Mastering Workplace Attire: A Guide to Dressing Professionally

Photo of sale floor of clothing store. Various colored garments hanging from racks stationed around the sales floor. Blog graphic for blog post mastering workplace attire a guide to dressing professionally on Photo was taken by Edgars Kisuro.
Photo by Edgars Kisuro

After being in the U.S. workforce for years, I’ve seen some…interesting clothes at work.  Like see-through blouses showing bras or dangerously low-cut tank tops! After seeing more than one co-worker get in trouble with management for the way they dress, I learned that dressing professionally is important. 

Want to know how and what to do, keep reading!

Reason for dressing a certain way

No matter what some people think, we are judged by what we wear. If someone has a business, they want to set a certain vibe.  So, workers are asked to dress a certain way (a dress code). 

Finding out what to wear

Usually, the company’s Human Resources department or the hiring person will let everyone employed know what to wear. If you have any questions, ask one of them. 

Better yet, get a hold of the Employee Handbook. There should be a section that will tell exactly what is allowed to wear and what isn’t allowed.

Elbow down view of man in dark suit. Watch on left wrist. Adjusting sleeve of left arm. Blog graphic for blog post mastering workplace attire a guide to dressing professionally for from Pixabay.
Image from Pixabay

Three benefits of dressing appropriately

There are three positive benefits of dressing appropriately for the workplace. 

Reason 1. It keeps you in the good graces of management, which is always good.  Remember these are the people who decide if you get raises or get fired. So you only want to draw their attention if it looks good for you. 

Reason 2. Customers and clients will know who is an employee and who isn’t. 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want some entitled customer mistaking me for an employee. That story would definitely end up on a Reddit sub.

Reason 3. It makes you feel good. The saying “When you look good, you feel good’, applies here. Think about it. How did you feel the last time you were dressed in something that looked good on you? You felt good, didn’t you?  I know you did. It’s okay to admit it.

Little money for a new wardrobe?

From my friend, co-workers, and personal experience I’ve learned a few ways to get that new wardrobe. These options may not be popular, but they do work.

Borrowing clothes

You can ask friends and family to lend you some of their clothes. Maybe Aunt Jill has a dress that would look great for work, or your Fashionista friend will let you raid her closet (you know you’ve wanted to do it. Well, here’s an excuse). This is the cheapest option I’ve found. 

When I worked in retail, my ex-coworker came to work dressed in a lovely summer dress. I complimented her, and we got to talking. She said she was part of a Facebook group where all the women swapped clothes, which was how she had clothes to wear to work. That was pretty cool! I wish I were part of a Facebook group that did that.

Just make sure you wash them before you return them. 

Resale and Consignment Stores

These stores have a wide selection of clothes and accessories for someone with little money. Since they are second-hand items, the prices are second-hand too.

Once when I needed dressy clothes for a new job, I went to my local Salvation Army Thrift Store. I bought two pairs of dress slacks, three long-sleeve cardigans, and two long-sleeve shirts for USD 37.00. It was an excellent starter wardrobe for not a lot of money.

There were even name-brand pieces, such as J. Crew.  If I had bought all of these new, they would have cost more than USD 37.00!*

Please wash any consignment or resale clothes before you wear them…you never know.  

Buying wardrobe piece by piece

This is what I did for my first grown-up job.  I worked at a high-end clothing store, so I had to dress like I was high-end. So I bought a dressy blouse from the neighboring Misses department with one paycheck, and a pair of dress slacks from the Petites department with my next paycheck.

Luckily I didn’t have a lot of bills, so I could afford to spend a little bit.

A Last Important Tip

When following a dress code, always remember to keep your style.  Yes, follow the guidelines for your workplace; but also mix in a little bit of your flavor.

Being yourself and feeling comfortable is as essential as following the dress code. You’ll spend a big chunk of your day dressed like this, so you should be comfortable in it!

The Takeaway

Since people judge others on clothing, dressing for a specific part will get the respect that that part is entitled to. So as long as you follow the rules for dressing at work, you’ll do fine. 

Make sure that what you wear reflects your style (within reason, of course) and is comfortable. 

Just saying!

If you have a story to share, feel free to share it in the comments section. Similarly, if you have any comments, please leave them there too. I would love to read them.

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