By: Stephanie DeWitt
When considering what to wear each day, what do you take into account? The weather? Where you are going? Who you will see? Your favorite colors or clothes?
Dressing for success is more than just the clothes you wear. Here are some notions to consider when picking out your work-place ensemble.
Body Jewelry and Tattoos
First, look to your company handbook on any restrictions regarding visible body art and piercings. Typically, you won’t have to worry too much about earrings. Whether you have multiple or like to wear large statement earrings, your employers will generally be tolerant of your expression through earrings. I have always had a small stud nose ring, and I have never had any kick-back from my superiors. First of all, it is quite small, and secondly in relation to the many other facial piercings, the nose stud seems to be the least offensive. I have no personal experience with tattoos, however, my observation has been that small unobtrusive tattoos are generally acceptable (ankle, inner wrist); however, if possible they should be covered with clothing.
This is a more gray area. Like tattoos and piercings which become more mainstream every day, hair coloring and styles are generally tolerated so long as they are not considered extreme. What your employer considers extreme is going to vary based on where you work. In the legal field, I think it’s important to remember that, especially when we meet with others, not to be distracting. If you have a rainbow colored mohawk, it probably won’t affect your performance while hidden away in your office, but it may very well distract and deflect from the issues at hand when having in-person meetings. You may not be taken as seriously as you otherwise would, or your client make drift off wondering what products you use to shape your spikes.
Anyone who knows me knows I love a good pair of heels. Your shoes can give your outfit that pop of color or texture you might be missing. Obviously, many offices ban flip flop or open toed shoes, but I have never seen a restriction on color or height of heel, so if you’re feeling stifled by the parameters of your workplace dress code, throw on a fun pair of shoes!
Unless your employer has a clearly defined dress code, there may be fine lines between what you should and shouldn’t wear at the office. First of all, examine your coworkers – Are they edgy, conservative, casual, formal, etc.? I suggest you determine what the climate of your office is and find your comfort zone within that range. I have always refrained from showing my shoulders and any cleavage at the office. For me, I set those parameters as my own personal definition of professionalism. Likewise, I lean toward “pencil skirt” lengths and avoid any skirt that falls more than an inch or two above my knees. We all know that navy blues, grays, and blacks are widely accepted as “professional colors” but what about jewel tones, neon, or just generally brightly colored clothing. Again, feel the climate of your office. A little color usually never hurts, especially if it isn’t overpowering the ensemble and is more of an accent to your outfit.
In most any office, you will have co-workers pushing the envelope on what is acceptable business wear. For your own personal reputation, refrain from being a repeat offender on those areas that are viewed as taboo across the board. The definition of business wear is becoming slightly broader; however, overexposure of skin and extreme styles will hardly ever be accepted. Use your accessories to show your own style and liven up what may be a dull gray outfit, but remember that your focus is professional legal services, and to distract from that focus is not only damaging to your reputation, but may hinder the effectiveness of your impressions on others.