Around the office, the goal is to look like you're there to get the job done. This means that your sleek, polished and professional demeanor should be reflected in all your style choices. But how do you know what counts as professional? Pantsuits, matronly orthopedic shoes and shoulder pads? Of course not -- that's no fun. We'll admit that it can sometimes be hard to gauge the unspoken rules of office fashion. Fortunately, we're here to help. Next up, we'll take a look at some of the biggest office wardrobe crimes, as well as how to avoid committing them.
Jeans are gaining ground as acceptable office-wear, but while they're not technically dangerous in and of themselves, they can lead to more outrageous fashion crimes. Just consider denim the gateway drug of the fashion world. If you're a denim die-hard, keep it understated and make sure that the rest of your outfit compensates for the informality. A sharp blazer, coupled with a dark, well-fitting, wrinkle-free pair of jeans will let people know that you didn't just roll out of bed and slip into whatever pants were on the floor.
We're certainly not suggesting that you don't wear underwear to work. Just make sure that "under" is the operative word. While there's no arguing with the fact that there's something flirty about a little bit of lace or a bra strap peeking out (there's a reason Blanche was the sexiest Golden Girl), it doesn't quite convey the most professional image. The same goes for panty lines. Thongs are always an option for snug skirts and dresses, but if your underwear is pinching in the wrong places, make sure you're buying it in the right size.
We at TLC know that we have an astoundingly attractive audience. (Oh, don't pretend to be bashful, it's true.) While there's always the temptation to do so, avoid overemphasizing what you've got going on. Professional attire can be sexy, but sexy doesn't necessarily mean professional. Wearing a short skirt or low-cut blouse may be interpreted as using sex appeal to compensate for being no good at your job. Keep skirts within 2 to 3 inches of the knee. As for shirts? Well, just do your best to cover up. That goes for men, too -- that patch of chest hair may be a testament to your raw virility, but keep it on the down-low during office hours.
Wrinkles, Stains and Tears
Looking after your appearance may not be explicitly stated in your job description, but it's an expectation. Coffee spills and stockings run. It happens, it's pardonable and you can blot the stain or change clothes, then get back to work without raising any eyebrows. But sweat stains? Week-old soup splatter? Wrinkles and missing buttons? Unforgivable! Our clothes keep us warm, make us look good and cover up our naughty bits in situations where our naughty bits need covering. They take care of us, so take care of them.
An outfit without accessories is like plain vanilla ice cream -- too serious to be taken seriously. Accessories are a must for professionals, but the adjectives that describe them should be in line with the image you want to project in your office. Sleek, discerning, sophisticated and elegant are all good places to start. Funky, distracting, outrageous and decadent may need some rethinking. One or two pieces of subtle jewelry and an awesome belt are fine. The same rules apply to men, who are better off with no jewelry except for an understated (but superbly made) watch and a wedding band or class ring.
You know, they don't even wear fatigues at the Pentagon anymore. You have every right to wear a comfy outfit to work, but it becomes hard to take people seriously if they're wearing something that they could also take a nap in. Save the yoga pants, T-shirts and tank tops for the gym, and stick with slacks or a comfortable skirt if your office has a casual vibe. One final note on this topic: Never come to work with that fresh-from-the-gym smell.
Fishnets and Bare Legs
Bare legs can be a hot-button issue. Some companies forbid them during any month with a vowel in the name, while others allow them year-round, come rain, snow or heat. However, as with anything when it comes to bare skin, it's best to err on the side of caution and keep your legs discreetly covered. On the other side of the coin are the overtly sexy, garish and cutesy varieties of hosiery. Serious professionals steer clear of fishnets, distractingly bright colors and unbusinesslike patterned tights.
Designerwear is both a status symbol and a mark of good taste, but flaunting it isn't. Wearing a brazenly conspicuous label or logo can come off as a blatant or desperate attempt at grabbing some attention. However, this doesn't mean you can't show off. Just be subtle about it and leave the words and pictures for your casual wear or a handbag or briefcase. Give co-workers the impression that you're shopping high-end retailers, and they may stick you with the check after happy hour.
We gain and lose weight -- that's just part of being human. Outfits that fit you two years ago may hang loose or squeeze the wrong places, but part of looking professional means not dressing like you stole your clothes from someone three sizes smaller than you are, or that you're still wearing hand-me-downs from a gigantic older brother. A proper fit is important both for comfort and style, and any good tailor can make the necessary alterations cheaply and quickly. With a few nips and tucks, older clothes can look like they were made for you, making you look like you were made for the job.
No matter how laidback your office is, don't wear flip-flops! Flip-flops rank as the No. 1 office wardrobe crime for a reason. For starters, nobody wants to look at other people's feet all day. Secondly, too many people think that flip-flops, like fine wine, get better as they age. Sure, you may think of them as broken-in, but what they really are is old and smelly. Plus, the slappity-slap sounds flip-flops make can drive co-workers up the wall. If you need any more reasons, try these: They're unprofessional, unattractive and unsanitary. And we realize that was a lot of negatives to use, but that's just how strongly we feel. No flip-flops!