Being a part of the millennial female group, I have experienced some fashion-related challenges when dressing for the office. We all know women’s fashion involves a lot more options and variety of clothing than men’s fashion. Fashion is supposed to be an opportunity to express yourself, but sometimes it can feel more like a chore getting dressed for work. I am here to help relieve some of the fashion-decision stress and guide you on what to wear in the office.
In my first internship at a large regional bank, I worked on a floor with a population of 90% men that wore suits every day. The other few women I worked with also wore suits. When I saw this behavior, I assumed this was how all employees were expected to dress. Within my first week on the job, I went to the mall and bought multiple suits from Macy’s and The Limited. Every day from then on out, I wore a suit and blended in with the crowd at the office, but it came with some problems.
My first problem with this banker outfit ensemble was that daily I would get overheated in the suit-jacket and want to take it off. This resulted in an uncomfortable situation because I wore the typical sleeveless blouse under my jacket. The men I worked with wore long-sleeved shirts under their jackets. It was an acceptable norm for the men to take off their jacket, but I never saw a woman take hers off. I wasn’t sure if showing my bare-arms was allowed or would make me look too informal. What I learned quickly was that being comfortable in the work place was more important than the fear of others judging you for showing your bare-arms.
This leads to my first tip:
Tip #1: Dress following the guidelines AND culture of your office
If your company has a dress code policy, it is important to stay within those guidelines. However, an important thing to consider is every company has a culture in addition to their dress code. In my internship scenario, everyone wore suits, but that was not officially written in the dress code. Additionally, nowhere did it say women couldn’t show their bare-arms. Once I realized this, I understood that I had to do what was best for me. If wearing suits was the norm, but I felt too hot in them sometimes, it was okay to take the jacket off.
Another problem I had with the suits is that they made me feel less confident. I thought I looked more like a 10-year-old girl playing dress up instead of a young professional starting her career. Suits aren’t my power outfit. And this was an important thing to learn about myself, and resulted in my second tip.
Tip #2: Be Yourself
In my first performance review during my internship, I got a 5/5 for dressing well. Yet, now that I look back on the situation, I believe that I could have worn dresses and cardigans and still received the same high score.
Fashion is supposed to be fun! You are allowed to show your personality through what you wear, so do it! Whether you enjoy navy blue polos or a simple striped print, wear what you feel represents you well. I love a clothing brand that is all about bright colored prints, known as Lilly Pulitzer. I used to feel self-conscious in the office wearing bright clothes. However, a female VP told me at lunch one day that it is important to wear what makes me happy. Now I am known as a “Lilly girl” in the office, and many people relate the brightness to my positive personality and energy I bring to work. It is a part of my brand.
It is important to realize that what you wear is noticed by others. Being confident and comfortable are significant factors in how you perform in your job. This leads to my third and final tip.
Tip #3: Dress for Success
Many of us have heard this expression, “Dress for Success.” It is well-known because it holds truth. Research has shown that dressing well can affect how confident you’re feeling, how people perceive you, and boost your creative mind.
At my current employer, jeans are a normal clothing item to see around the office. Still, I do not let that stop me from dressing up my jeans with a blazer or some heels. I have the “feel good, do good” attitude when I dress up and I do think it helps me stand out. Author and Professor Michael Slepian was quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying, “when you don’t need to wear formal clothing, that’s where wearing formal clothing can have a bigger effect.” Dressing up is a part of my brand and has led me to have a good reputation. It’s no secret, but now you can be assured that dressing for success is worth it.
Chelsea Burbidge currently works at a Fortune 100 company as a Portfolio Coordinator in the IT department. She’s a resident of downtown Columbus and enjoys walking places as much as she’s able to do so. In her free time, she loves to watch drama and reality television shows, play co-rec sports with friends, and take Zumba workout classes. Follow her on Instagram @Cbridge03.