We hate to admit it, because we personally feel that clothes shouldn’t matter. In a perfect world, a person would be judged at their workplace based solely on the caliber of their work. Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works.
How you choose to dress each morning reflects how you feel about your job—that you take your position seriously, are ready to work, pay attention to detail, and know what you expect to encounter that day. You wouldn’t go to a construction site in your favorite four-inch stilettos, right? Of course not; you’d go in a hard hat, because it’s appropriate for the situation. Appearances matter!
We’ve all been there, though—the days you wake up feeling sick, but still have to make it into the office, so you throw on any old thing that’s (kind of) clean, or the office where you never see anyone but your hated boss and your frumpy coworkers, or the jobs where you work from home wearing your pajamas and no makeup.
Regardless of the excuses, there are some things that professionals should just never wear—ever.
We’ll show you what these things are and why they’re a terrible wardrobe choice. And if you’re guilty of having one in your closet—or (gasp!) in your daily rotation—we’ll give you a much better alternative.
Crocs are for the beach. For small children. For working in the garage or around the house. We realize they have cool antibacterial and slip-resistant properties going for them, but even their website admits that Crocs were originally “intended as a boating/outdoor shoe.” Face it, Crocs are not for the office.
Try me instead: If you absolutely cannot let go of the Crocs name and comfortable-shoe concept, try the brand’s “high-fashion” line, YOU by Crocs. It still incorporates the croslite technology—which means it’s odor resistant and anti-microbial—and has extra padding at the ball of your foot and your heel, right where you need it most:.
Because scrunchies went out of fashion at the same time fanny packs did. Wearing one only emphasizes your need for a makeover, not a raise. Bows, or ribbons tied into bows, also fall into this particular Don’t. Ribbons in your hair are appropriate for the seventh grade cheerleading squad and other teenage displays of team unity. Not. Professional.
Try me instead: There’s nothing a scrunchie can do that an ouchless hair elastic band can’t. Other options for pulling your hair back? Bobby pins, clips, headbands, hair scarves—even a hat, if your workplace is business-casual enough.
Sweatshirts and Sweatpants
Save your sweats for the gym or a night spent vegging on the couch or sleeping. They don’t want to go to work, so please don’t bring them in! Plainly put: sweatpants and sweatshirts are much too casual to be professional, and they scream, “I’m lazy! Please fire me!” Even people who work at fitness centers don’t wear sweats to work, so you shouldn’t either.
Try me instead: Dying to be as comfortable as possible? Try a worn-in pair of cotton chino slacks with a simple, but still classy, white fitted tee. Need something to keep you warm on top? A monotone cotton or cashmere cardigan will feel great and look good.
Footless Leggings and Spandex/Yoga Pants
Leggings and spandex pants are perfect for your next yoga or Pilates class, not for your upcoming presentation—or even a conference call. Yes, even a call. No one can see what you’re wearing over the phone, but that’s our point: they’re never appropriate for the office, not as a layer under a skirt and especially not worn alone as pants.
What’s worse? Extremely bold-hued leggings, leggings with zipped hems, or the worst, a combination of the two.
Try me instead: Tights—both opaque and sheer—are perfectly acceptable for the office and provide the same coverage as leggings but with a polished look.
It may be cute or funny or so totally true to you, but you never know how other people are going to react. You might be an Italian Princess or The World’s Greatest Mom, but those honorable titles are best kept for your weekend wear.
Try me instead:Wear a plain T-shirt and save your little jokes, observations, and rants for email or IM. Keep it clean!
We hate to say it, but it is a fact that women who wear makeup in business generally get better jobs, get promoted more quickly, and get paid more. Whether we like it or not, we live in a very visual world and we get judged on appearances. In fact, in a survey printed in the Times, 64 percent of directors said that women who wore makeup look more professional and 18 percent of directors said that women who do not wear makeup “look like they can’t be bothered to make an effort.”
Overall, remember the way that you dress is the packaging of your personal brand; whether you like it or not, you will be judged on your appearance.
Try me instead: If you really hate the idea of makeup, try using just one product, especially lipstick. Lipstick can make a big impact and give the appearance that you’re wearing more. Just make sure you bring a trusted friend or enlist the help of a makeup counter expert before picking a shade if you don’t have much experience.
If you have more than ten items in your daily beauty regimen, you should probably pare down. Try out using only mascara, powder or a light foundation, and blush. You’ll be surprised at the results!
What You Wore Yesterday
Wearing the same thing the next day says a little too much about your personal life and might make people wonder exactly why you didn’t make it home last night. A fight? A one night stand? An affair? Gossip will fly. You’ll look anything but refreshed and ready to take on the day. It makes you look tired, exhausted, and begging to go home. Don’t make anyone question your preparedness or qualifications (or morals!), especially in this economy.
Try me instead: If you can’t make it home, don’t come to work the next day wearing exactly the same thing you wore the day before. Either stop at a nearby store and buy something new to wear (even if it’s just a shirt), or ask a confidante at the office to lend you something.
Originally published on Excelle