“To me, clothing is a form of self-expression—there are hints about who you are in what you wear.” -Marc Jacobs
“Dress for the job, you want and not the one you have.”
“Dress how you want to be addressed.”
These two are just a fraction of the slew of the corporate adages one would hear when it comes to the advocacy in power dressing in the office. Nowadays, corporate fashion is no longer limited to smart looking outfits and dapper suits, today it has extended its meaning well beyond that and has ventured towards quirkier and more interesting styles. After all, walking in the office day in and out then seeing it largely dominated by neutral colors such as gray, white and black can feel incredibly dull and stiff. Today, contemporary and modern fashion has incorporated the use of colors and mainstream trends into corporate style. However, this is not to say that everything you can find in casual fashion and street style wears are acceptable outfits for the office. So, do not make the novice mistake of haphazardly dressing yourself up in random retail or wholesale clothing and think it would be an appropriate outfit for work lest you commit a fatal corporate fashion faux pas.
To have a better idea of what these corporate style faux pas are, it is best if you have an idea of what the most common style errors in the office are so as to prevent to committing them yourself. Take note however that some may not resonate differently with you, but as it is in the corporate world, there are unspoken rules—even when it comes to your manner of dress.
1.) Too Casual Clothing
No matter how relaxed the dress code of your office is, there is still a business standard to what would look acceptable in a corporate setting. If your outfit looks like you might as well just be going out of your house for a brief walk, then you might as well rethink wearing it. It might be too hot to wear stockings during the summer, but that does not mean you can trade them for flip-flops instead. At the very least, wear closed shoes instead. Remember, your company (no matter its dress code) is still presenting a professional image and employees in shorts and flip flops—even on a hot summer day, shows the contrary.
2.) Inappropriate style for age
There is absolutely nothing more jarring to see than a woman in her forties garbed in a style reminiscent of today’s teenagers or youth. This does not mean to say that middle-aged women are forever constrained to wearing dull and boring styles that would seemingly age them, but they must draw the line where they would not look too mincing. After all, you would want to present a confident and powerful image so it is only expected that you would want to be taken seriously which would be a lot easier if you sported the sophisticated and professional look.
3.) Too provocative clothes
There is a reason why mini skirts, halter tops, and cleavage-baring tops are absolutely not allowed in the office. Apart from being a major visual distraction to many of your colleagues, you would make your office look like a nightclub scene instead. If your skirts hitch a little too high and if you cannot bend without showing your undies, you might want to reconsider wearing them to work (unless you plan on wearing hosiery on your legs). Similarly, if bending down gives anyone a generous view of your bosom then refrain from wearing it. All in all, if the outfit is something you would wear to the club on a Friday or Saturday night, then you might as well not wear it to work.
4.) No sense of personal hygiene
You can be as low-maintenance as you want, but that does not mean you should forego all the basics of self-care and personal hygiene altogether. More often than not, how you take care of yourself impacts your credibility, and you lose that when you do not do any personal care. Do a self-assessment and see if your hair is brushed, your nails polished (or at least clean) and your general appearance looks well groomed, and you are likely to look sharper, more professional and worthy of your position and role (whatever it might be).
5.) Strong perfume
Smelling great is nice, but sometimes when a scent becomes too overwhelming, it tends to have an overpowering effect that can be irritating to some of your co-workers—particularly those with sensitive noses. An incredibly strong perfume can be a distraction at work and can be the main source of chronic headaches in your immediate work vicinity. If you find that you are easily tracked or identified whenever you walk into a room, you might need to tone down the dosage or application of your perfume.
6.) Noisy and huge accessories
If your accessories tend to jangle whenever you do the slightest movement, they might be more in place inside a nightclub than in your office. Office etiquette dictates that you should wear minimal jewelry and probably refrain from wearing anything too flashy. When it comes to accessorizing for the office, stick to muted and more professional looking designs and save your huge and noisy ones for parties and weekend soirees.
7.) Wearing excessive or no makeup at all
Makeup is an excellent tool for upgrading our looks and making us feel beautiful as a consequence. However, in a corporate setting, it is best to apply light to moderate makeup. Never overdo your makeup as it would look hardly professional. Rather than look confident in your smokey eyes, dark red lipstick and thick foundation for your morning meeting, you would look like you are trying to score a date instead. Similarly, it is also not advisable to go to the office sans makeup—especially if you look like you were just got out of bed and went immediately to your cubicle.
Regardless of whether your office has a strict dress code or not, the set of mistakes illustrated above is universally regarded by most businesses as something unacceptable in their corporate offices. After all, when it comes to your manner of dress, you are not only presenting a brief impression of yourself—but your credibility and your respectability as well.