One of the more daunting parts of starting my new job (okay, internship) this summer was something that is typically the most fun part of my day: getting dressed! Going to work in a male-dominated field can make choosing an outfit feel like the difference between being invited to that big meeting or being asked to make a coffee run. But for a girl like me who loves her bright colors and bold patterns, white oxfords and black trousers just aren’t going to cut it! So as women in the workforce, how do we wear clothes that we find fun, but that also strike an appropriate balance between “take notice” and “take me seriously”?
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned so far about dressing like a woman in an office full of men:
Every workplace is different! Something that might be appropriate in one office may be out of place in another. Now put down your pitchforks, ladies, I’m not saying you have to trash your favorite floral skirt or that new trendy top in favor of the office “uniform,” but there is a way to tailor your personal style so that it’s not only appropriate, but is functional. For example- I work in manufacturing. This means that occasionally I need to don a gorgeous pair of steel-toed shoes and a hat, and venture out onto the plant floor. So while there is nothing wrong with flowy tops or white pants, I just know I would end up caught in a machine or with oil smudges all over my backside (NOT the right way to do the grunge trend).
Revere the workplace
There are some trends and styles that just have no place in the office. While you may love that wool mini skirt, and that low-cut wrap dress with the bold ikat print may be so you, save them for the weekends. Demanding professional respect from your male coworkers and supervisors while flaunting your, um, assets is definitely asking too much. The truth hurts, ladies.
Just because you’re dressed appropriately as well as stylishly does not guarantee that there won’t still be the occasional comment or sideways glance. It happens all the time- I wear a skirt to work, or printed chinos, or something else inherently “trendy” or “dressy,” and I get a nonstop inpouring of “Got a presentation?” “Interview today?” “Looks like someone has a hot date tonight.” It’s fashion shaming! Try to focus on what a good job you’re doing and shake it off. Deep down they’re probably just threatened, right? So when your coworkers’ comments make you want to run for the safety of oxford shirts and plain trousers, just smile and nod, girls. Smile and nod.