What’s Your Appropriate Work Attire?

One of the key elements of which I get asked to train and coach on is appropriate work attire. Sometimes my work on this topic is to serve as a proactive guideline and other times it’s corrective. Most recently, I was asked to work with a C-level executive who was struggling to make a positive impression on their team and clientele. The struggles ranged from style to scent to wrinkles and, unfortunately (and surprisingly), a whole lot more.

Hey, I love that work attire is evolving away from the days of our parents. Take Steve Jobs for an example. He broke the buttoned up, conservative style of the C-Suite. But while we can all be trendy, in style, edgy and representative of our brand, we need to make sure we are bringing our best, whether it’s donning a clean t-shirt to shoes without duct tape (yes, you read that correctly).

When it comes to appropriate apparel in the workplace, I first encourage clients to think about their career goals. Do they want to be recognized for their brand, which does impact their attire choices, or do they have the goal of leadership promotion and what does that look like to them. Then they should consider whether their industry dictates the protocol of what is considered conservative, casual or “inappropriate.” Other factors include whether the client will be interacting with customers, the public, the government, the board of directors or key decision makers.

Women often find their attire is under harsher criticism than their male counterpart. While this is unfair, it is historically (and still is) the norm for women to be questioned more than men. But in today’s society, the following elements of attire apply to both genders and those who identify with them. The most common factor I find superiors use to judge taste level is in hemlines and décolletage. So of course, I am often asked to work with clients whose hemlines are shorter than seven or eight inches or have a high slit that risks possible exposure. Heel height is also often scrutinized these days as shoe styles include four-inch heels or higher. While these may certainly be in good taste, the professional should consider other factors including too much bling or whether safety is an issue. Deep necklines that show too much skin may not only negatively impact an individual’s professional reputation but, to be honest, can be a distraction.

Trending apparel now includes tighter pants and shirts and while these are often stylish and in good taste, professionals should be certain that this doesn’t cross the line of exposure or clingy-ness. Certain pant fabric choices can raise eyebrows if the material exposes too much of one’s physique. Other elements of appropriateness include whether the clothing is un-pressed, worn, overly scented or outlandish in style. Again these are all dependent on company culture.

How to Be Career Happy? Understand Appropriate Work Attire

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