The Dos and Don’ts of Dressing for the Office

Determining what is appropriate for the office seems to be ever more difficult; the lines continue to blur between skinny dress pants and colored denim, fitted pencil skirts and bodycon dresses. At my job, I’ve seen it all: everything from undie-showing mini dresses to knee-high cage sandals. These days people are pushing the limits with work attire to the extreme, but my vote will always be to keep it classy, ladies, and here are a few ways to do just that.

Stick to the 50/50 rule when it comes to baring skin.

This is simple: if you’re going sleeveless, then be sure to cover your legs. If you’re opting for a skirt or dress, then layer on a cardigan for coverage. The bottom line is: don’t show more skin that you’re covering.

jcrew spring work outfit-@wellesleynking-wellesley and kingjcrew spring work outfit-@wellesleynking-wellesley and king

Opt for clean, natural makeup.

The office is not the place for testing out your smokey eye. Instead, it’s better to choose neutral colors that highlight your natural features without looking overly done. I actually do love a red or even bold dark lip color for the office, but only if you’re wearing neutral blush (maybe even just bronzer) and mascara on the rest of your face.

jcrew spring work outfit-@wellesleynking-wellesley and king jcrew spring work outfit-@wellesleynking-wellesley and king

Keep toes enclosed.

Now, on occasion I do break this rule, but for the most part, I think that the most professional footwear covers your toes. Even if you have the best pedicure you’ve ever gotten, it’s still best to save those strappy sandals for the weekend. Personally, I’m more lenient on, say, a peep-toe ankle boot than with something like knee-high gladiators. Just use discretion. If it’s a shoe you would wear going out, you probably shouldn’t be wearing it to work.

jcrew spring work outfit-@wellesleynking-wellesley and king

Choose simple [not distracting] jewelry.

At one point, I sat next to a woman who must have worn one BILLION Alex and Ani bracelets every. single. day. I cannot even tell you how distracting that was, listening to the jangling of her bracelets with every keystroke. It drove me insane. Aside from the audible distraction of jewelry, you also want to be careful of anything visually distracting. You want people to pay attention to you and whatever brainy stuff you’re doing to woo them. You don’t want them focusing on your statement necklace, or shoulder-skimming giant hoop earrings. Again, if you’d wear it out on the town, you probably should not be wearing it to work.

jcrew spring work outfit-@wellesleynking-wellesley and king jcrew spring work outfit-@wellesleynking-wellesley and king


J.Crew Ruffle Top in Clip Dot | J.Crew Martie Pants (Petite) | Kate Spade Pumps | Ray-Ban Sunglasses | Kate Spade Gramercy Watch | Swarovski Bella Mini Pierced Earrings

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  1. 4.12.17
    Nicky said:

    Like you said, it’s all about discretion. Of course some peep toe shoes are completely professional, or a fun statement necklace could work. It’s when people break too many of these rules all at once that it becomes a problem. Overall, I think we can all agree that women have a much harder time, and are put under a much bigger microscope when it comes to office appropriate clothing. Unfortunately, we do still have to worry about being taken seriously despite how good we are at our job. Its just the unfortunate truth. I do love your “rule of thumb” though… if you’re gonna wear it out for a night on the town, it’s probably best to leave it out of the office!

    • 4.12.17
      Lauren said:

      I think you hit it spot on when you say, “It’s when people break too many of these rules at once that it becomes a problem.” That’s so true. I think that’s when I see the most cringe-worthy outfits. And you’re also right, it is unfortunate that being taken seriously is a concern, no matter how smart we are or hard we wore. Nonetheless, I love the combination of looking classy and being intelligent! Nothing is more powerful for a woman in the workplace.

      • 4.13.17
        Nicky said:

        So here’s my biggest problem at work. I have a lot of rules to follow (no dresses, no open toed shoes, no scarves, no dangly earrings) BUT, I also have to dress comfortably. Weird, I know. I work in the juvenile department and need to be able to move around in case of an emergency, yet I have to be ready for parent meetings, etc. Right now I’m pairing my outfits with cute tennis shoes (one of the biggest things is appropriate footwear), but any other recommendation on how to keep it professional, but also comfortable and “moveable?”

        • 4.19.17
          Lauren said:

          This is so restrictive, I can understand how you feel frustrated in this type of environment (I would, too!). I can imagine that you don’t want to be wearing any type of clothing that would be difficult to move quickly in, or that a child could grab on to, so I understand the rules. Nonetheless, that would still be tough for someone who wants to express themselves through their style.

          I think the easiest ways that you could incorporate your style into your outfits, without comprising on following the rules, would be to purchase some really great footwear. Find something that is really special (you know I love my Valentino flats for this reason, but that’s an extreme example). A pair of beautiful flats look just as professional as heels, and you can always keep a drawer of those special shoes to swap with your sneakers for parent meetings. I actually keep two pairs of heels at work all the time because I don’t like to tote them back and forth with me every day. It’s such an easy change to do as soon as I get here, or if I want to go for a walk at lunch.

          I think another great way to look professional without being too restricted is to find some ankle pants that look structured but are made of a fabric with stretch. I honestly love the J.Crew pants I’m wearing in this post because they are so comfortable. At the same time, they look totally professional for the office–I hate that comfortable and professional can feel like they are mutually exclusive!

          And, of course, for parent meetings, it would be just as simple to throw on a simple scarf around your neck to take your outfit from comfortable to dressed up in an instant.

          I hope that helps, Nicky! Good luck to you and let me know how it goes!

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