It’s not always easy to decide whether an outfit is work-appropriate…
Whilst what you can (and can’t) wear is entirely dependent on your company’s dress code, you still might find there’s some blurred lines in the rule book. Are shorts ever OK for the office? How much skin is too much skin? And what about sandals?
To avoid any embarrassing fashion fails, here’s our list of what not to wear to work (and what to cover up):
There are some things that should never be seen in the office. Flip flops are one of them. And Crocs, well, they probably shouldn’t be seen anywhere.
However, that’s not to say sandals are completely out of the question. With a variety of smarter options available (e.g. wedges or heeled sandals), you might be able to pull them off. As long as you avoid socks at all costs.
Alternatively, pumps and wedges are a great way to stay cool in the summer months, while guys should stick with boat shoes/trainers.
Bottom line: even if your office is casual, there’s a time and a place for flip flops.
Too much flesh
The saying ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’ doesn’t really apply in the workplace.
For example, plunging necklines, short skirts, short shorts, and crop tops are all perfectly good options for a night out or a day at the beach, but they may not be appropriate for the workplace.
Instead, keep it conservative. Girls can keep cool in loose fitting blouses and maxi dresses/skirts, whilst guys can go for chinos and a light shirt (or t-shirt, if your employer allows it).
Bottom line: be memorable, but not for the wrong reasons.
Ah, the never-ending ‘is it OK to wear shorts at work?’ debate.
Some employers allow staff to wear shorts. In fact, some professions actively encourage it (e.g. postman, fitness instructor, shorts model). But most don’t – especially if your office is particularly formal.
If you’re unsure of company policy, ask a colleague or get in touch with the HR department.
Bottom line: dress like you’re ready for work, not like you’re ready for the beach.
Too much fake tan
No one likes to look overly pale, but there’s a time and a place for a fake bake.
Sure, it’s fine to add a bit of colour here and there, but be careful not to overdo it. The last thing you want is to be one who turns up to the meeting looking like an extra from The Only Way is Essex.
Bottom line: you work with these people every day. You’re not fooling anyone.
Are you trying to sleep at work without being caught? Got some questionable eye-bags to hide? Just want to start a new trend?
Sunglasses probably aren’t the answer – not just because they are literally designed for sun (the clue’s in the name), but also because they don’t exactly scream professional.
Unless of course, it’s Halloween. And your outfit is a play on a certain 1980s classic (#Jake&Elwood).
Bottom line: stop trying to make sunglasses inside happen. They’re not going to happen.
Offensive slogan tees/bags/vests
No matter how hilariously witty a slogan may be, that doesn’t mean it’s work-appropriate. Especially if the topic is particularly sensitive (e.g. race, religion, gender), or it includes any kind of profanity.
Not only could you risk offending people, you may also develop a negative reputation amongst your colleagues.
No one wants to be that ‘terrible slogan tee guy/girl’.
Bottom line: whether it’s on a tote bag or a t-shirt, leave the one-liners at home.
Excessive aftershave or perfume
If you’ve ever been literally figuratively suffocated by strong-smelling aftershave or perfume, you’re probably aware that when used excessively, its effects aren’t always pleasant.
And whilst the odd spray or two before work isn’t likely to cause any problems, covering yourself with it at every available opportunity probably will.
Bottom line: subtlety is your best friend. You are not a walking bar of soap.
OK, so we know ‘fitness chic’ is totally in right now, but that doesn’t mean you can sport a full tracksuit to work. No matter how much you think you can pull off that Kim Kardashian look.
The same goes for crop tops and stretchy leggings. Sure, they’re comfy, flattering, and let’s face it, totally fashionable, but this is a workplace – not a treadmill.
Bottom line: if you could wear it to the gym, you probably can’t wear it to work.
We’ve all heard of the ‘chair’ – the place your clothes visit between the wardrobe and the washing basket. But whilst many garments placed here may be clean enough to wear another day, some of them may not be.
And whether you turn up to work with unnoticed stains, creases, or a questionable odour, it won’t say a lot about your personal hygiene, let alone your professionalism.
Bottom line: check yourself before you wreck yourself and/or leave the house.
Other things to avoid: Too much makeup (or worse – last night’s makeup), trainers with a suit, too many piercings, see through anything, visible tattoos.
It’s important to remember that every workplace is different. We can’t tell you exactly what to wear, but we can tell you that it’s worth keeping some of these points in mind whether you’re already working or about to start a new job.
If you are going for an interview, play it safe. Business dress is usually fine, and you can’t go far wrong with the classic ‘suited and booted’ look. If you’re still unsure, try travelling to the employers offices first and see how members of staff are dressed (this will also ensure that you’re on time, and your route won’t provide you with any surprises).
When first impressions count for so much, it’s important to get it right. Play it safe, keep it simple and don’t let your standards slip.
So leave the flip flops and shorts in your suitcase. Dress to impress, and dress for success.
The ultimate bottom line? Don’t let your clothes be a distraction.
Still searching for your perfect position? View all available jobs now
Find a job
Sign up for more Career Advice