Misguided wardrobe choices

Colleen Clarke|

I always get really scared at this time of year when I see women bring out their toeless and heelless sandals or flip flops and start wearing them to work. The ones who haven’t bothered to get a pedicure are the worst when you are walking up the stairs behind them as you exit the subway. Please ladies, use discretion and objective judgment when getting dressed during the dog days of summer. The workplace is not the beach or the back yard. We have clothes for work and we have clothes for play.

The IT world heralded a new style of dress for the workplace when young, bright, but unstylish professionals hit the market in the late nineties. To the chagrin of many companies, the relaxed manner of attire filtered down beyond the IT world, even attacking some high profile business environments.

Revealing tops, jeans, sleeveless shirts, flashy Tees, flip flops and running shoes sprung up all across North America because many companies didn’t have a dress code policy that dictated company dress regulations. Up till this point in time there had always been a distinct demarcation between work and play wear. It would be prudent to find out exactly what constitutes business casual in your office.

Fortunately for people who love an excuse to shop and for businesses who take pride in their professional image, the workplace is starting to make a comeback to a more professional demeanour.

Cathy DeSerranno, professional wardrobe consultant, offers some do’s and don’ts to my usual list for corporate environments:


  • Consider your daily schedule, what will carry you through the day.
  • Ladies, wear walking shoes to and from work and dress shoes at work.
  • Dress for your size. Consider the messages you will send with what you wear. Check out the cut of your neckline ladies. If someone is standing while you are sitting how far down your top can they see.
  • Invest in a well made suit, if appropriate, and build a wardrobe from this suit. Buy complimentary shirts, skirts, ties, slacks, and shoes. Wear up to date ties and accessories.
  • Know if your workplace is a scent free environment.
  • Dress to fit the environment and ensure the clothing fits you properly. Follow your boss’s lead – though this can be misleading at times.
  • Use an iron and make sure your clothing is spot free and clean.


  • Extreme fashions are short lived and end up costing a lot more money.
  • Don’t show inappropriate skin.
  • No flip flops please.
  • No noisy jewellery.
  • No heavy make-up.
  • No T shirts with writing on the front.
  • Don’t replace quality with quantity – shop consignment, Goodwill or Value Village to dress well for less.

When getting dressed in the morning, ask yourself if your clients or customers will see you as the expert you are if dressed this way. Would you want to do business with you? If you could wear what you have on to a sporting event, change it.

It is now up to corporations to write and implement their own dress code that is congruent with their work environment. While you are waiting to be told what you can and can’t wear, start tomorrow by dressing one step up from your present position. It is hard for management to promote someone who doesn’t look like they could handle the promotion or to invite you out on a client lunch or meeting if you don’t look the part.

Colleen Clarke

Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer


Author of Networking How to Build Relationships That Count and How To Get a Job and Keep It

Category: Life At Work,