Last week I was driving downtown and I think I counted fifty men in light blue button downs and standard-issue khaki pants. Okay, maybe not that many, but quite a few. And a current refrain over the water cooler in my office is “I woke up this morning and didn’t know what to put on!” Having already covered what not to show up to work in, let’s talk about how to dress to impress at your place of employment.
This advice comes courtesy of my stylish parents – through a gift I received from them as a little girl. Day to Night Barbie wore a velvety, bubblegum pink suit with spectator pumps and carried a matching briefcase – the perfect attire for her (somewhat vague but surely very important) office job. But once the clock struck five, you could transform her ensemble into sophisticated cocktail wear: the jacket could be removed to reveal a bedazzled bodysuit, the skirt reversed to one with a floaty chiffon overlay, and she even had a pair of hot pink evening shoes.
The point? Barbie wore appropriate pieces (note the modest skirt and lack of bared cleavage at left) that could be quickly reworked for any occasion. Simon Doonan, creative ambassador for Barneys New York, echoes this in his recent column for Slate: “Avoid the gruesome pitfalls of overdressing or underdressing. Simply dress like you are going someplace better later. When your mantra is to look like you’re going someplace better later, then you have permission to add that signature flourish which sets you apart. For gals this translates to a few sequins here, a fake lash there, an oversized bejeweled cuff here. For men it means a new suit with a more fitted jacket, a pocket square or a nifty iPad case. And then, in the unlikely event that you are actually going someplace better later, you are good to go. ”
The lesson? DON’T show up at your workplace dressed like Nicki Minaj or Steven Tyler (unless you really are Nicki or Steven). Be appropriate to your environment and considerate of fellow employees. By all means, DO incorporate well-considered touches of sartorial flair that turn your look up a notch or two without making you a topic of conversation for all the wrong reasons.