Business DressOffice EtiquetteProfessional dress

Ten Dressing Faux Pas That Can Tarnish Your Professional Image

It’s the morning rush hour. I’m not talking about the traffic you might encounter after you head out the door. I am referring to the chaos that occurs before you even cross the threshold. Whatever your morning routine, somehow there are things that manage to go awry.

You plan as much as you can the night before. However, if you have children that you need to get off to school, there is breakfast to prepare or at least supervise. Possibly lunches to pack. Then you need to make sure that everyone is dressed in the appropriate school garb. If you have pets, they have to be tended to as well before you leave for the day.

Whew! If that’s not enough, you have to get yourself ready for work. Waiting until the last minute to decide what to wear to work is not the best idea. If you’re savvy, you decide upon your workplace attire the night before. Chances are you won’t have time to ponder it in the morning.

The goal in choosing what you wear to work is to look your best—your professional best. No matter where you work and what is appropriate for that environment, there are certain details that if overlooked can ruin a good impression.

Here are a few things to check before you make your exit.

  1. If you have pets that shed, check your outfit for cat or dog hair. Fur is not considered office appropriate. Keep a roller brush handy.
  2. Do you see wrinkles? Maybe your colleagues or clients will assume they occurred on the way to work, but don’t count on it. Blow the dust off the iron, plug it in and use it.
  3. Take a look in the mirror—always a good thing—and survey the length of your pants. Are they bunched up with the hem dragging the floor? When you buy pants for work, remember that the hem of your pants should hit at the top of your foot, not below. If they don’t meet the test, visit a tailor.
  4. On the subject of pants, glance at the hem again. If the hem is frayed, put that pair in the donations pile and find ones that are in pristine condition.
  5. Count your accessories. A few pieces of jewelry will dress up your outfit, but don’t overdo it. Wearing a dozen bracelets can be distracting to the person you are trying to impress. And while you have ten fingers, they do not all need to be adorned with rings. One per hand is sufficient.
  6. Hair ties are not bracelets. If you have long hair and want to pull it back occasionally, keep a few ties in your desk drawer or in your purse, not on your wrist.
  7. Check the condition of your shoes. Nothing tells people how little attention you pay to detail as shoes that are scuffed or worn. There are people who check out your shoes before noting anything else.
  8. Do your clothes fit? Are you still trying to squeeze yourself into an outfit you “outgrew” months ago? Looking professional means wearing clothes that fit your body, not that of someone you used to be or hope to be again.
  9. Take time to dry your hair. Showing up for work with wet hair says, “I am running late” or “Who cares how my hair looks.”
  10. Hide your bra straps. (I can’t believe I just said that.) More women are showing up at work wearing blouses or dresses with little or no sleeves. While I am not a fan of sleeveless in the workplace; if you go that route, make sure that you aren’t advertising your choice of undergarments to the office.

When dressing for work, the smallest details count if you want to keep your professional image and your reputation intact as well as be respected by both colleagues and clients.

Clean, neat, pressed and fresh trump grungy every time.

Photo from Savanah magazine

Lydia Ramsey is business etiquette and modern manners expert, keynote speaker, seminar leader and author of Manners That Sell-Adding the Polish That Builds Profits. Based in Savannah, Georgia, she travels across the US and as far away as India and Dubai to work with clients that include universities, corporations, small businesses, associations and non-profit organizations. Her topics range from flip-flops to forks. Visit her website for more information about her services and resources. If you prefer to talk, call her at 912-604-0080.


Lydia Ramsey

Lydia Ramsey is a leading business etiquette and modern manners expert who offers seminars, keynote speeches, webinars and individual coaching. She works with corporations, associations, colleges and universities as well as individuals.

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