Dressing for Work 101

It is socially unacceptable to go out into public naked and therefore getting dressed is something we do everyday. You would think that with all the practice society would be better at it.

I guess back in the day there were a lot more rules about what was and wasn’t OK for people to wear. I read a lot of books set in the Regency era and geez those people changed clothes a LOT. Walking dresses, riding dresses, dinner dresses, ball dresses. Men had it just as bad. I bet they spent half their day picking out the appropriate outfit they would need for the next couple hours and then getting dressed.

Rules are often a lot more lax nowadays and with the freedom comes a lot more uncertainty about what to actually wear for different occasions. It is especially tough for women in the workplace because there’s always a tension between wanting to look nice and cute and not looking like you’ve gotten where you are because of your… ahem… extracurricular activities.

Due to this, I’ve noticed that women REALLY don’t know how to dress for work. Not that it’s entirely their fault; stores and fashion are lying to them as to what it is appropriate for work.  And when I say work, I mean a fairly conservative office-setting type work.

For example, Nordstrom is a great, upscale department store where you can get fairly well made clothes that are a bit better than your standard department stores but are much less than high fashion designer prices. When you work in the law, it’s a good go-to place because female lawyers and judges of either gender are hella judgmental.

And yet, Nordstrom tells me this is perfectly appropriate for work:


No, it’s not. It’s really not. Unless you’re a gardener or something, I cannot think of a single professional occupation where it’s acceptable to wear shorts.

So, with all this in mind, I have put together a little guide on what is not acceptable to wear in an office setting* based on what I have personally seen at my work.  Ladies, you’re welcome.

1. If you’re in your 60s, it’s probably best to wear a dress/skirt that at least comes to mid-thigh.  Really, knee is more office appropriate, but dear Lord, please at least get it to your mid-thigh. Wearing black hose underneath is not enough, because:

2.      Hose are not tights or leggings. Further:

3.      Tights and leggings are not pants. By extension, hose are not pants.

          a.       No, seriously. Leggings are not pants. I don’t care how much you and   the fashion world want them to be, they are not pants. I don’t need to see the dimples of your cellulite at the office.

4.      If you’re younger than 60s, it’s still probably best to wear a dress/skirt that comes to knee length.  If you look like you’re going clubbing after work, you’re not office appropriate.  I don’t care how cute you look, you probably don’t look professional.


5.      Knee high red pleather boots with a white racing stripe are not work appropriate. I’m not really sure what made you think they were. They are even less appropriate when paired with a mini skirt. Please see above.


6.      Ok, I see some of you are trying to follow some of the rules above, but it really doesn’t count if the knee-length skirt has a slit up the front 3/4s of the way up your thigh. I really don’t need to see your upper thigh at work.

7.      Strapless satin-y jumpsuits are not work appropriate. Even if you pair it with a cardigan.  Not only do you look like you’re going clubbing after work, you look like you’re going clubbing in the 70s. It’s even more offensive when you’re the one in charge of enforcing the dress code.

8.      This might be controversial, but if your office has casual Fridays and the dress code says it’s only OK to wear jeans on causal Fridays, a jean skirt on M-Th is not appropriate. I see what you’re trying to do there, but no.

9.      Speaking of casual Fridays, if you look like you just came in from gardening, you need to step up your game.  Anything that could be mistaken for a sweat-anything should not cross the threshold of the office.

10. As a corollary, you probably shouldn’t wear anything that has a word splashed across your ass. Your ass should not be speaking to me in the hallway.



So there, that should get you started. In the meantime, what’s the worse thing you’ve seen at your office?

* Ok, look. I know that different offices have different cultures. Sometimes the above would be perfectly fine in your office, so take the above with a grain of salt and all that. Something to keep in mind, the more professional you look, the more professional people will think you are.


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