Your guide to dressing in the workplace

Dressing matters.

Entering the corporate world as a young lady, I struggled finding out what it takes to get ahead. Apart from being good at what I do, I was clueless in terms of being presentable and my dressing. I couldn’t decide if I needed to be sexy and fashionable until it hit me. Did it matter how I looked? Of course, yes!! How you dress matters, it actually matters a lot.

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Dress up every day with the aim of creating a lasting first impression. In the corporate environment you meet different people every day and you never know who is studying you. The image you create greatly influences the way you are viewed in the office.

With the primary goal being to “feel good” about the way I looked, I had to project a positive image. Feeling good about myself helped me naturally convey confidence and professionalism. It also gave me a positive attitude, which was all I needed to get ahead.

Although there may be no set rules as to how one should dress, at times our choice is determined by our occupation or location. Your goal is to look the part, and for appearance to be consistent with the type of work you do. A college campus might be the perfect forum to show off the latest trends in fashion style, the office environment however, is not the place to do so. A conservative suit would be the recommended style for professional and managerial positions while overalls are for a construction job.

I could go on and on about what to wear and what not to, avoiding too short skirts and wearing too much bling blah blah blah…we can all recite those off-head. To cut it all short here’s a few pointers to take note of from me;


1. Create your own brand

Come up with an overall image you want to portray in the workplace. Then, go about buying and choosing the clothes that fit this image. Try mixing and matching casual, fun clothes with formal attire to add a personal flair to your style of clothing. Pair patterned or brightly-coloured tops to add a spark to a suit. You can also choose a patterned suit with a solid top. Just make sure what you choose to wear reflects a little of your personality.


2. Understand your body

Know your body type and choose styles that show it off in a professional way. Wear clothing that is fitted and highlights your best physical features without being revealing or raunchy. To me, nothing is sexier than a woman who shows off her stuff while not showing bare skin. Dress to express who you are inside without baring your assets on the outside. Not only is wearing inappropriate clothing distracting, it can also give off an inaccurate impression. I’m curvy and gifted in all the right places, but trust me, I will never be caught in a short skimpy outfit. The office environment is not meant for that. Looking sexy is alright but do it in a classy-professional way.

chimamanda adichie


3. Understand what’s appropriate in your industry

Dressing culture varies from uniforms to suits and overalls depending on the line of business. Some businesses simply require employees to be more formal than others. In the fashion industry, models need to keep up with the latest trends however, corporate professionals are not taken seriously unless the show up in formal suits. Perceptions on dressing differ and office environments need to take into consideration both the clients and fellow industry professionals. You will have to understand and appreciate the perception your company dress code may have on all of these people.


4. Make sure your clothes ‘fit’

Appearance whether classy and confident or relaxed and trendy, is often reduced to how well clothes fits. If they are too big or too small, trust me they won’t look good on you. A proper fit applies to everything including clothing, the shoes, and the accessories. Baggy clothing will not highlight or enhance you in any way, instead it may make you look less professional or even heavier than you are. The same applies to smaller and tighter clothing.

Makeup and hair can also negatively affect perceptions of women in the workplace, but that’s a tipping point for another day…

About Neo Cheda

Neo Cheda enjoys writing, shopping and discussing the latest trends with good company. When Neo is not travelling, she's exploring different eateries in her city, Johannesburg.

Neo is passionate about contributing to the professional development of young women.

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