Darcy Camden, owner of Styled Seattle, has been getting a lot of calls lately. More than ever before, businesses are contacting her. Asking if she’ll do a seminar on appropriate work wear for summer. Her clients, who are managers or in human resources, are venting to her too, mainly about green employees dressing too casually.
As the weather warms up people tend to dress down. But there’s a line between looking professional in summer styles and looking like you’re about to drink a margarita on the beach.
“The perception is you’re not working hard if you look like you’re on vacation,” said Camden.
But it can be a fine line and a confusing one. Here are Camden’s tips on how to dress fit for the season while still looking focused and professional.
Don’t Assume, Just Ask
According to Camden, most of her clients would love to be asked a few things about the dress code. “People get nervous to ask, but really it makes you look smart. It makes you look thoughtful. All good things,” she said. And really, it’s necessary to get to the bottom of what’s OK to wear. Not every office goes by the same set of rules. You’ve got to know your boundaries. When in doubt, dress on the conservative side.
The Sandal Dilemma
Shoes matter. “Shoes are like the punctuation on a sentence,” said Camden. And sloppy sandals don’t always make a great impression. In fact, most of Camden’s clients aren’t too keen on sandals in general. Gladiator sandals, sandals that allow a lot of foot exposure or anything you might wear to the beach are typically not appropriate for the office. But, here’s the tricky part. There are thousands of styles of sandals. Some of which could pass for okay. Camden encourages employees to take a quick picture of their sandals and run it by their manager or HR before wearing them. If you want to air on the safe side typically heels with a little peep toe are A-OK.
Maxi Skirts Just Don’t Fit
It’s counter-intuitive in a sense because maxi skirts are modest. They almost completely cover up your legs. But they’re not a popular item among most offices and here’s why. A maxi skirt is typically made out of a really casual material like soft thin cotton or a dressy material like chiffon. “Just by the nature of the style they’re super casual or on the special occasion side of the spectrum,” said Camden. Either way, they’re not office material.
According to Camden, her clients vary on the topic of bare arms at work. Some are fine with it and some are not. So, she encourages you to ask. But for the most part the following get a resounding “no”: tank tops, spaghetti straps or anything with a revealing bra strap, and strapless.
Test Your Skirt Length
Your skirts and dresses should hit about knee-length. “If you think your skirt is too short it definitely is,” said Camden. Remember that most people sit in their skirts. She says that when you shop for a new item, bend over and sit in the skirt or dress while in the dressing room. And according to Camden, most offices approve of bare legs. No pantyhose needed.
Careful with the Prints
We all love a colorful palm frond or Hawaiian print from time to time. But resort clothing looks out of place in the office. Keep your colorful vacation piece for the weekend or for your next trip. They belong under the sun anyway.
T-shirts typically end up in the “no” column. At times when they’re layered well they can look classy and professional. But for the most part leave your cotton T’s at home. Typically having a collar, whether it’s on a button-down or polo, is a good rule of thumb for men.
Shorts and a Blazer
A year or two ago men were pairing their shorts with a blazer. Don’t ask why. This style has since lost momentum and shorts are typically not office appropriate. But if you do dare to break out the shorts (with the blessing of your company), they should fall at the knee.