Work attire: what's appropriate and what's not
Even if your company has a casual dress code, you can still go wrong. Get tips from style expert Clinton Kelly on what—and what not—to wear to work.
Usually, knowing what to wear to work is a no-brainer, but while temperatures are warm outside, you might be tempted to dress down at the office and reveal more skin than you should. Clinton Kelly, co-host of TLC's "What Not to Wear" reality series, warns, "Resist the temptation. When it comes to your career, the image you're projecting at work makes a difference in how far you're going to get in the company," he says. "Don't use excuses like, 'It's hot outside,' to not dress appropriately."
Kelly, who regularly advises major corporations on workplace attire, offered the following sartorial dos and don'ts for the warm weather months.
One caveat: Individual industries may skew more casually (ad agencies and other creative outlets) or more formally (law and accounting firms). But one rule fits all professions: "If you don't look like management material, you'll never get into a management position," Kelly says.
Check out the Kelly's following tips for what to wear to work and—just as important—what not to wear to work.
Shoulder the burden
- Women: Do wear sleeveless shirts, if your office has a relaxed dress code.
- Men: Don't try putting on a shirt without sleeves unless you work at the beach. Suffice it to say, it's a "hairy" issue for most guys, according to Kelly.
One button or two?
- Women: Do feel comfortable in an open-necked blouse or top that shows some of your décolletage. "If you start to see a lot of soft tissue, that's not good," Kelly says.
- Men: Do unbutton one or two of your top buttons and consider a layering T-shirt, which helps wick away perspiration. Don't display a lot of chest hair.
The long and short of it
- Women: Do wear tailored walking shorts that reach the top of your knee. "You shouldn't wear the same kind of shorts you'd wear to your kids' soccer practice," Kelly says. Don't put on skirts that leave your mid-thigh uncovered.
- Men: Don't convince yourself shorts are acceptable. They're not, according to Kelly, who again cites the "hair issue" as the reason.
How low can you go?
- Women: Don't think about showing off your toned abs with a crop top, nor should you risk anyone making a crack about your—well, you know—if you prefer low-rider jeans. "It's just tacky to show your thong out of the back of your jeans," Kelly says.
Nice (leg) work if you can get it
- Women: Do leave your legs bare, if you have on a skirt or shorts. "Society has gotten to the point where it's a woman's right not to wear pantyhose," Kelly says.
Show of feet
- Women/Men: Don't slip into your flip-flops, unless you have such a relaxed office that your boss' boss wears them, too. "Flip-flops are not appropriate for 95 percent of offices out there," Kelly says.
- Women: Do wear a strappy sandal, if you work in a less traditional environment. "They're not going to tell you you can't wear your Manolos," he says. Don't bring your Birkenstocks anywhere near work. "On the food chain of shoes, they're at the absolute bottom," he says.
- Men: Don't make the mistake of wearing "mandals" to work. Neither you, nor your feet, will be taken seriously, Kelly says.
Find a job that makes you look good
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