations to help you determine the best shoe for your needs. Safety comes first–if floors are slippery at work, or there are other safety hazards, choose shoes that have some traction and that can protect your toes from falling objects.
The second key is to observe what others are wearing. Is it more of a polished high heel/dress shoe work environment, or a sneakers one? Whichever it is, you can ultimately find something that is both comfortable and reflective of your own style.
Remember: if everyone else in your office wears stilettos, that does not mean you have to– especially if you find it hard to walk in them. The worst thing you can do is put yourself in a position where you can trip or fall. So if you feel the need to wear heels, opt for a smaller, wider heel and, if comfortable, move up to a pencil heel when you’re ready.
3. Avoid Clothing with Rude, Offensive or Controversial Graphics or Text
As coworkers, we’re all responsible for making sure we do our part to make the workplace comfortable for everyone. Wearing something overtly offensive means that you’re making some or all of your coworkers uncomfortable. Such behaviour may even result in disciplinary action.
It is best to keep all political, rude, sexual, or otherwise obnoxious clothing at home. If you’re unsure about the appropriateness of a particular item, skip it.If you really want to wear it, first discuss it with HR and find out whether or not it would be appropriate.
4. Avoid Clothing and Accessories that Make Noise
Whether it’s a bracelet with a few too many charms on it, or pants that make a loud, swishy sound every time you take a step, these noises can be awfully distracting for others (and even you). Making sure you’re wearing comfortable materials that fit nicely, and accessories that don’t jingle, goes a long way to ensuring sure you’re dressed appropriately for work.