There’s been controversy in the news recently, with some female employees having to take legal action for the right to wear flat shoes at work. Of course this is mainly a health consideration, but there’s a lot more going on where women, their clothes and the workplace collide. Women are, regrettably, judged more than men on their appearance and this leads to them having to work extra hard to compensate.
Despite this, and despite women being painfully aware of how they’re judged, they sometimes make mistakes with their office wear, drawing attention to their looks rather than their achievements.
Here are a few easy tips to help to overcome this problem; for the sake of fairness, the men should take a few pointers here, too!
Dress for your audience
You have to fit in with your corporate culture – you decided to work in it and your company pays your salary – so make sure you fit in. If you work in finance, you need to dress soberly and efficiently – no flowing scarves and big brooches. If your office space in SW1 is a creative hub you can be a bit more relaxed, but never take the risk of looking unprofessional – never make your clothes talk for you, no matter what your job is (unless you’re a catwalk model, obviously…).
Start with the basics – two suits, several shirts in neutral colours, as well as a couple of jackets, dark trousers, boots, heels (if you like them) and flats – and work it up from there.
Make sure everything fits
No-one is exactly the same shape as off-the-peg clothes and this is usually OK, but if you find that some tops are too tight, or too revealing, you might not make the right impact.
Similarly, if everything’s a bit too big, you look shapeless and careless. Whatever your size and shape, that’s what you work with; well-fitting clothes flatter any figure, so don’t be afraid to get things altered by a tailor if they’re just a bit out of whack. You’ll look and feel more confident.
Try timeless rather than trendy
You really don’t need to be bang up-to-date, unless you work in fashion. If you’re too trendy, this can make you look trivial or vain, or it may drown out your talents.
This doesn’t mean sackcloth or a man-suit, though. You can wear well-cut, classic suits, shirts and trousers but bring them up a bit with a fancy lining, or striking accessories. A black suit with a floral shirt, or a skirt suit with subtly patterned tights are business-like but feminine. You don’t have to dress like a man to be a success.
Dress-down Friday – treat with caution
Dress-down Friday is great, it allows you to relax for a day, save a bit on dry-cleaning and to show a bit of individuality. However, some people interpret this as onesie day, or dress like a scruff day…
Your office might still get important visitors, or you may have to go out to an appointment, so make sure that your look is smart casual, and that you have a suit jacket available to throw on just in case you are suddenly called upon to represent your company.