How Appropriate is Work-Appropriate?

by Rachel Yeomans | September 16th, 2009   

I know a woman who works in a hospital administration position, and a recent comment she made struck me. She said that even though she wears very appropriate attire for work, she still notices when she gets more “looks“ than usual, causing her to second guess the level of “appropriate” that is in her dress code.

She definitely has a point. A skirt suit sounds perfectly appropriate for a day at the office, however if you notice more up and down glances or raises of the eyebrow, is work appropriate at times not appropriate enough? Granted there will be times when even a turtleneck and slacks causes a few extra glances, but as women there are times we just can’t help that. But it is worth taking a second look at your wardrobe in the morning to make sure you are prepared for whatever reaction your attire receives. And if you don’t necessarily want your kneecaps being in question, you may feel more comfortable in a pair of slacks that day. I am a strong believer in dressing for oneself, and if you have a dress code then make sure you express yourself appropriately within those guidelines. However I also tout the belief of comfort–both physical and emotional. If I don’t feel comfortable with a particular blouse, then there’s a camisole going on under it or it is replaced entirely. Work is a busy time–why waste it fretting about the reaction to your outfit? Except, that is, if it draws out compliments - and I don’t mean the lewd ones.

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Appropriate length

Professional with the appropriate accessories (please don’t wear a leather glove to work)

Is the neck too low?

Is the color too loud?

Are the shoes too distracting?

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Neutral color

No distracting flashy tones/attributes

Is it a little too short for when you sit down during your business lunch – or when you need to reach for a file, or pick up a pen from the floor?

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Neutral colors

Very professional

Is it a good thing the scarf is longer than the skirt?

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Very standard business suit with a blouse

I can support shoe and bag compliment, however what if everyone only looks at the shoes

Yes, hose are a bit on the conservative side, but a bootie with a business suit…really?

Despite being buttoned to the top, you’re not really covering anything up with a see-through blouse.

Since it is a see-through blouse, do you really want the loudest color of your outfit to be from the piece that you can see through?

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One word: schoolgirl

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A blouse tucked into a skirt is a very classic professional look with a clean statement

Maybe the bubble skirt should be left for happy hour or the weekend

The ruffle blouse is a great statement, but perhaps with slacks and a blazer – on its own it may be too much

Do you want your client concentrating on the proposal or the strands from your top?

Skirt length – sit down and see what I mean

Peep-toe shoes with hose – first off, this is a personal pet peeve and second of all, it may be smart to cover one’s toes in the office

May I conclude by saying that any of these looks could be worn in the office, depending on your personal office environment and the message you as an individual and a professional want to convey to those you work with. Just know that despite how judgmental it may sound, those around you who may promote you or wish to work with you may choose not to merely based on the impression you choose to leave in the workplace. It may not be fair, but that is the work world we live in.


i love it. thank you! also, do you think hose de-sexify skirts? just curious.


Oh my gosh, no! Hose can be super sexy--be it patterned, cut-out, colored, etc. If you have a pair of knee-high boots with a pair of neon bright patterned hose just peeking out between your boots and skirt, super sexy. Or if you have black hose that are patterned throughout the hose, again, super sexy. Whatever appeal you are looking for, hose can give you the extra oomph. However keep in mind, most of these looks may not be appropriate for the office. For the office, maybe look for an above the knee skirt with over-the-knee stockings that have a dark background with simple pattern peeking over your knee-high boot. It's simple, makes a statement, but isn't over the top. It won't distract from your work. I hope that helps!