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What Not to Wear…to Work!

It is amazing how the warm weather can cause even the most sensible people to make the worst wardrobe decisions!  We hear more complaints this time of year on dress code violations, both from employees and supervisors, than any other time of year. Yep, that means that your co-workers may be complaining about you! Not only do some feel it isn’t fair that another person is wearing something that violates the policy, but it can also cause distractions and conversations that can impact productivity and possibly your chances for promotions. Some studies say you have as little as 90 seconds to make a first impression, and in those 90 seconds it is purely how you look that counts.

Now that the warm spring and summer days are upon us it is time (if you haven’t already) to go through your closet and make sure your wardrobe is “work ready.” This applies to both men and women, but women seem to have the most challenges when it comes to appropriate attire for summer months.

There is something to be said about your appearance saying you are “here and ready” to work. In today’s competitive job market, you can’t afford to loose a position because you made the wrong choice in the morning. A little extra detail in how you look may help you stand apart from someone else who brings the same experience as you. So let’s review some basics “rules” and tips for both men and women:

  • Casual dress doesn’t mean you wear the same clothes as you would to run errands. No t-shirts with writing or print; they are too casual and run the risk of offending.
  • Jean days can be tricky with the distressed and torn look being in fashion. If you don’t have a pair with no rips or holes, invest in a nice pair you have on hand for these occasions.
  • Pick out your clothes the night before. I know, this sounds “junior high,” but there is something to be said for the benefits of planning. You may identify a new outfit or a shirt tucked in the back of the closet you forgot about during the winter. Bonus – you can sleep a few minutes later in the morning, or better yet eat a good breakfast with your extra time!
  • Iron your cotton pants, skirts, and shirts. Nothing looks sloppier than cotton, a great summer fabric, than cotton that is all wrinkled.

Men – your list is smaller, but just as important!

  • If you need to wear a dress shirt, it doesn’t matter how hot it is, wear an undershirt (not a t-shirt with print so you can easily transform into evening attire). No one wants to see through your dress shirt.
  • Socks – white is never a good choice with dress shoes, never!  White socks are perfect for athletic shoes and that’s it.
  • If you tuck your shirt in, wear a belt and make sure it matches your shoes. It makes you look complete and the matching rules still apply to you!

A common complaint among many of our clients is that women have many more choices when it comes to summer attire, and therefore have many more opportunities for mistakes!  Beware of these pitfalls that could not only change how your boss views you, but could damage your credibility:

  • Too much cleavage. Summer tops and blouses tend to be a bit more revealing. Easy solution, wear a coordinating tank or sports bra underneath so you can wear your fashionable blouses yet remain within appropriate guidelines.
  • Sandals don’t mean thongs are OK. If a strap goes between your toes they are thongs and shouldn’t be worn to work. While we are on the subject, now that your toes are exposed, take a look to make sure your polish is fresh and feet are presentable. Seeing someone’s scaly feet under a cute skirt can leave a lasting impression, but not a good one.
  • Short skirts. Two inches above the knee is an appropriate length for the office. Anything shorter should be reserved for your evenings out.
  • You may giggle at this one, but I can’t make this up, it comes from a real-life situation. Make sure your undergarments can’t be seen from underneath your clothes. White pants and white shirts may require a bit more thought. Do you really want someone talking about the pattern you chose underneath? 
  • Year round reminders for women – be sure your make-up, perfume, and nail polish aren’t to the point of distraction. 

Remember, work is not a fashion show; it is a place where you are paid to produce something in order for your company to meet its business goals and objectives. This doesn’t mean you can’t be fashionable, it simply means you need to be a bit more conservative than we might be outside of work.

Patty North, CPC, Celebrity Staff Regional Manager

Patty North, CPC, Celebrity Staff Regional Manager

About Patty North
As the regional manager of Celebrity Staff, a leading staffing and recruitment firm, Patty North has assisted organizations across a four-state region with the development and implementation of best practice strategies in the areas of talent acquisition and talent management. Her collective insight and expertise on workforce planning, garnered from her 15 years in the staffing industry, has enabled clients ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 corporations to improve performance and gain a competitive advantage in their respective markets. Celebrity Staff is based in Omaha, Nebraska with offices located in Lincoln, Nebraska and Kansas City, Missouri.


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