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What Not to Wear to the Office

Joanna Douglas
Shine from Yahoo! Canada
May 23, 2012


As dress codes loosen up and temperatures rise, we've noticed women pushing their work attire to the limit. We started wondering: are tank tops fair game? And how can you tell if a skirt is too short? Every office environment has its own set of fashion rules, so we checked in with Katherine Power and Hillary Kerr, the ladies behind the popular fashion site "Who What Wear" and the helpful new handbook, "What to Wear, Where" to get the scoop on general wardrobe guidelines for the work place. Here are their seven fashion don'ts for the office.


1. Nightclub shoes
"We always say not to wear anything to the office that you'd wear to a nightclub--that includes extreme platforms or overly edgy shoes. Keep it timeless with a modest heel in classic shapes like a peep toe, pointy toe, or even a wedge, which can be easier to walk in. If you want to play with trends and your office environment calls for a more creative style, go for color or print, but just keep the shape conservative."

See more: Refresh your wardrobe without spending a dime

2. Wrinkled or stained clothing
"We believe that every working woman should own a steamer. It's a game changer. No matter how late you are, make sure to take a moment and check your garments for wrinkles and stains. Nothing is worse than seeing a gorgeous, powerful woman in a shirt that looks like it was picked up off the floor or from the back of a drawer and put on her back."

3. Excessive makeup and/or perfume

"The office is not the place to try out the latest beauty trends, so skip the extreme eye makeup and cakey lipstick. If you love a bright lip, go for one of the many great, slightly transparent bright shades, instead of something super chalky or glossy that should be reserved for night. Too much eyeliner and shadow will only start to bleed and smear as the day goes on (and who has time for touch-ups?) so use eye makeup sparingly. We love a wash of light color on the lid, and a great mascara. For our lower lashes, we use Clinique's Bottom Lash Mascara, which only comes off with warm water, meaning it doesn't smear during the day at all!"

See more: 10 ways to update your look


4. Chipped nails
"We'd rather you remove your polish altogether than wear a manicure that's past its prime. There are many great on-the-go polish remover products; have one on hand if you didn't get to the nail salon over the weekend."

5. Short skirts
"A good test is to make sure your skirt is at least the length of your fingers when your arms are stretched down to your sides. Fingers straight! Depending on your work environment and the length of your arms, you may need to adjust accordingly, but ultimately it's always best to err on the more conservative side."

6. Ill-fitting suits
"It doesn't matter how much it costs: if it doesn't fit you properly, it won't look good. We are always shocked to see how many women ignore the fact that their suit should be tailored to fit them perfectly! This means sleeves that are the right length, darts falling in the right place, and hemlines that work with your office shoes. Buy a suit (or suit separates) based on how they fit your largest areas, then have the other areas tailored. Also, remember to take your work shoes with you to the tailor or when you go shopping so you get the ideal pant or skirt length."

7. Tanks and halters

"Depending on how corporate or conservative your office is, a tank top is probably a no-no and a halter is completely off-limits. We've noticed that women have a tough time acclimating to summer weather when it comes to office attire. Make sure you invest in blazers in spring and summer fabrics like linen or a cotton blend, or go for lightweight cardigans over your bare arms."

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