May 19, 2022


Professional Outfit Mistakes I See in the Office

By: Leah Nalepa

As a stylist, I notice a few things about people’s clothes. Particularly in the workplace. As fashion trends have shifted and as a society we have become more casual, it’s crucial to remember what to wear and what not to wear in a professional setting. Here are the top 5 style mistakes I see people – particularly millennials and Gen Z – make in the workplace. 

Wearing something that’s too tight

Body composition changes all the time, but making sure clothes fit appropriately is important to elevate our confidence and gain respect from our peers. Clothes that are too tight are a no-go in the professional world. These clothes leave very little to the imagination and detract, rather than enhance, the overall appearance of someone. Both men and women can be guilty of this offense. 

For men, tapered pants are in. But if any type of undergarment line is showing under the pants while walking, they are most likely too tapered and definitely too tight. Instead, men can opt for a slim look while ensuring lines don’t show. 

For women, it’s easy to wear tight clothes of any sort. However, the most common clothing items that are easily worn even if they are tight are pants that show underwear lines or a dress that simply hugs too closely. Different undergarments can change a look, or go up a size in a particular brand. Not all brand sizing is the same, especially for women!

Neither of these points are to say that men and women shouldn’t wear the aforementioned pieces. It’s simply a reminder that some clothes – while they may be trendy and accentuate certain body parts – should probably stay home when you’re meeting with clients or co-workers. 

Wearing something that’s too casual

Unfortunately, most colleges don’t teach students how to dress professionally. Sure, some may differentiate between casual, business professional, and professional wear, but they don’t have much incentive to teach students beyond those basics. But quite frankly, it’s the small mistakes that they don’t teach us which can lead to the biggest blunders. 

For example, I know someone who was passed up for a promotion for wearing graphic tees in a casual work environment. The problem? The person didn’t consistently look like management to management. 

Another was passed up for a second-round interview because they “weren’t dressed appropriately.” 

I’ve delivered presentations to companies, particularly companies with casual environments, because their employees are dressed too casually for the casual environment the company has set. Talk about confusing! 

This isn’t to say all company environments are the same. But it is to say, that no matter where you work, there is still most likely a standard of wear that should be maintained. It’s helpful to speak with a supervisor or with an HR representative to fully understand what the work expectations are. 

Wearing something that’s too short 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that many young women I see who have recently entered the workforce wear skirts or dresses that are too short because they don’t know any better.. If you find yourself not able to bend down or sit comfortably because the dress will ride up too much, that piece of clothing is probably too short. 

A general rule of thumb to follow is to wear skirts or dresses that hit 5 fingers above the knee or longer. This accounts for the fact that the dress will shorten when you sit down. If a skirt is 8-10 fingers above the knee, I recommend wearing dark nylons or tights to maintain a modest, yet polished, look. 

Wearing something that’s keeps you invisible 

In an effort maintain professionalism, some of us are guilty of simply purchasing a black suit with a white oxford and calling it a day. This isn’t always the best option either. While it is technically professional, this type of look doesn’t help anyone stand out in a positive way. And with all the colors and textures in fabric these days, it almost looks outdated. 

If you’re someone who wants to keep it simple, clean, and professional, check out a few Pinterest boards or some of your favorite clothing brands. They usually have ideas and recommendations to help cultivate a better work wardrobe. 

Wearing something that should be tailored

Tailoring is a dying art. With fast fashion and online shopping, it’s easy to never get our clothes tailored. But, sometimes it’s necessary.

Clothes off-the-rack were never meant to fit us perfectly. The sizes were made for an average body type, most likely by a computer program. Perhaps the tags have been changed and the exact size isn’t correct. And sizes are not uniform across brands.

With that knowledge, tailored clothing (even if it is purchased off-the-rack) can be a game-changer for our confidence, appearance, and how others perceive us. Clothes look more expensive when they fit well. An easy way to tell if a piece needs to be tailored is if it doesn’t fit in the shoulders, waist, rear, or length of sleeves or pants. While good tailors can completely change the look of a piece, stick with the basics before overhauling your closet. 

This is a basic overview of what I’ve seen in the past couple of years as fashion has changed and more people have entered the workforce. By no means is it an exhaustive list. I’ve also been guilty of most of the things I mentioned above. The key is to be aware of how you feel in your clothes and what type of attention they bring from others in a professional setting. If you have further questions or doubts, shoot me an email to set up a free style consultation [email protected]!