What Women Should and Shouldn’t Wear in the Workplace

Women are making strides in the workplace, yet selecting what to wear remains a challenge. “Clothing is an overlooked component in many women’s professional life,” says Mary Lou Andre, head of Organization by Design. In a world where first impressions count for everything, appearance is important. Whether you’re heading to a meeting, business dinner, or just to the office, keep on reading so you’ll know what women should and shouldn’t wear in the workplace.

Dress for the company and avoid clothes that clash with your corporate culture.

all white business suit with navy coat

classic gray coat with office outfit creative plaid office suit with button down shirt

Women should convey professionalism, but when it comes to dressing for work, there’s no such thing as one size fits all. What flies in one office might not work so well in another so you have to dress for the company that is paying your salary and avoid clothes that clash with your corporate culture. While conservative workplaces like investment banks still require conservative suits, creative flair is expected in fields such as advertising, fashion, or film. Like fashion blogger Nicole Warne, a plaid print suit can be stylish and professional enough if you’re working in a creative field.

Wear something that fits you well to give you that extra boost of confidence.

cardigan with classic dress winter coat with designer scarf and boots

When choosing work outfits, stick to items with a contemporary cut and avoid anything that is ill-fitting or too large. If your clothing is overly revealing, you may have difficulty getting attention for your ideas. However, if your clothing is shapeless, you’ll end up looking sloppy. So, think of taking store-bought clothes to a tailor. Remember, even celebrities get their clothes tailored, and there’s actually very few people can just go into a store and throw something on and look good.

Vary your designer pieces and shop at different stores to create looks that are fresh.

classic coat with gray boots and designer scarf zebra print cape with all black outfit

When shopping for the office, most women head straight for the same designer or store, wearing the same old designers again and again and again. Don’t forget that a work wardrobe begins with great basics. So, vary your designers and shop at different stores to create looks that are fresh. Like fashion blogger Lydia Elise Millen, think of wearing your zebra print cape with an all-black outfit one day, and team it with an all white outfit the other day. Or, spice up your classics with a designer scarf that will add some flair to your style.

Unless you work in fashion, going timeless is the best choice.

classic black dress with gray coat camel coat with striped top and dressy pantsclassic coat with fur scarf

Unless you work in fashion, wearing the latest trends can overshadow your work accomplishments. Rory Tahari, vice chairman and creative director of the fashion brand Elie Tahari, says women tend not to give themselves the freedom to express their own personal style. “Women shouldn’t be afraid to take a risk now and then with color, prints and fabrics, as you are a woman, you don’t have to dress like a man,” he says.

Avoid taking Casual Friday too far.

all black outfit with cardigan and skinny scarfleather trousers with black blouse and classic coat

Some dress codes are relaxed at many companies, and business casual is now the norm in many workplaces every day of the week. But, don’t interpret business casual as dressing for a Saturday afternoon. Limit jeans or leather trousers to Fridays and make sure they’re neat. Just remember that you never know when a meeting with a client will spring up or when you’ll have to drop by an unscheduled evening event with colleagues. By taking these things into consideration, you’ll be able to dress appropriately at your workplace.

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