Are you finding it difficult to dress in a way that suits your personal style when you go on an interview or to your job? Do you understand the tricky boundaries of what to wear to work? Do you sometimes feel that you may be dressing too casually or perhaps that you are too dressed up? Do you know the rules—better still, are there any rules? And if so, what are they?
You might be subject to reverse ageism–others denying your competency because you look “too young.” However, finding the right dress etiquette can work wonders for presenting yourself as the competent, attractive, worker you are.
Heed this Q&A from Katherine Cohen, Ph.D., CEO of IvyWise and ApplyWise, New York City admissions counseling consultancies, and learn how to look your best, no matter what your age.
Q: When you interview a woman for a position, are there signs of grooming and dressing that you look for?
A: I look for manicured nails, shaved legs, and hair that is not too messy. As far as dressing, I like to see a simple chic look in clothes. However, I have hired interns who dress very avant-garde, with hair and makeup to boot. So I am pretty open. Be yourself!
Q: Are there any red flags, wardrobe-wise, that make you worry about hiring someone?
A: Yes, dirty, stained or holey-clothes or open shoes like flip-flops–because it is rare to have perfect feet.
Q: How important is it to dress for work? Is it better to be overdressed or underdressed?
A: I always err on the side of being overdressed. But in our office, which is not corporate, people can dress as if it were casual Friday every day.
Q: In terms of presenting yourself, are there things you know now that you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
A: Yes! I love having basics in my closet now and did not used to purchase many of those. I used to go for detailed, unique pieces that are great for going out at night but not flexible enough for work looks.
Q: What is the best way for a woman to assert her femininity without seeming overtly sexy?
A: Wear clothes that flatter the body and your natural curves. I can still look sexy in a skirt that goes below my knees and a little blazer–it is all in the cut. And always have a pair of sexy black heels in your closet; they will make even trousers look more feminine.
Adapted from ‘Work It!’ by Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo, Chronicle Books.
Katherine shares her TOP 5
grooming tips for the office:
- Always be clean and showered–smell good!
- A manicure and pedicure is a plus.
- Never wear clothes that are too revealing! I once had to tell an assistant to put a bra on and to stop wearing a sweater that fell off both shoulders and showed too much cleavage. That is inappropriate. No bra straps showing and not too much cleavage.
- No flip-flops.
- Nothing too bright, busy, or glittery. This can look clown-like or meant for nighttime. You’re in an office, not a nightclub.
Having a unique sense of style is something to be proud of! But in the workplace, you’ll want to steer clear of some important DON’Ts:
- Chipped nail polish
- VPLs – visual panty lines
- Pants tucked under instead of hemmed
- Missing buttons
- Big, fried hair