Top 10 Business Clothing Mistakes
I am often asked about what professionals should wear to work. The questions – from bosses, employees and even reporters – focus on how employees should dress in today’s casual workplace, indicating that years after the “rules” were relaxed, many are still confused.
The key point I always stress, whether I am discussing a young man getting ready to interview for his first job or a senior director courting a new client, is that your clothing choices can enhance your reputation or detract from your credibility.
I also frequently mention the items from my list of Top 10 Business Clothing Mistakes. The list is based on what I have seen in the workplace as well as suggestions from my seminar participants, and features what to avoid:
1. Dressing in clothes that do not fit. If your clothes are too big, you look like a little kid in your big brother’s or sister’s clothing. If your clothing is too tight, you could be over-emphasizing body parts. When in doubt, both men and women should take their clothes to a tailor for a professional fitting.
2. Wearing skirts that are too short. Short skirts draw attention to your legs. If you sit down when wearing a short skirt, you expose even more leg. Is that where you want people to look? Plus, you can find yourself labeled with a trivializing nickname: A woman named Susan wore very short skirts and her coworkers referred to her as “Suzy Short Skirt.”
3. Wearing short socks. Short socks, or socks that fall down, expose skin and hairy legs on men when they sit and/or cross their legs. It is distracting and not an attractive look.
4. Showing cleavage. Sexy is not a corporate look. Low-cut tops that expose cleavage draw attention to this body part and are not appropriate in the office. People tell me that they don’t know where to look when conversing with women dressed this way.
5. Wearing a bikini when at a pool with business associates. Whether you are going on an award cruise or attending the company picnic, it’s not the time to expose everything! This applies to both men and women.
6. Drawing attention to your clothing because of your color choices. Do you want to be remembered for what you said or for what you wore? I am NOT saying don’t wear color – just choose color carefully. A man asked my opinion of the bright green pants he wore. I replied that since his slacks were not typical corporate clothing, he would probably be labeled as “the man in green pants.”
7. Wearing T-shirts, shirts or ties with inappropriate sayings, pictures or childish designs. A job candidate wore a shirt printed with small teddy bears to an interview. He didn’t get the job. Following the interview, all the interviewers talked about was his shirt.
8. Ignoring your shoes. People notice shoes. Your shoes should be clean, polished, and in good condition. This shows that you are paying attention to the details.
9. Dressing inappropriately for business social events. The company holiday party, conferences, or dinner at the boss’s house are still business events, and your clothing choices matter.
10. Ignoring your grooming. Clothes need to be clean and pressed. Do not have chipped nail polish or nose hairs that need to be clipped. They become distractions.
Additional career information on dress can be found in my new book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success (McGraw Hill).
Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on business etiquette and communication. Contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or Joyce@pachter.com for more information.