Something to Remember: Your Work Attire Not Only Represents You, It Represents Your Workplace. Think Before You Dress.
I recently had a conversation with someone regarding work dress code. She enlightened me to the fact that not all work dress codes require skirt suits and briefcases. She told me that on the first day of her new job years ago at a designer boutique, she was told in the store that it was the last day she would wear anything but their label when at work. After hearing her relay this story, I realized that alongside the politics of the workplace runs the politics of the dress code. Whether you work in retail, in the office, in a restaurant, or any other business, what you wear has the potential of offending or impressing someone. How do you ensure that it’s not the former?
Fashion is touted as being an expression of one’s personality. You can tell a lot about a person based on how he or she dresses, and you can form an opinion about that person very quickly based solely on appearance. A bit judgmental? Yes. But unfortunately, a reality.
If you work in an industry where you don’t work in front of clients or have to negotiate with partners and don’t have to impress colleagues, then you may be part of the fortunate few that probably don’t have to worry so much about how people are sizing you up based on your work attire. However, when your job involves working with other people, there is always going to be a chance of someone having a reaction to your work attire. if you work at a retail store and you walk in wearing a competitor’s jeans – that could get you sent home to change or even get you sent home and told not to come back.
I used to work in an office right by what I call “Mary Kay Lane”. Almost every other day I got stopped by a woman who would enthusiastically compliment my shoes, my handbag, my overall look, etc. After I would tell them where I purchased my items, they would invite me to a meeting to become part of the Mary Kay team. Great recruiting tactics for sure. I didn’t join the Mary Kay team, but that doesn’t make their message any less clear. If I wasn’t wearing those items or if I didn’t put thought into somewhat standing out fashionably, I probably wouldn’t have been offered the opportunity to explore a new career path. It may not have been one that worked for me, but I would much rather have the opportunity to choose from versus not receiving it altogether.
Whether your fashion ensemble causes you to stand out or blend in, it is important to realize that what you wear is not always about you. While at work, it is also about your visual representation of your workplace. Something to think about before leaving for work in the morning.