Professional image goes far beyond what one wears to work, but the way someone dresses is still a major facet.
The way one carries themselves and interacts with others also influence professional image, but those in control of their professional image know that what they wear to the office can make a large impact on how they are perceived. Unfortunately, what we wear to work matters. Having control of your professional image can be the difference between securing a promotion and being passed over for one.
The key to maintaining a good professional image is to let your clothes add to the message you wish to project to coworkers and clients. Here are eight things those in control of their professional image never wear to the office:
1. See-through clothing
While dress codes differ from company to company, clothes that reveal a lot of skin are typically considered inappropriate for most workplaces. While showing skin can be empowering outside of the office, those who curate their professional image know that reserving polarizing items for weekends is a safe bet.
2. Overly extravagant pieces
While it’s fine to have fun with your wardrobe, incorporating pieces that are extremely over-the-top can cause people to focus more on what you have on than on what you’re saying. Those in control of their professional image let their style accentuate their skills—not distract from them.
3. Graphic tees
While a plain tee shirt can pair beneath a blazer or with a pair of slacks and fit right in the office, shirts with messages or pictures can give off a vibe that’s slightly too laid-back for the workplace. They’re often seen as being too casual for many offices.
4. Leggings as pants
Leggings may be one of the most comfortable clothing items ever created, but they still should be covered by a dress or skirt if you choose to wear them to the office. Those in control of their professional image know that wearing comfortable options is possible without looking improper.
5. Mismatched patterns
Dressing professionally doesn’t mean that you have to dress blandly, but it does mean that you should consider the message that your outfits convey. Clashing can be done in a fashionable way, but going overboard can signal disorganization.
6. Ultra-short hemlines
To keep your professional image intact, you should be able to comfortably reach up and bend down without risking exposing your undergarments to coworkers. Keeping a professional image doesn’t mean you have to be frumpy, but it does mean that you should wear clothes that don’t present unnecessary challenges.
7. Workout wear
A widely accepted rule for office ensembles is to steer clear of anything that you could wear to the gym. Wearing sweatpants or other athletic wear sets a tone that is more sloppy than put together. There are many comfortable options available that will allow you to rock the office with style without looking like you’re heading to pilates.
8. Ripped clothing
Showing up to work in pieces that are ripped, tattered, or distressed—intentionally or unintentionally—sends a message that you don’t care about your image. By arriving in damaged clothing, you suggest that you aren’t that into personal presentation, which can translate to carelessness at work.
"Professional" varies from person to person, but taking control of your image and refusing to let it be the reason why you’re counted out it also important. Those who are in control of their professional image work to ensure that their interior is reflected by their clothing choices.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, and her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.