The things you should never wear to work
Dress for your dream job, not the living room couch. Here’s how to be appropriate and comfortable at the same time.
The increasing casualisation of the world is creeping into the workplace, in particular when it comes to fashion.
I used to be really hardcore about what was appropriate to wear to work, especially in a corporate environment, but I’m trying to loosen up.
• Our guide to what to wear at every age
• Why Cleo was Australia’s best women’s magazine
• Forget budgie smugglers, THIS is Australia’s national uniform
• Miranda Kerr goes nude for Harper’s Bazaar – again
It seems every day is casual Friday now. I am still of the belief that if you try just that little bit harder, you’ll shine just that little bit brighter.
People respond more positively toward someone who looks polished and professional, and that can still mean comfortable.
But there are some workplace dress debacles that are unforgivable.
No. There are many creative workspaces that are cool with thongs, but maybe pitch just that little bit higher. Try Birkenstocks instead. At least they have a little bit of an ironic Celine vibe about them.
2. Long beach dresses
My pet peeve. I hate them, even at the beach. They look sloppy and cheap.
Yes, they can be worn in certain workplaces, of course. But dress them up. Wear them with a jacket, or a crisp white shirt, or a high-heeled sandal. Think smart casual, not “I just got off the couch and found a cleanish t-shirt to go with them”.
4. Short skirts
Even if you have the best legs in the world, that is not what you want everyone to notice about you first. Your colleagues should be looking at your face, and marveling at the incredibly smart remarks coming from your mouth, not staring at your crotch.
5. Dirty, scuffed shoes
It doesn’t matter if they’re Louboutins or Reeboks, they should be pristine.
6. Piles of cheap jewellery
Just one or two statement pieces are enough. I once worked with a woman who wore truckloads of chain store jewellery, all at once. One day I spied a rather nice bracelet in amongst the pile of junk that was clattering on her wrist and remarked that it was pretty. As it turned out, it was a piece of vintage Chanel her mother had given her. It was being obscured by all the other landfill tat. Just wearing that, alone, would have been much more chic.
These are at-home clothes. Activewear is not going to get you that promotion.
8. Clothes that don’t fit
Have things taken in, taken out, taken up. One of the most elegant men I know always took any new suit to his tailor to be tapered to fit him perfectly. It’s a small cost and will make an off-the-rack suit look bespoke.
9. Cut-off shorts
Here’s the thing. Cut-off jean shorts, worn over black tights, does not make them work appropriate. Commit to a whole pair of jeans.
10. Anything that isn’t laundered
It doesn’t matter if it’s Saint Laurent, if it’s grubby, you’re on the back foot.
The workplace dress code
Dressing well does not have to mean looking stitched up. It’s about a mix of comfortable and classic – a denim shirt with a tie, white jeans with a blazer and loafers, a striped sweater with a denim skirt and a wedge heel. A simple cotton shirt, with men’s-style tailored pants and flat brogues. Simplicity often makes strongest statement, and then the addition of a favourite accessory makes it you.
There are also some key pieces to own and fall back on. These include:
• A soft leather jacket.
• A cashmere sweater
• A classic trench coat
• One great work bag, the most expensive you can afford.
• A silk scarf.
• Piles of white, navy and black tshirts.
Oh. And a lint remover.