Skip to Main Content
by Vault Consulting Editors | April 20, 2011


By Kristine Schoonmaker, MyConsultingLife.Com

What falls in the appropriate column when it comes to work attire may seem obvious. But there are lots of people out there that have no clue how to dress for the office. These style faux pas will damage your image faster than the time it takes to gripe about your boss on Facebook. As if that weren’t enough, it will completely distract your colleagues and clients from the great work you’re doing. Here are 13 things to avoid wearing to the office at all costs:

1.Wrinkles. Everyone knows you probably took a plane or train to get to the client, but your look should never say "straight from the suitcase." Take the five extra minutes to iron or steam your clothes in the morning. If you’re really lazy, at least cough up the money for housekeeping to do it.
2.Cleavage. Ladies, I know that wrap shirt or dress is one of your favorites, but you need to keep the girls tucked away at the office and anywhere co-workers or clients are present. If you insist on wearing it, be sure to use fashion tape or a safety pin to keep everything buttoned up.
3.Baggy/bunching clothes. I’m thrilled that your diet is working. If you’re waiting until you hit your goal weight to buy a new wardrobe, ok, but at least invest a little money in a good tailor.
4.Tight clothes. Fitted is one thing, but spandex is another. If you can see the shape of your thighs or the tiny rolls of your tummy, it’s too tight. Now, I realize your "dress" pants from Express have very professional sounding names like "columnist" and "editor," but save them for the club.
5.Shorts of any kind (especially jorts). There may be times when you are leaving early or have to run into the office on a day off, but if it’s during the work week, you need to dress like it.
6.Cargo pants. It’s really quite simple. If it has more than two pockets in front or back, it’s out.
7.Golf Shirts. Unless you are actually playing a round with clients, this simply doesn’t meet the criteria of "business casual" in consulting.
8.Jeans or anything that even remotely looks like denim. I don’t care if they are categorized as "black" or "dressy" they are NOT ok.
9.A bottle of perfume/cologne. Under no circumstances are these appropriate substitutes for daily bathing or to cover-up the remnants of a late night out. Even if you just love the scent, a spritz or two is more than enough. If you can smell it on yourself it’s too much.
10.Tennis Shoes, flip flops or sandals. I’m not just talking about your Nike running shoes either. Anything that falls into the street shoes category is likely off limits.
11.Rocker Hair. I love my stylist, James. We’ve been together going on 10 years now. Like the best stylists, he’s artistic and on the cutting edge of the trends. Stylists are supposed to be. But, some of them might not get that you don’t have the same artistic freedom in your profession. So when they challenge you do something really edgy and cool, make sure it doesn’t involve three different colors, stripes, or spikes.
12.Short skirts. For my sorority meetings in college the rule was the skirt hem could be no higher than the tip of your middle finger when laid flat against your side (no shoulder shrugging). That is the absolute minimum for work. Knee length is really better.
13.Your pet’s fur.
We animal lovers can’t imagine life without our pets. I have a small zoo at home, but they don’t come with me when I leave the house. A lint roller is only going to set you back a dollar or two from the local drug store and well worth it for a neat, professional appearance.

You can be sure that you will have some clients that break these rules, which will seem horribly unfair. The bottom line, however, is that the standard is higher for the caliber of professional that you are now. Don’t let a shoddy physical appearance cost you your professional image.

What’s the most unbelievable thing you’ve seen someone wear to work?

Kristine Schoonmaker is The Career & Lifestyle Coach for Consultants and founder of Her bi-weekly ezine Accelerate offers practical insider advice and quick tips from a former consulting exec to help YOU take greater control of your career and stay engaged in your personal life from the road. If you’re ready to have it all – an amazing career in consulting without giving up the lifestyle, relationships and experiences you want, get your FREE subscription now at



Filed Under: Consulting