Could Dressing Too Well For Work Actually Hurt Your Career?

A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.-Coco Chanel


On this site we are always talking about how important it is to dress well for work. According to a new infographic from Highest Paying Careers, 65% of bosses say that dress could be the deciding factor between two similar job candidates. But could dressing too well ever hurt you? For example, let’s say you are in an entry-level job and having been trying to get promoted. Now, hopefully, you haven’t used need more money as an excuse because that might hurt you when you come in every day with a Louis Vuitton Speedy and Christian Louboutin heels. A totally clueless boss may not notice but, if he or she doesn’t then your coworkers will and they may wonder why you should be promoted over them, because you clearly don’t need the money (even if that may not be the case.) We talked to some women who felt that their expensive wardrobes may have hurt their careers.

A woman, who chose to remain anonymous, told The Grindstone, she had to curb her wardrobe when she worked as a financial reporter.

“I had this old, curmudgeonly man boss who just looked for things to criticize. I had a few nice bags but actually a lot of them were fakes, but really good fakes. I was carrying one one day and he said something like, “We don’t pay you enough to afford a bag like that. Maybe we should stop paying you.” I never brought that bag to work again.”

A few years ago our friends over at Corporette posted this exact question when a summer associate at a big firm in Singapore asked whether she should bring her Birkin to work. Just in case you forgot, the Birkin is a $10,000 bag that most people have to get on waiting lists for (recall the infamous Sex & the City episode with guest star Lucy Liu.) Corporette responded:

“[O]ur main hesitation towards carrying a Birkin bag at a young age is that it conveys something about you that isn’t necessarily a good thing: you’re rich. Or perhaps your parents are rich, or your fiance. Still: you’re not working for the money.”

The consequence, adds Corporette, is that the summer associate will have to prove herself even more: “You might also find that your personality, your wardrobe, your attitude, and everything else about you will be under extra scrutiny as people try to reconcile their first impression of you (rich girl, maybe a materialistic girl) with whatever else your work product says about you.”

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    • imadime

      this is b.s. – women need to stop working against one another in the workplace and look for opportunities to help one another out. stop paying attention to what kind of bag or shoes someone else is wearing and worry about the quality of their work and whether you might be able to learn something from them.

      and note to this kind of media: stop perpetuating this b.s. & pretending that what you’re doing is trying to “help” professional women. this kind of narrative does nothing of the sort.

    • mm

      Does it really matter? Work harder to prove that you’re more than a little rich girl. It’s hard – I always have to do that – but it’s better than changing how you dress. So what if I have multiple pairs of Chanel sunglasses and only high-end purses? If my work is above par, what right does anyone have to judge? Then again, I live in LA and work in corporate with a clothing brand…so it’s not as much of a red flag to anyone there. My boss carries a Prada bag every day. Even if she didn’t though…I don’t think people should change their taste to appease others (unless you’re going to work in hooker heels and mini dresses, that’s just inappropriate). In terms of dressing well, it’s no one else’s business and for all they know you just spend every penny you own on clothes and live with your parents.

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