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How to Dress Right for the Workplace August 22, 2008

Posted by dapinoyemployee in Da Pinoy Employee.
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How you are perceived by others can have an impact on your career.  Which means… everything you wear at the office will directly or indirectly affect how you are seen by your co-workers and superiors.  It can also affect how you rise in your career.  Confused about how to dress the part for the office?  Here are tips on how to handle the couture and culture of the workplace:

Think clean.
You can never go wrong with a clean, freshly ironed shirt, skirt or pair of pants.  Even if you work for a warehouse or some department that will require some dirty, dusty work, it’s best to come in decent clothes. 

If you wear a uniform, for example, make sure it’s neat and smells clean.  And if there are tears, worn areas or a loose button here and there, by all means, fix them.

Dress right for the occasion and for your department.
Some departments allow employees to have a slightly different dress code than others.  Some companies, for example, require their office employees to wear uniforms while they pretty much let their field sales personnel wear what they like, provided it’s corporate wear or good enough to represent the company.

When is something too revealing?
When it comes to public perception of what’s sexy and what’s not, it can get very tricky.  What may seem like a harmless personal choice on your part can be a shocking breach of company culture to others.  The key issue here is not to be misinterpreted, something that in these modern times often comes too easily.  Blame it on the culture and upbringing. 

To make sure you don’t send out the wrong signals, here are some key points to remember:

The chest area: for men and for women, revealing too much of that part of the body can mean the difference between a fashionable go-getter and a gigolo wanna-be.  For women, especially, a low-cut blouse or a shirt with one button unbuttoned more than is necessary, can prove to be distracting to others – men and women alike.

For men: if you will be wearing a shirt with a tie, you will have to keep that shirt buttoned anyway.  No tie and you simply must reveal no more than 2 ½ inches from the base of your neck. 

How about the leg area?  For women, the length of the skirt can vary, ranging from the full ankle-grazing long skirt to the short skirt.  But how short is short?  An inch or two above your knees would probably suffice, although a good general rule to follow would be to allow your knees to show through but nothing more.

If your legs are a knockout, there’s no need to advertise – they will be noticed even if you don’t show them off.  Should you opt for short skirts, just make sure there’s enough length to allow you to avoid exposing yourself. 

For men, please avoid the Michael Jackson curse.  Your socks should only show when you’re seated.  When you’re on your feet, only your shoes should peep out of your pants. 

When is tight too tight?
The key here is to look for clothes that are a good fit, not something that will reveal the jiggles each time you move.  If your clothes feel like it will tear should you try to sit or stand, it’s probably too tight. 

Make-up, perfume and all that
Best to keep make-up light but fresh.  No raccoon eyes or geisha-like looks.  Keep it to a good minimum. 

As for scent, avoid wearing perfumes that are too strong, especially the type that are best worn for parties and all-nighters.  For office, choose light, fresh scents or if your perfume is musky or heavier, dab only a few drops here and there.  If someone can smell you from two feet away, you probably put on too much.

For shoes, stick to comfortable but stylish pairs.  And don’t try to spend all your paycheck on a branded pair, either.  Buy only what you can afford.  Just make sure they are a good fit, the right color and contemporary enough to fit with your wardrobe.

What about bling?
Jewelry is fine but don’t wear too much.  In the Philippines, if you wear too much gold, people tease you of having hepatitis because there’s a lot of yellow going on.  Choose a few key pieces – a bracelet with your watch, a plain necklace or one with a small pendant and a pair of earrings.

Remember that being dressed up for work doesn’t mean showing up what your grandma left you in her will.  Save the heirlooms for evening galas and family reunions.  Keep in mind that your goal is to look every inch the professional.  Wear the clothes that you get respect for and not the ones you get whispered about.

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