9 tips on dressing for work : part 1

1; dress for the interview.

First of all, you should never, under any circumstances, wear jeans to an interview. I don’t care if you’re applying at a denim factory and the interviewer is your mom – it is never, ever appropriate. May I repeat: Never. Appropriate.

Here are two good reasons. A) You do not know if your interviewer is young or older. Young people might think jeans are okay, but older people will not – and it will definitely affect their first impression of you. This also goes for younger interviewers, depending what job you’re applying for.

B) Dressing well not only puts you in the right mindset for an interview, it evokes confidence and shows that you are mature and ready to work. If you saw a woman walking down the street in jeans and a woman walking down the street in a snappy fitted suit, which one would you take more seriously? And which one would you rather hire?

2; have a good, go-to pair of dress pants.

These pants should be in whatever colour and style you wear the most. For example, I have one pair of stretchy black skinny dress pants that I wear almost every day. They weren’t expensive (I would be lying if I said they were more than $10), but they are comfortable enough that I enjoy wearing them, and fit me well enough that I am confident. Because they are a bit on the tighter side, I often pair them with loose tops to balance out the Appropriate Factor.

 3; dress in the top two tiers.

Say you work in an office like mine, where the typical outfits are all over the place – some people wear suits, some people wear jeans, some women wear sneakers, some women wear heels. It’s hard to know exactly what the dress code is. So what I did was break it into four tiers of dress code.

Tier 1, Casual : jeans, sneakers, anything dirty, anything that shows too much skin.
Tier 2, Semi-Casual : jeans with a dress shirt, or dress pants with a t-shirt.
Tier 3, Business Casual : – dress pants/dress shirt or sweater/no tie for men, dress pants/nice top or sweater/nice shoes/hair done for women.
Tier 4, Business Formal : – suits for men,  blouse/blazer/high heels/dress pants for women.

Working in an office, I truly believe you should never dress in the bottom two tiers unless it is casual Friday – and even then, “Casual” in the business world is not the same as “Casual” in the outside world. Which brings me to my next point…

 4; know what “casual” means.

I would say that most offices have some sort of “Casual Friday” sort of deal. And when they say “casual”, they mean BUSINESS CASUAL. And BUSINESS CASUAL means you are still appropriately dressed for the office. Yes, jeans are often permitted – but these jeans must be nice jeans, with no rips, tears, or huge distressions (I just made up that word, but it makes total sense). Shoes do not equal sneakers, they equal nice, flat shoes or boots. Shirts do not equal sloppy t-shirts or tank tops, they equal the more casual denominations of what you would wear during the week.

In fact, I would say that the outfit for a “casual” day at the office should be the same outfit as during the week, but replace the heels with flats and replace the dress pants with nice jeans. You should look just as chic.

5; know how much skin to show.

This is a biggie. Ladies, I’m going to let the feminist in me come out for a second and state that men rule a lot of companies, especially in a conservative city like Calgary where there is lots of oil and lots of lawyers. And one of the most important tools you will have in your career is knowing how to dress in a company where men are your bosses. Here is the rundown.

  • Never wear a tank top, especially a spaghetti strap, without something over it like a blazer or a cardigan.
  • Lots of cleavage = bad. I can almost assure you won’t be taken as seriously. Super low-cut shirts are a no-no, but a little bit of cleavage here and there is acceptable. Not every day, and not enough that anyone sees your rack before they see your face.
  • If you wear it to the bar, you DON’T wear it to work. Under any circumstances.
  • Skirts and dresses are acceptable. However. This does not include mini skirts or anything above the middle of your thigh, and even that’s pushing it. You want them to take you seriously, instead of wondering if they can see anything when you bend over to pick up a file or stand up to make a presentation. Consider opaque tights underneath – it will detract from the amount of skin you would be showing otherwise.

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