Think about clowns for a moment. What are some of the characteristics of their dress?
Usually they wear bright make-up, mismatched clothes, gaudy colors, flashy shoes, crazy hair, baggy dress, and crazy patterns. While perfect for the circus, if you show up to the office wearing something like my picture on the left, you would probably get some strange looks. That, and you would probably be sent home to change.
I work at the local ACE Hardware store and when I put on my uniform, I’m expected to have my shirt tucked into my black jeans (or pants); have matching, well-kept shoes; and have my general appearance be neat. It is about how customers can recognize us as being the representatives of ACE Hardware. And you should be recognized as a good representative of the place where you work.
While most people wouldn’t go overboard and dress like clowns, many struggle with what is appropriate to wear at work for business dress. So here are a few guidelines that might be helpful:
Avoid big, bulky jewelry. No more than one piercing per ear for women, and no piercings for men. A good rule of thumb is that when leaving the house and wearing jewelry, before stepping out, take just one piece off.
Jeans, sweatpants, exercise pants, yoga pants, etc. are bad choices. The only exception is for jeans on some Casual Fridays. Then you should wear a pair of dark washed, unstained, and unripped pair of jeans and a nice blouse or button up shirt. No holes or stains should be visible. However, check with your office to see what is appropriate on Fridays.
Bright colors and busy patterns are usually not best to wear. If you wear a color, pair it with many neutrals, and avoid patterns like what I wear in the picture above. Simple, repetitive patterns are best.
Do not wear excessively short skirts. Skirt length should be at a minimum just above the knee.
Shorts are not acceptable in most offices. However, as with most of these points, check with your office to be sure.
Do not wear tight or revealing clothing. Women should avoid tight shirts and skirts and show no midriff or cleavage. Men should avoid super skinny jeans and skinny pants. Well tailored clothing, however, is a plus (more on that in the next post).
For women, avoid excessive make-up. Colorful eyeshadow and bright lip color should be toned down to more neutral shades.
Do not wear material that allows you to see through it. Any sheer material should have a shirt or slip underneath, or just choose something that you can’t see through.
Bib overalls, a red nose, a scarf in your hair, and big oversized shoes should probably be left at home. Enough said.
We often underestimate the power of what we wear. Many people identify us by the clothes we wear. I am not saying that we should pretend to be something that we are not, and I am not saying that we should be so shallow as to judge someone based on their clothing. However, I am suggesting that the way you dress indicates what you do.
If you dress in overalls and have a rag hanging out of your pack pocket, people might guess that you’re a mechanic or farmer.
If you wear an apron and white clothing, people might guess you’re a chef. If you wear a white coat with a stethoscope, people will guess that you’re a doctor.
If you wear business attire, then people will guess that you work at an office.
If you wear big oversized clothes, bright patterns, mismatched socks, bright colors, and big shoes, people will know you’re a clown.
PS–Here are two great resources to help you choose appropriate business clothing:
- “Business Attire” – UTA Career Services
- “From the Boss: Lessons in What Not to Wear” – The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 14, 2013
This is the second in a series of posts by senior Business Administration major Madalyn Bozdech. She is not a clown.