Office Etiquette: Avoid Style Blunders at Work

Office Etiquette is a weekly column focusing on the do’s and dont’s of office behavior. A well-respected workplace reputation should be a goal for everyone.

Work is a great place to look professional and classy, but it’s also a place where you can look trashy if you’re not careful. This is because the same fashion rules don’t apply in and out of the office, and even small style blunders can give coworkers the wrong impression about your abilities as an employee. To avoid an unprofessional reputation, steer clear of these fashion faux pas:

  1. Don’t show off your undies. An exposed bra strap is bad enough – especially one that’s animal print or neon. But a visible thong? Oh, the horror! To avoid showcasing your booty, wear higher waist pants and skirts, or wear longer shirts. If your pants are questionably low, do the “thong test” before work by leaning over and/or bending down in front of a mirror to see if it shows.
  2. Conceal your tattoos and piercings. If your body is drenched in ink, it may be impossible to cover all your tattoos. But if you can help it, cover those suckers up with long sleeves and pants to avoid looking too “rebellious”.  This is especially crucial during a job interview or a client meeting. If you have multiple piercings, consider taking them out during the workday, especially if they are in places such as 1) your tongue 2) your nose 3) your eyebrow 4) your lip.
  3. Don’t wear low-cut shirts. Save the cleav for the bars. Small-chested women tend to look less promiscuous in low-cut shirts because their cups don’t runneth over, but it’s still unadvised for all bra sizes.
  4. Don’t wear club outfits. Can I get you a glow stick with that bedazzled mini dress? A good rule of thumb is, “If you’d wear it to a club, don’t wear it to work.” Even tank tops are unacceptable for the office. In the hot summer months, wear a cardigan over your tank tops and dresses.
  5. Don’t under-dress. A lot of companies these days have casual dress codes. But this doesn’t mean you should wear your gym outfit to work. Sweatpants, tennis shoes, jeans with gaping holes and flip-flops are off limits. Many offices also have rules against wearing shorts, so be sure to check your company handbook.
  6. Don’t look like a clown. When applying makeup for work, natural is key. Don’t cake on the foundation, thick eyeliner, blue eye shadow or bright lipstick. Save the shocking makeup for the low light of the bars.
  7. Don’t go to work with wet hair. In the winter, your hair will freeze like a little Popsicle the second you step outside. In the summer, it may feel good to leave the house with wet hair, but coming into work with drenched locks just looks sloppy. (Believe me, I’ve come to work with a wet ponytail and felt the deep shame – and ugliness). If your hair is naturally curly and will frizz from the blow dryer, consider washing it the night before or waking up early enough to let it dry.
  8. Don’t wear the outfit you drank in. Who knows if your clothes really smell like booze after a night at the bars (maybe you unknowingly spilled alcohol on them). So just to be safe, don’t wear any unwashed jackets, pants, etc. to work that you wore to the bar the previous night. Otherwise, people may think you’ve been drinking on the job.
  9. Don’t over-accessorize. Coco Chanel is famous for saying something to the effect of, “Take one thing off before you leave the house.” Don’t overdue it with necklaces, earrings and bracelets. My rule is if my necklace is outrageous, I don’t wear earrings – and vice versa.
Share This Post: