Casual Dress, Casual Attitude?

27 Feb 2013 | Naomi Marshall

Workplaces are changing. The days of a corporate suit (with matching jacket), crisp white shirt, a classic black heel and plain belt are dwindling. Even companies that were previously seen as strict corporate environments like the big banks and financial institutions are moving towards creating more modern work environments and with that they’re encouraging staff to ‘show their personality’ through their personal dress and clothing style.

There are positives and negatives for this. I myself know that if I’m in jeans at work for a day I tend to take a bit more of a relaxed approach (however, that may also be because at Sprint we have casual Friday’s and Friday’s bring about a feeling of positivity and fun because it’s the end of a working week).

Getting dressed for the office doesn’t mean leaving your personal style behind you but tread with caution. No matter what your company does whether it be a major bank, a software company, an advertising agency or a small team of HR professionals my message to you is the same –  you MUST remain polished and professional. Fashion can be a career killer.

Your goals should always be to project the most positive image you can. You want to be seen as competent regardless of your employment level or career path.

The styles, colors, lengths and fit of your fashion choices will speak volumes about your ability to do your job. If you are concerned about your career, then you should be doing your best to look professional rather than looking cute or trendy.

In general, the more distracting a piece of clothing or jewelry is, the less appropriate it is for office wear. By all means wear colour, embrace trends and style things up with accessories but not at the detriment of your career

More guidelines to looking polished:

  • Colour plays a big part in professional image. Traditional career colors include red (aggressive), navy (trustworthy), grey (conservative) and black (chic). Most of these colors work well on a day to day basis but don’t be afraid to mix them with softer feminine colors like pastels and even bright warm or seasonal colours. Loud colours like hot pink and wild prints are much riskier in the office, but some creative types can still pull them off.
  • Jewellery that jangles (chandelier earrings, stacks of bangles) is distracting. A small pair of signature stud earrings, a single bracelet or one unique piece is enough.
  • Slouchy handbags look sloppy. Choose structured styles that project an organised image.
  • Most of what constitutes a polished image is in the details: manicured nails, scuff-free shoes, neat and clean hair, daytime makeup.
  • Designer labels are great, but heavily logoed clothing and accessories look cluttered and frivolous in the work place. A small designer bag is fine; a head to toe branded outfit might be a bit overdone. Think of some of the best dressed women, they look great but they don’t need to have a brand like ‘Gucci’ or ‘Prada’ stamped right across the front of them. It’s all about the little details, and the quality.

Unlike a fashion faux pas, a career killer outfit can do your professional image permanent damage.

Looks to avoid in the workplace:

  • Too sexy: see-through lace, miniskirts, bra straps showing, sheer sundresses, strappy stiletto, hooker heels (or any shoes you can’t work normally in, God help you if anyone asks you to run an errand!).
  • Too casual: jeans, shorts, T-shirts, hats, sneakers (unless your workplace promotes this or has casual Fridays).
  • Too sloppy: wrinkled clothing, too many layers, baggy-fit clothing.

If you look like a stripper, you’ll be treated like one in the office (unless of course that is your aim).

Some companies require employees to consider their audience and you should do the same if you are client facing. If you are seeing customers or representing their ‘brand’ then you need to wear the right things to project the correct company image. This can be different for each company, but if you’re unsure check out what the senior EA’s are wearing. Or what does the Managing Director or CEO wear?  Try to mirror their style. They’re in the leading jobs for the business and they didn’t get there by being handed the title on a silver platter. They worked for it and part of that was projecting the right image.

Also remember that Casual Friday’s although the term does state ‘casual’ it usually tends to mean business casual. So keep your thongs, short cut off denim shorts and gaping tops at home.

Be remembered for always being the polished one. Trust me when I say the right people do notice! Plus, when you’re MD of the company in years to come do you really want that photo dragged out of you in a leopard print mini, bra strap showing, handing out mini sausage roles at Friday night drinks?!

Of course not.


Naomi Marshall – Director
P: (02) 9271 0011
M: 0422 139 910

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