Dressing appropriately for the office

Dressing appropriately for the office

All stories start somewhere, and this blog has its genesis on the day that I wore a ridiculously poofy skirt with flowers printed on it to the office, coincidentally on the same day Lucy came to interview for the Policy Adviser role.  She claims that seeing me pass by in that outfit was a (small) factor in her decision to accept the offer – after her experience in the public sector, where style hadn’t exactly ruled, she was excited to see that our workplace offered a more flexible and exciting dress code.

I realise, kind of, that some people truly don’t care what they wear.  I don’t understand it, but I know it’s a thing, much like the complex physics a lovely ex-boyfriend tried to explain to me (I mean, I say complex, it was most likely the stuff he learnt in first year).  Atoms, amiright?!  But for those of you who, like me, find creativity in dressing up, having a full time corporate gig can curtail the dream a bit.  So I thought I'd touch on how I decide what's appropriate for work. 

My only hard and fast rule for workwear is: you should not be able to see up it, down it, or through it.  It seems a fair rule, applying across all genders, cultures and positions in the organisation.  That being said, 90% of the time I also apply the CEO Rule.  The CEO Rule runs thusly:

Imagine you have to go to an important, external meeting at the last minute at the invitation of the CEO of your company.  Are you dressed appropriately to represent your employer?

Again, an excellent rule (if I do say so myself) because it’s inherently flexible for different careers and industries.  You might be thinking to yourself “but Megan, I am a lowly [insert role here].  I will never go to a meeting with the CEO, as she/he doesn’t know I exist and frankly there are many other contenders for that horror”.  Of course – this isn’t an attempt to actualise a scenario where you actually have to pitch up to a meeting with a bunch of strangers and fake your way through it.  This is just a trick to help you think about the appropriate tone of how you dress – in an optimal, dress to impress, kind of way.  Would it be nice to live in a utopian future where people don’t consciously and unconsciously judge you based on how you dress?  Yes, but we don’t live in that future, so let’s not be naive.

In my industry, in my role, and working for my company, I tend wear things that are a bit creative and colourful, but I still think it’s important to “look smart”.  I can’t really tell you what that means – I just know I look smart when I do.  Almost every outfit featured on this blog has been worn to work, so clearly it’s a broad category.  Certainly it’s memorable?

However, 10% of the time I eschew the CEO Rule (sometimes, by accident).  On those days, something about my outfit makes it seem inappropriate – not because you can see up it, down it, through it etc, but perhaps it is too casual, or too flamboyant, or frankly I just didn’t quite achieve an outfit that day and it’s a scrappy mess.   This outfit falls into that 10%.

To be clear – I love this outfit.  I loved it all day.  I’ll be wearing it again.  But if our CEO had rolled up to my desk and invited me to meet some important external guests in a high stakes meeting, I would have felt a touch panicked.  I would need a blazer, maybe some heels, something to make it look like I hadn’t just stopped into the office on my day off, having been to the shops for a little retail therapy.  

Do you know why this outfit was a misfire?  It’s because I got too excited about wearing these tights with this dress.  I knew I wanted to wear the dress, and then I had a flash of inspiration and realised that these tights would be a hundred times more interesting than black tights.  One thing led to another, and next thing I knew it was leather jackets and flat lace up shoes ahoy.  I never allow enough time for getting dressed – I take about ten minutes to put together an outfit each morning, despite my New Year’s Resolutions – so once I was in this outfit I couldn’t be faffed changing it and frankly, didn’t have time.  I was just blimming lucky I wasn’t required to be anywhere that day.

I’d love to know how dress codes in offices across Wellington, New Zealand (and the world!) are evolving, and how you decide what’s appropriate for your role.  Tell me in the comments below! Maybe together we can start working on our utopian future of wearing weird stuff to work.

Tights are Pretty Polly - they ship overseas and they're having a sale!  Shoes are from last year at Mi Piaci, but many similar options exist.  Dress is Salasai – you guessed it, from Once It.  Jacket is Blak Luxe, and my necklace is from Wilson Trollope here in Wellington.