Oscar Wilde once said that you can never be overdressed or overeducated. Well, Wilde never had an office job and he doesn’t live in the 21st century corporate world, so as far as the first part of the statement goes, he was wrong – or at least is in today’s world. The words ‘dress code’ don’t exist for no reason. They are guidelines that we need to follow in order to be perceived in a certain way – preferably a positive one. Even wedding invitations usually include a dress code, and if we’re willing to follow that rule, what is hindering us from doing the same at work? You wouldn’t make an appearance at a casual movie night at your friend’s house in a ball gown, so why overdress for work? In a corporate environment, your appearance is perhaps more telling and important than anywhere else, and whether we like it or not, our competencies are often judged by the way we look. According to research published in the Business Insider ‘your appearance strongly influences other people’s perception of your financial success, authority, trustworthiness, intelligence, and suitability for hire or promotion’. Those are some strong conclusions, and if you want people to make positive ones, read on and find out why you’re overdressed and how you can rectify it.
You didn’t get the memo
Once upon a time, dressing for a day at the office was pretty straightforward – men were in suits, women in either pencil skirts or dresses, trousers, blouses and blazers. Now, everything has become a bit blurry. There is a strong possibility that the tides are turning not only because members of the millennial generation are advocating for a more dressed-down and casual office look, but also because many new companies are actually run by millennials. Just look at Mark Zuckerberg – the man is always seen in a regular tee and jeans – therefore, it’s safe to assume that no one at Facebook is dressed Wall Street style. The point is, one of the biggest reasons you are overdressed is that you didn’t examine your work environment properly. If other people come to work every day wearing a nice pair of jeans, a tee and perhaps a casual blazer – don’t stand out by wearing black pumps and knee-length pencil dresses. Knowing your ‘audience’ is the most important step.
Taking cues from street style photos
While you may look amazing, on trend and on point when you rock multiple strong patterns, brands logos and essentially look like you just came alive from one of the photos in any magazine street style section, this is not the way you want to be dressed at work – unless you actually work at Vogue. This goes for both companies with a strict business dress code and those with a relaxed one. In the first setting, rocking multiple patterns will make you look flamboyant and unprofessional, and in the other, it will seem like you’re trying too hard. Now, no one is saying that you should drown out your style persona entirely. There are subtle ways to show off your personal fashion sense and still blend in. That’s what subtle patterns are for – plaid, understated florals, even polka dots – but all in good measure and in the right proportions.
You don’t know your crowd, take 2
Not every day at work is the same – there will be days when you will need to step it up. For instance, even if you don’t normally wear power-suits to work, you should know that when the time comes to meet with important clients or investors, you need to put your best look forward and reach for that power suit, sleek that hair and exude power and competence. On the other hand, if your company is throwing a party – whether it’s an anniversary, celebrating a deal, an office Christmas party – don’t come in your work clothes. This is the time when you reach for those gorgeous cocktail dresses online, because for this occasion, those kinds of dresses won’t make you look overdressed. Again, it’s all about the occasion and the setting.
The accessory department
The shoes you wear, the bags you carry, they all tell a story, one that is as insightful as the one told by the clothes. The era of having to wear pumps that make your ankles and arches die is over and you can wear any kind of shoe you want, as long as it blends well with the rest of your outfit. Don’t shy away from loafers, flat sandals, even tennis shoes if we’re talking about a business-casual environment. As for bags, just make sure they’re not too loud. That means no crazy embellishments, no see-through PVC bags – keep things normal, stylish but kind of neutral with classic designs and neutral color palettes
You may love your jewelry, but perhaps save those statement earrings for a party on a crazy Friday night, ok? Chunky statement necklaces, huge earrings, multiple rings – these are a big workplace fashion no. In the jewelry department, you want to go minimal – both in terms of design and the amount of things you put on yourself. You have a nice necklace, something along the lines of a locket – great, but leave the earrings at home. You already have two rings? Don’t put that bracelet on. Multiple pieces of jewelry aren’t only too much as in ‘overdressed’ but overall tacky and not a reflection of good taste, so avoid ‘chunking up’ at all.