Between internships and jobs, I've worked in office environments that ranged from business casual to creative professional to completely laid-back. While I've never felt comfortable wearing a jeans and sweatshirt as work attire even in the most casual office, I don't mind when co-workers do if that's part of the acceptable dress code. What really strikes me are the women who come to work dressed for the club.These girls look great – don't get me wrong. They have the confidence, bodies, and fashion sense to totally rock their ensembles. But skin-tight dresses, plunging necklines, scandalous hemlines, and sky-high heels just have no place in the office. Inspired by these women dressed to bust a move rather than beat a deadline, I broke it down into six common sightings that make me cringe at the workplace: what not to wear and what to wear instead.
Let's start with the pencil skirt. With the right fit and style, the pencil skirt looks fabulous on almost anyone. Plus, it's a wardrobe basic for any professional girl. The key is length. Pencil skirts already hug your curves. Cutting that hemline up onto the thighs ends up evocative at the least and trashy at the worst.
The Pencil Skirt:
Instead of a mini pencil skirt, choose a pencil skirt with a hemline that is at least past your fingertips when your arms are at your sides. (Go a little longer if you're a little taller.) If you can find one that hits right above or at the knees, that's perfect. The longer length is sleek and slimming.
Instead a revealing v-neck, choose a flattering tee with a modest neckline. A pencil skirt does not need to be sexed up for work.
Instead of platform pumps, choose a classy but still cute pair of classic patent pumps.
The Bodycon Dress:
Instead of a skin-tight bodycon dress with a plunging neckline and soaring hemline, choose a curve-hugging dress with a modest neckline, short sleeves, and a work-appropriate length. Like the pencil skirt, bodycon dresses contours your curves – you don't have to contour the sexiness.
Instead of strappy stilettos, choose vintage-inspired t-strap pumps. You get some strap without all the stripper. Bonus points for an adorable bow.
Instead of a bunch of gaudy chains around your neck, choose a simple but statement-making single gold chain to add a bit of glamor and glitz.
The Sheer Look:
Instead of a revealing cami under a lace shirt, choose a shirt with lace details. Lace and sheer materials can be tricky. You feel covered up because there's fabric over your skin, but that fabric is see-through and quickly escalates from business to boudoir. Tips to keep in mind: less lace is more and conceal the bra (straps included).
Instead of colored leggings, choose trousers in a bold hue. Ditch the leggings you wore across campus. Trousers are much more flattering and much more professional. Plus, they come in all sorts of lovely shades to add a splash of color to your office wardrobe.
Instead of femme fatale heels, choose fresh and feminine booties. Shoes with details are always a fun addition to any outfit, but sheer and lace on a stiletto may just be too risque for work. A cute pair of black ankle booties with lace cutouts are not only more appropriate, but also more comfortable.
Instead of an all-over animal print top, choose a blouse in a neutral color. You don't want your work wardrobe to scream "wild thing!" You can incorporate zebra, leopard, cheetah, snakeskin, or any other animal print into your wardrobe in a subtle way – like a zebra scarf, a snakeskin bracelet, or (in this case) a pair of pretty pointy-toe leopard flats.
Instead of reaching for your trust, worn-in, holey blue jeans on casual Friday, choose a pair of sleek, chic skinnies – with no holes or tears. Casual Friday may feel like an excuse to throw on your weekend wear, but dressing up casual just a tinge makes the look so much more pulled together.
Instead of your worn weekend t-shirt, choose a sweet blouse in a fun color. It's casual Friday, not sloppy Friday.
Instead of flip flops, choose a pair of trendy sandals. Yes, flip flops might possibly be the most comfortable footwear ever, but the workplace is no place to flip flop around in.
Instead of bearing thigh in short shorts, choose longer bermudas in a dressier material. Long shorts in a trouser-like fabric are cute, classy, and comfortable – especially with a skinny little belt.
Instead of a slouchy sweatshirt, choose a flattering blazer. A blazer is a must-have for any working girl and it'll dress up the shorts in a jiffy. For spring and summer, opt for a lightweight blazer in a lovely color like this blush pink. Layer it over a plain white cotton tee with a modest neckline. Adorbs!
Instead of your beloved Toms, choose a pair a ballet flats. As much as you tell yourself you can dress them up, your Toms are still canvas slip-ons. Save them for your weekend adventures and opt for flats that are as easy on the eyes as they are on your feet.
At the end of the day, you get to choose what you wear. But be aware of what your clothing conveys. It is possible to put your best foot forward in shoes that are comfy but cute, a blouse that's modest but marvelous, a skirt that accentuates your shape without showing skin, and a style that catches everyone's eye for all the right reasons without grabbing their attention for all the wrong ones.
What's the most inappropriate thing you've ever seen a co-worker wear to work?
What's your favorite way to make trendy style work for the office?
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