How To Know What Not to Wear for Work

Business casual and dress down Fridays are probably two of the vaguest descriptions for office dress code. What business casual is for you may not be the same for your boss. Dressing down may mean it's okay to wear acid washed jeans but to your supervisor slacks are as far as the company can tolerate.

So what do you wear for work? Tie or no tie? Long-sleeved shirt? Close-toe shoes with heels? Pantsuits for women? Denim jeans on Fridays? When you were hired, your new superior or a human resources staff should have given you information regarding the appropriate company dress code. If not, then take the initiative to ask. Your office should have clear guidelines with regard to its dress code. 

If unsure of what to wear, stay on the more conservative side. There will be other occasions to wear your red carpet fashions. Here are some tips about how to know what not to wear for work:

  • Disco fever - Your office is probably not a disco or club. Women should keep those mini-skirts, low-cut tops, spaghetti straps, bustiers, tank tops and other skimpy outfits for clubbing. Cleavage and belly buttons have no place in the corporate jungle. Showing off your bra straps and thongs are simply tasteless. You are in the office to work and not to seduce the entire male population. Wear skirts that will not make your grandmother faint. Blouses or tops should never be sheer! Think Julia Roberts in Duplicity and Pretty Woman or Erin Brockovich.
  • Gangsta or Gigolo - Men should not dress like the next big hip-hop star: baggy jeans, big shirts, bull caps and bling that could make a metal detector go nuts. Sleeveless or muscle shirts or any other tight fitting tops are not office wear. If a tie is not required, button down shirts should not be too open making you look like the next American Gigolo. Dress pants and slacks should be fine. Just make sure that the colors are muted and the prints are not screaming "Carnivale!" Less Eminem, more George Clooney.
  • Let's get physical - Unless you work at a sports club or fitness center, it is highly inappropriate to wear shorts to work or any kind of athletic wear, including rubber shoes. Biker shorts and leg warmers are out. Lose the sweatbands as well.
  • Walk in style - If you work as a cabana boy, then flip flops may be in order, otherwise, men should stay away from open footwear. Sneakers, sandals, or aqua shoes probably don't have a place in your company if you work on Wall Street. Wear dress shoes in black, dark blue, or brown. And please, wear socks! Women should also stay away from athletic shoes, flip flops, and sandals. Not all companies allow women employees to wear open-toe heeled shoes so it's best to ask. Rules on wearing nylons are changing as well.
  • Don't hide your face - Unless the job title says: clown, mime or horror movie actor, women (and men) should never wear make up like cosmetics will be going out of fashion anytime soon. Keep it clean and light. Easy on the cologne as well.

Your type of job and place of work will dictate what you can and cannot wear. If you work at a beachfront hotel or a safari lodge in Africa, then you can get away with more casual attire. However, even for the seemingly "casual" workplace, it has its own dress code. The best thing to do is to find out from your direct superior or better yet, the human resources department what you can and cannot wear for work.


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