Ladies, let’s get honest for a moment. As much as we’d like to see a day when the glass ceiling wasn’t so low, the fact remains that right now, we’re constantly being scrutinised for our clothing choices. While we can try and put the noise on mute in our personal lives, it’s probably better to put some thought into our professional image. Here’s a handy dandy cheat sheet that aims to provide some general guidelines on work wear for five different kinds of jobs.Ladies, let’s get honest for a moment. As much as we’d like to see a day when the glass ceiling wasn’t so low, the fact remains that right now, we’re constantly being scrutinised for our clothing choices. While we can try and put the noise on mute in our personal lives, it’s probably better to put some thought into our professional image. Here’s a handy dandy cheat sheet that aims to provide some general guidelines on work wear for five different kinds of jobs.
Learn what’s appropriate to your industry. Every office has some unspoken rules about what’s allowed and what isn’t. The quicker you learn, the easier you’ll fit in. Fit is everything. Whether you’re rocking a suit or sporting a shalwar-kameez combo, an ill-fitting outfit screams “pass me for that promotion.”
Dry your hair. A lesson yours truly hasn’t quite internalised, but turning up to work in hair still wet from the shower signals that you don’t quite have it together, which in turn might reduce confidence in your ability to deliver.
Give your bag a little TLC. Things constantly spilling out of it might be cute in a 90’s romcom, but won’t impress clients...or your boss. Make sure you clean it out regularly, so that anyone catching a glimpse when it’s opened won’t be subjected to a scene straight out of a landfill.
You might be digging the fruity notes on your new perfume, but don’t kill your colleagues with your scent. If someone can smell you from more than an arm’s length away, your scent is too strong, and that’s not a good thing. Even though everyone uses their phone to keep track of time, wearing a watch is still a professionally sound move. Trust us on this one.
Colours are important. Softer shades are soothing, and a good choice when you’re trying to blend in and get along. Deeper colours are better for presentations. Avoid the neons at work.
Banks and hotels
Most workplaces now have more relaxed dress codes, but some upscale banks and hotels have either a Business Formal code, or even a specific requirement, such as a suit, for both men and women. In such cases, your concerns should revolve around fit and grooming. An ill-fitted suit looks worse on a woman than a man, so find a good tailor. Usually these kinds of jobs require a lot of time to be spent on your feet, but still mandate heels, so look for something with a mid-rise, that is comfortable to walk about in. Jewellery should be minimal and discreet.
This one is a big umbrella, and allows for a lot more flexibility, but if your work is particularly people-oriented, there are a few guidelines to consider. Dress codes may swing between Business Professional for meetings and presentations, and Business Casual for everyday desk work. Shalwar kameez sets are always the best bet, but you can rock a kurti/palazzo combo. Another great option, which is perfect for cooler weather, is pairing a tailored blouse and palazzos or slacks with a longline vest or jacket, and cute, comfy flats. This is where you can toss in a piece of statement jewellery, as long as it’s not too distracting.
Interestingly, dressing for this job is like listening to the Miranda Act—anything you wear can and will be held against you. Having spent a considerable time in this role, this writer can tell you that it’s always better to opt for the most conservative code you can go for without compromising your values. Long kameezes and saris with longer blouse sleeves are preferable, and colours that aren’t too loud—you want all the focus to be on your teaching, and students are always actively seeking distractions. Another thing to keep in mind is consistency; constantly switching up your look is not a good idea.
Think Business Casual with character. Jobs in the media, advertising, or digital sector allow a lot of leeway in terms of dress. Flowy tops with jeans, kurtis with slacks, boho bags, there’s a lot more room to play with and show off your personality. However, it’s also important to remember to remain professional, so low-cut tops, bare midriffs (increasingly frowned upon, even with saris), anything shorter than knee-length, jangly jewellery and loud makeup are probably not a good idea.
You would think working in fashion means complete freedom of dress. The reality is a little different. Whether you’re working in an established house, or running your own line, your attire while on the job (and this, in the day of social media marketing, includes appearance on your public profiles, particularly Instagram) should reflect your brand. So, if your brand is pushing exclusively ethnic wear, it’s probably not a good idea to be seen at work in western wear, and vice versa.