Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dress for Success

I read a very interesting article on the Do’s and Don’ts of appropriate office attire in one of my regular online news site. The usual specifications didn’t bother me at all. Company orientations and company handbooks make sure you get the point. They all stress the same things. Be respectable, presentable and appropriate. Others go as far as being irritatingly meticulous though. In traditional and strict (local) corporations, they limit the appropriate designs/colors of shoes. They even limit the designs of your wardrobe. This applies especially to employees with direct client transactions where first impressions always last.

Corporations with western influence are the ones that are more relaxed and forgiving. Especially now that business processing companies with graveyard shifts in varying locations outside metropolis are booming. These companies usually demand dynamism and vitality from youths and it’s not surprising to see a number of employees now head to their offices wearing the extremes: Either ala-fashionista-devil-wears-prada-eye catching-styles or toned-relaxed-no-care-jeans-shirt-ensemble just like going to college.

I would imagine a person coming from a very relaxed environment, going to a stricter corporate environment. No doubt he/she will be stressed with the demands of rethinking their wardrobes. Initially, we wouldn’t care less of how people think about us, but dressing up appropriately sends signals that you would want. It might not directly help you in boost your career, but what it does is it minimizes unwanted stress and helps everything think of you as capable enough to handle higher responsibilities because you are capable enough to pull off an appropriate and sophisticated look.

Based on what I’ve read, experienced and on my own observations, here are the things that I learned for 5 years of working:


Appropriate professional clothes aren’t boxed up in one category of skirts, closed heel shoes, blouse and blazers. The nature of business or industry dictates the flexibility and the creative reign of what a person could wear. Obviously if you’re in a strict corporate environment where there are more ‘seniors’ wearing highly sophisticated, traditional and professional clothes, you can’t just come in an outfit that focuses on trends rather than understated or tailored elegance. These organizations appreciate sophistication than flashy trends. However, if you’re working in a creative and youthful environment and you see bosses dressed in a dressed down to smart casual fashionable clothing, you would be sending out a wrong signal if you wear senior looking clothes, lest they figure you out as a secret agent supervisor. Designs, colors and styles you can wear in the office vary on what kind of industry that you’re in. I suggest one to observe what people in the office wear before signing that contract and see if you can handle it.


It’s okay to dress to kill. It sends a great powerful signal in interviews, but according to Manila times, it might send out a wrong signal if you’re trying to upstage your boss. It’s not always nice to compete with your superiors even in corporate image. Gauge your boss’ appeal, and send out a good signal that you’re a smart, presentable and not someone who copies every designer item your boss wears in more fashionable and trendier colors. Superiors can always smell an upstage. Believe me.


Even if your organization or corporation does not demand you to wear slacks, skirts, stockings or even smart casual clothes, there’s a great difference between being casual and trashy. Fine, granted that you work in a creative environment. You’re young, you work on a graveyard shift and you have a cool, relaxed western atmosphere. Jeans, flats and shirts are allowed. Everyday is like dressed down Friday, but it’s not an excuse to wear holed and see-through shirts. It’s not also nice to see you working with Havaiianas on no matter how expensive they may be. It’s also not appropriate to dress as if you’re going to Embassy. It doesn’t change the fact that however your environment feels like, you’re still working. Act the part even if it takes a little modification. Closed flats, presentable casual clothes and something that does not attract any unnecessary attention is nice. A true test they say for casual clothing is something appropriate to wear to church.


We may not uphold the same sophisticated and fashionable tastes. We might distract a few people and send wrong signals with how we dress. It’s not our problem anymore, is it? But there’s this underlying general rule that applies to all. This form of distraction takes the cake.

DON’T WEAR SOMETHING A PROSTITUTE OR GIGOLO would wear. At least here in the Philippines, where overflowing cleavage is deemed pornographic or something tolerably seen in functions and movies, it will not do anyone favor in the office. See through material with colorful bra, no socks, mini-skirts to show your bum are so something left for your significant others to see. Not in the office.

You may have the vavavoom assets, but in work where professional matters are prioritized, these assets might be a form of distraction to your colleagues. Girls, especially guys, would have to allot the energy not to look at indecent parts when full concentration must be dedicated to business. And it’s awkward if they get distracted in a way that they are shamefully caught in a struggle to tell you to dress up without having you think of filing a harassment suit against them.

Skin is always nice and refreshing. It’s always nice to show your assets. But there’s a thin line between accentuating and distracting.

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