Are You Dapper or a Disaster? What Your Office Wardrobe Says About You

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Every office has the over-dressed and/or the overly-casual person. What is your workplace dress code, and what does it say about you?

Today’s workplace is a melting pot of generations, and subsequently, a mixture of workplace attire. An eclectic assortment of styles and wardrobes might not seem significant to the modern worker, but according to “corporate image” experts (a.k.a fashion stylists), what you wear in the office speaks volumes.

Keep reading to find out what your personal dress code at work says about you.

The Executive (Suit and Tie, Pantsuit, and/or Blazer)

Man and woman in business attire

You’re an upper-level executive, lawyer, sales person, government official or Barbara Walters. You’re in a position of power, and people view you as confident and successful.

According to Melanie Townson of online tailor Suit Me Up, “studies show when you are wearing a bespoke suit, people perceive you to be more confident, successful, flexible and a higher earner.” That is, if the suit fits and it comes in blue — with a splash of red. According to Lynda Goldman, etiquette consultant and author of 30 books, including How to Make a Million Dollar First Impression, navy blue is the best color for a suit. It inspires confidence. Add a dab of red and you’re showing your powerful, strong character.

Related Article: Dress for the Job You Want: Why Looking the Part Matters

The Out-dated Situation (Shoulder pads, Scrunchies, Enormous Spectacles, and/or High-Waisted Slacks with Matching Blazer)

woman wearing 80s clothes

You’re stuck in the 80s — it’s time for a wardrobe makeover, Ms. Working Girl.  You might be a senior executive, or you might sell insurance. Either way, those around you view you (and your ideas) as outdated. According to Imogen Lamport from Inside Out Style Blog, colleagues will think you (with the shoulder pads) are “out of touch with what is going on”. If you’re often mistaken for Harrison Ford or Melanie Griffith circa 1988, it’s time to ditch the outdated get-up.

The High-Class Hipster (Oxfords, Sweater Vests, Tailored Blazer, Carefully-cuffed Designer Jeans, Tucked-in Button-down Shirt, Real or Faux Hipster Glasses)

Hipster working

You’re a creative director, designer, marketing professional, media mogul, young entrepreneur or a retail store manager. You try to look clean-cut and professional without the stuffy three-piece suit. You value quality, personal style, and often take selfies for your Instagram followers.

The I-Don't-Care-About-Fashion (Jeans, NFL jerseys, Flip-flops, Converse Shoes, Borderline Sweatpants, Alumni Sweatshirts, Punny T-shirts, Manbuns)

guy in jeans and sweatshirt

You work for a startup or a tech company. Or, you’re one of the many freelancers who hoard tables at hipster coffee shops for hours on end. You take advantage of the fact that you never have to meet clients face-to-face by wearing the antithesis of a suit and tie. Your sheer aim is 9-5 comfort. It’s not disrespectful, nor a reflection of lazy hygiene, it’s just 2015 and you’re confident in your work performance. But if you’re rocking this ensemble at a more established, customer-facing company, you might be ruffling the feathers of those older than you and sending a message that you’re in cruise control.

Related Article: Why Company Culture Matters More to Employee Than Pay

The Pretty Woman (Deep V-neck T-shirts, 8-inch high heels, Tight Red Dress, Cut-off Jean Shorts, Yoga Pants, Gym Shorts)

short skirt high heels office inappropriateYou’re a lady of the night OR you’re a businesswoman (or man) who needs to seriously reconsider a professional makeover. Figure-hugging or revealing clothes shout to others that you might be in need of attention or lack certain social formalities. Remember, everything we wear expresses our personality, and sometimes, our work ethic. “Clothing certainly does not determine one's actual competence and credibility,” says Darlene Price, president of Well Said, Inc., “it does, however, influence others' perception of those qualities — and that reality impacts career opportunities."

Image via Official Village People 

The I-Have-No-Choice (Scrubs, Aprons, Work Boots, Company Shirts, Costumes)

Village People

You’re a doctor, dentist, UPS driver, construction worker, restaurant staff or a mall Santa Claus. There’s not much getting around required outfits. And you deserve major kudos for all the money spent on laundry detergent, washing the one uniform you own.

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