Clothing and Hygiene
When in doubt, dress conservatively.
In corporate America, you simply cannot go wrong by dressing conservatively. You can, however, put yourself at great risk by daring to dress provocatively, sloppily, or in a manner that signifies that little thought has gone into your grooming. While there are casual office environments, for the most part, one should dress differently when going to work than they would for a backyard BBQ. Look around. How are the leaders or those in positions of prominence dressed? Follow their lead.
Sure, there are exceptions. If you own your own business, you can do as you please, but if you’re concerned about your future and climbing that corporate ladder, the ladder you don’t own, you need to be cognizant of how you’re perceived. Good grooming tells a lot about an employee. It does not mean wearing designer clothes or buying the latest, most expensive bottle of perfume. Visit outlet stores, go to sale racks and accumulate a few basic items that can be shaped for many occasions, creating numerous different looks. An accessory here, a scarf there can change the entire look of your corporate outfit.
You can set the corporate attire standard if one hasn’t already been set. I watched one office completely change their dress code approach as a new hire set the bar a bit higher than what existed. Good grooming signals personal pride and for managers, that train of thought translates into possible pride in your work, attention to detail, and good organization skills.
Overexposure. Too much cleavage is distracting. A supervisor will have a hard time keeping his/her eyes focused on your face otherwise. Work is a time to allow everyone to concentrate on the duties at hand. Chest overexposure places others into a most uncomfortable position.
Mini Skirts. To the knee or a few inches above is the rule. Look and dress professionally. Be able to sit comfortably without exposing yourself, having to tug on your hemline all day, and worrying about normal bending or lifting that might be required in your job. Save the micro minis for the evening out.
Tight Pants. Tight pants show a lot, perhaps a bit more than we need to see while working. Tight pants with no underwear is a no-no. Thongs can often be seen in extremely tight pants, so ditch the tight pants in the workplace. Save the party clothes for the party.
Spaghetti Straps. Too casual. Not normally for the office place unless you work in a tropical climate environment where this is acceptable by management. Spaghetti straps show a little too much. Avoid them or opt for a nice jacket or blouse over them.
Make-Up. Make-up should enhance, not detract. Save the glittery eyeshadow for the dance club. Some research has alluded that women who wear make-up are taken more seriously than women who don’t. However, there are certain individuals that state that only a strong, confident woman would opt out of make-up, thus increasing the credibility of the make-upless individual. This is all up for discussion. If you do wear make-up, wear it appropriately.
Quick Accessories for Women. A pashmina or scarf is a wonderful, elegant look for business meetings, business dining and business evenings out. It is a quick way to add that professional pizzazz.
Suggestions for the Professional Woman:
Strand of Pearls (real ones are expensive, go for the knock-offs if money is a factor)
Silver and Gold Bangles
Several Pashminas in Varying Colors
Business Suits and Pant Suits
Knee Length Dresses or Skirts
Pants. Pants should have a slight break in the front. A good tailor will assist you with this.
Ties. Ties should be neatly tied with a medium to small knot. Clean shaven is the rule.
Shirts. Watch your shirts. Make sure they are wrinkle free.
Jackets. Suit jackets need attention, as well. Send them out to the cleaners regularly as they hold odors. It is an often overlooked article of clothing when it comes to laundering. A large volume of complaints comes from managers (and girlfriends) who state that men don’t know how to dress. I disagree. Take pride in your appearance. It does spill over into your work.
Suggestions for the Professional Man:
Three Suits in Different Colors – black, brown, pinstriped, or navy
Variety of Colored and White Shirts
Two Nice Belts – one Black, one brown
At least one pair of quality, neatly polished shoes
A sport jacket in a neutral color
Men and Women
Shoes. Flip Flops are far too casual for most workplaces, unless you’re a lifeguard. So be aware that by wearing flip flops, you are sending a strong casual message.
Shorts. In Bermuda, shorts are the norm. In America, not so. A smart gaucho with jacket is nice and can look professional but short and shirt, no.
Personal Hygiene. Body odor. Take a bath or a shower. Seriously, take a bath or shower every day, preferably in the morning before going to work. “Night sweats” or “bed sweats” are common and you may not realize that you are emitting an odor. A person who suffers from body odor often has no clue. You can bet that your co-workers know! It’s one of the most delicate areas of management etiquette and protocol – how to address this problem with an employee. There is no way to handle this without being forthright. You must gingerly tell the employee that there is an issue and suggest that the individual see a doctor or try to remedy the problem in other ways. “Bromidrosis” is the medical term for body odor and may or may not be symptomatic of medical problems.
Clean Clothes. There have been occasions where I’ve been called in to address a body odor concern, when in fact, the clothes were the culprit. Regularly launder your clothes. If you live in a warm weather climate, it is almost impossible to wear a shirt or blouse more than once without laundering it. Send clothes our regularly to the cleaners or invest in washable fabrics.
Perfume or After Shave Overload. Your particular fragrance may not be one that delights others. Be considerate of others, especially in small spaces. Be aware of co-worker allergies. Taking a bath in your perfume, especially if it’s not a quality fragrance, will linger and will get you talked about, but not in a complimentary way. A good fragrance does not have to expensive to be pleasant smelling.
Gum. Nothing is more annoying than the smack, smack, pop of someone chewing and popping gum. Save the gum for home. It looks unprofessional.
White or Transparent Clothes. Make sure that pants, dresses, skirts are lined. A transparent blouse over a nice camisole is acceptable, but a visible bra or full view of your backside, while it may be temporarily entertaining, will cause distractions and cause you to not be taken seriously. Ladies, you can see a thong through white clothes. Be mindful that a work environment is just that, for work.
Fear Not Color. There is nothing wrong with color in the workplace. It brightens the mood and there is evidence that color can affect performance. Know your company’s dress preferences and try to conform, but if there is latitude, dress to make yourself feel perky and you’ll convey that to others.
Accessories. For that boardroom look, avoid over accessorizing. Go light on the layers of necklaces, gold chains, streams of bangles. Subtle accessories look more professional and create a more classic, clean look.
With a few basic pointers and a lot of common sense, you will be perceived in a more professional and polite manner.