Even if you're not working among lawyers and politicians, the most casual work setting has some form of dress code, however unspoken — like making sure your classic Converse sneakers aren't covered in dirt. You want to show that you're serious about your work to both your co-workers and your clients, and your attire should convey that seriousness.
Could you be committing a workplace style faux-pas and not realize it? Read below for some looks you should probably save for your time outside the office.
Layering Up Jewelry
Just because you love your jewelry doesn't mean you have to wear it all to the office, all at the same time. If you're going to bust out some bling at work, especially if it's statement jewelry, "Pick one: necklace or blingy earring," instructs Danielle Sills, a broadcast producer at Cleveland's WKYC News — where effective self-presentation matters both off and on the news screen. You can have a little more fun outside the office with your baubles, but at work you want to keep the sound of clashing metal to a minimum and not send a flashing glare to the co-worker in the next cubicle.
Too Much Going On
Sills also told me that in the world of broadcast journalism, prints and busy patterns are total no's. Not only do they show up poorly on screen, but they're a distraction.
Loud prints can be distracting in off-camera work environments as well. If you want to play around with prints, patterns, and texture to individualize your style in the office, choose one or two pieces and leave it at that. For example, pair a colorful stripe shirt with a killer jacket and pants in solid colors, but don't blind your clients with an all-over stripe look. If you work in a more casual and creative setting, you can get away with bolder patterns and colors, just make sure the look is clean and put together.
Sheer fabrics, still going strong in 2014, should be approached with caution when it comes to work wear. What you definitely don't want is a shirt so sheer that your undergarments are exposed. Knowing that you like a little lace embellishment on your bra strap will put your co-workers, and especially clients, in an uncomfortable position. Go for tasteful paneled sheers like this Daniel Rainn lace top instead, and save the full-on sheer pieces for a sun-soaked vacation or a night out — though we're still wondering where you'd wear a sheer skirt like this.
Even if your workplace allows casual sneakers and running shoes, a clean presentation is still important. If your shoes are covered in dried dirt, you could be sending the message that you aren't concerned about your professional image and don't respect the cleanliness of the office. Take a mesh cloth and dust or scrub your shoes off before you step into your workplace. If your shoes are so beat up that wiping them down doesn't make them presentable, save that pair for weekend wear and have a second pair reserved for work wear only.
An account executive who asked to remain anonymous told me that one style faux-pas that caught her eye at the Austin-based start-up where she works was a head-to-toe club ensemble worn daily by a co-worker. "I don't know, it's weird," she said. If it's a Friday and you have a sequin dress you want to wear out straight after work, carry it in a garment bag and change right before you leave the office. Otherwise, it will look like you consider clubbing your full-time gig and that research project you're supposed to be working on just something to fill the hours until you head out for the night.
Your flip flops do not belong in the office. To repeat: no flip flops in the office. "They're great for hanging out with your friends. But they're clearly unprofessional," said Suze Yalof Schwarts, then executive fashion editor-at-large of Glamour magazine and currently mediator and founder of Unplug Meditation, in a 2005 discussion with CBS News on wearing flip-flops to work.
Image: Dan Talson/Fotolia