Career Corner | Common Workplace Fashion Mistakes

Bottom line: If you have to ask if it’s appropriate for the office, it’s not.


I’m writing this post instead of snapping the atrocities, that are what I can only assume are on their way to work, because I kept coming back to the conclusion that that’s probably an invasion of people’s privacy and just downright rude. Maybe this woman walking in front of me legitimately doesn’t know that what she’s wearing is unacceptable in a professional environment. It’s entirely possible. Which is why we’re going to spend today talking about what’s appropriate and what’s not and WHY.

I speak from experience and my experience is strictly the world of government work; I’ve had two jobs post college and both have been in government. So, I speak from what I know. Please read this with that in mind. I’ve never worked for a small start-up, or in retail, or finance, or on the Hill. Different fashions are appropriate in different workplaces and while I hope to aim this post to a greater audience than just my fellow government employees, if you work from home on the regular you will probably find that these rules do not apply to you. Long live the adult onesie.

And with that disclaimer, we begin.

Inappropriate office fashions:

  • Open back – Save the revealing tops for your weekend outings. At work, things should be covered.
  • Bodycon – Never in your lifetime or the lifetime of your hypothetical children will this category be office appropriate. No, not even if you pair it with a blazer.
  • Sheer blouses sans camisole – Lace bras do not equal lace camisoles. If your blouse is sheer in any lighting, ensure you’re wearing a camisole underneath.
  • OTK boots – I’m going to lose some of you on this one but I’m standing firm with a no Over-The-Knee Boot policy at work. OTKs inherently create a sexier vibe than non OTKs. Instead pair boots that hit just below the knee with tights. Ah, perfection.
  • Leggings, sequins, or shorts – Literally never. In no situation.


Work isn’t the place to show off your figure. Bottom line, the end, period.


Common mistakes:

  • Skirts/dresses that ride – You’ve either outgrown the item or it’s cheaply made. Either way, it’s time to donate.
  • Skirts that are too small – If you’re still the same size you were in college, girl, more power to you. But those size 2 skirts I used to fit into are long gone. The easiest way to tell if a skirt is too small? The slit in the back. If it is stretched, at all, it’s time to go. The slit in the back of a skirt should fall so the fabric perfectly overlaps. It’s OK to size up. It’s not OK to wear clothing that is just too tight.
  • Pants that are too tight – If you’re uncomfortable when sitting, they’re too tight.
  • Making a statement with more than one piece – I’m the first to admit that my day is directly affected by how much I like my outfit. I encourage you to go out there and make that statement to get yourself through the day. But don’t do it all in one outfit.
  • Not paying attention to what your outfit looks like from the back – Maybe the length of your skirt passes the test from the front, but when you turn around you realize it rides up a little too high. Donation pile.
  • Pushing the bounds of Casual Friday – ‘Casual’ should stop at jeans and even in some offices denim is unacceptable so do some research before you test these waters. If you’re a go for denim, pair with a blouse and blazer or a nice sweater.




Looking for a little inspiration? Check out the following posts for how to wear the following at work:


Pay attention to your overall presentation.


Before I walk out the door in the morning, I ask myself, “Is this appropriate for the office?” “This” being the entire outfit situation that’s happening: Clothing, jewelry, makeup, hair. Down to the fabric, length and cut of the clothing. Most days, I’m fine. But yesterday, the answer was, “No”. I was wearing a shirtdress that, when belted, rode up just a little too high. Not appropriate. Back to the drawing board. I was particularly pissed at myself since I decided it didn’t make the cut as I was literally walking out the door. I didn’t feel comfortable and knew it would only get shorter as I sat and stood throughout the day. Go with your gut. Hard pass.




Do you have any advice to share for work attire across other industries? Please share with me in the comments below!

Shop a few staples every working woman should own:

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  • Brittany
    September 30, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    THANK YOU. Every time I see some blogger or fashion magazine try to talk about making shorts appropriate for (office) work, a piece of my soul dies. Just say no.

    • identicon
      District Sparkle
      September 30, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      PREACH. Stop trying to make shorts happen. They’re never going to happen.

  • Angie
    October 1, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    Great advice and tips! I too work in a conservative industry and am shocked on the daily what people consider office appropriate. We actually have someone who dresses appropriately but always walks around barefoot. It is literally the grossest thing ever! Ha!!

    • identicon
      District Sparkle
      October 1, 2016 at 10:14 pm

      Ohh my. I’d suggest she invest in those Gucci slides!

  • Kaitlyn
    October 28, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    This is great advice! I really like your tips. Looking at your overall ensemble and going with your gut is so important. Thanks for laying out these common mistakes.