Like many companies in North America, my office has no formal dress code. Everyone pretty much wears whatever makes them feel comfortable. For example, during the summer months it’s not uncommon for you to see someone walking into the break room wearing a pair of shorts and a tank top. Our CEO is often spotted in cargo shorts and deck shoes. It’s just the way it is. If you’re like me and spend most of your day staring into a computer screen, comfort helps.
Despite the popularity of this workplace trend, I have to wonder. Can dressing too casually be detrimental to job performance? With this in mind, I did what I do best. I started reading. There are countless studies posted online and many appeared to have valid arguments. Unfortunately, I have to disagree with the majority of what’s been written on the subject. In my humble opinion, it’s not the clothes that make the woman but rather how you feel in them. If you feel great, you’ll do a great job. If you feel bad, your work will reflect it.
The trick is to find the middle ground. Don’t take the lack of a more traditional dress code as permission to be a slob. You can wear comfortable, casual clothes and still look – and feel like – a professional. If your company allows you to wear jeans, avoid über casual footwear like athletic trainers or flip flops. Instead, wear your favorite pair of boots or sandals. Choose a smart jacket or blazer as an alternative to an over-sized hoodie. To soften the look, try a feminine blouse and delicate accessories. And if jeans are on the no-no list, fret not. Those printed pants I’ve been hinting at are a viable option which can easily replace denim in this equation.
If your budget doesn’t allow you a lot of wiggle room when it comes to your work wardrobe, remember the three A’s: accessorize, accessorize, accessorize. With the use of clever accessories, such as scarves and statement necklaces, your coworkers can easily be fooled into thinking the outfit you wore last Wednesday is brand new on Monday.
Most importantly, don’t forget that hair and makeup complete the package. Take a few extra minutes in the morning to dust on a little powder and lip gloss. Pull your hair back into a low, sleek pony or up into a messy but sexy twist. The end result should be a woman who means business but still knows how to enjoy the little things.