Returning to the Office in Style

returning to the office

Now that more folks are returning to the office, it’s time to update that tired wardrobe with the latest fashions that pop with new colors and the less stuffy style now popular. No matter what industry you work in, first impressions are important. How you dress can impact how people perceive you and how confident you feel in yourself. If you want to boost your workplace confidence, consider returning to the office in style.

returning to the office
Photo by Moose Photos: Pixels

Returning to the office in style

When we all left our offices suddenly in March 2020, we wore suits to the office like a uniform. Suddenly, we were Zooming into meetings wearing our PJs or sweatpants, at least on the bottom. The top might have looked business but the bottom looked like lounging around on the weekend.

Now that folks are returning to the office, what in the heck are you supposed to wear? And, if you’re like many, you may find your PP (pre-pandemic) clothes no longer fit in a way that’s flattering. So, returning to the office may mean an entirely new wardrobe. Let’s take a look at some fashion trends the well-dressed executive is wearing to the office.

Invest in a well-fitting suit

When I was in college, a professor stressed that we should dress for the job we want, not the one we have. And, that’s always been great advice. However, is the well-groomed executive still wearing the traditional fitted suit? As we’ll see, it depends on your industry. But, regardless, everyone needs a well-fitting suit on occasion; maybe for an interview on a news program or a groundbreaking.

For women, dressing professionally is always a challenge. We don’t have good role models as most of the actors playing lawyers and other professionals on TV and in the movies look like they’re ready to fall into bed with their co-stars. They show too much cleavage and their skirts are too short to wear comfortably throughout the many demands of their jobs, like getting into or out of a vehicle. The traditional suit worn by men just doesn’t look right when scaled to the proportions of a woman; we just jut out in places that ruin the lines of a man-tailored suit. The alternative of wearing a pantsuit (like Hilary Clinton) makes you the butt of jokes — for good reason. They’re downright ugly.

returning to the office


Above, you can see some options that work well. Think separates in coordinating styles and muted colors. I own a bunch of different pairs of black pants, solid-color tank tops, and unlined jackets in solids and patterns that make getting dressed in the morning easy. Just grab one from column A, one from column B, and one from column C. Add a belt, some shoes (I prefer something with no more than a 3″ heel, unlike all those sexy lawyers on TV in their 4″ stilettos) and a few pieces of jewelry and you’re all set.

If you don’t already have one, a good suit is worth the investment. Investing in a good suit is something you can wear for years as a well-tailored suit doesn’t go out of style very fast. I have a few that I save for investor meetings or other more formal occasions and I’ve worn them for over 10 years.

It’s important that the suit fits you well, as wearing one that’s too big or too small is embarrassing. If you put on a few pounds during the pandemic, and face it, who didn’t, it’s time to have a professional let your suit out or shop for a new one. Once you find a suit that fits your style, have it professionally tailored so it fits your body just right. A great suit makes you feel good, you’ll feel more confident in even the most stressful situations. You can dress a suit up or down depending on the type of work event you’re attending.

Wear clothes that are appropriate for your industry

It’s important to dress appropriately for your industry. If you work in a more casual industry, you have more leeway when it comes to what you can wear. However, if you work in a more formal industry, like banking, it’s important to dress accordingly. During the first few days on a new job, scope out what the bosses are wearing them plan your wardrobe accordingly. Also, find a mentor and ask them about what’s appropriate to wear for work.

When I worked for a tech startup, everyone from the CEO on down (I was the CMO) wore jeans and running shoes. Of course, we were on our feet a lot and sometimes had to crawl around to plug in new equipment or jiggle a cord when something wasn’t working right. I can remember trade shows in the early days where we shlepped in all the computers, banners, and swag by ourselves then did all the setup before changing into our branded t-shirts or polos. Unless I was doing a demo for an investor or a corporate client, I never wore anything except jeans.

Steve Jobs wore one of the hundreds of black turtlenecks and jeans he owned to everything. He claimed it left his mind free for more important considerations than what to wear. Mark Zuckerberg seems to have adopted the same idea with his monotonous outfit.

dress for marketing jobs

Choose colors that make you feel good

When I was first on the job market, the standing joke had to do with the dress code at IBM where, the saying went, you could wear any color shirt you wanted, as long as it was white. It went without saying that the shirt was worn with a conservative suit in black or dark blue with, maybe, a very thin pinstripe. Even in the most conservative shops now, you have more flexibility than you did back in the day.

The colors you wear can also impact how confident you feel. If there are certain colors that make you feel good, make sure to incorporate them into your wardrobe. On the other hand, if there are certain colors that make you feel uneasy or uncomfortable, avoid them. I’ve never been one of those who did the whole winter, summer thing in determining which colors worked best by my skin tone and hair color. Besides, I change up my color to suit my moods.

I do recommend you stay away from really loud colors and large prints. They may look great on an actor for a TV appearance but you want people to think about what you have to say not listen to your loud colors.

Accessorize sparingly

Accessories can also make a big difference in how confident you feel. Choose accessories that complement your outfit and make you feel good about yourself. Avoid anything that feels too flashy or over-the-top; stick to simple, classic pieces that make you look and feel your best. It’s ok to have a few statement pieces but save the gigantic hoop earrings, a necklace that makes your neck hurt it’s so large, and tongue piercings for after work. And, one or two earrings are sufficient unless you work in an office where things are more casual.

Pay attention to grooming details

Details like hair and makeup also impact how confident you feel in yourself. Ensure your hair is clean and styled in a way that keeps it out of your face at work. Stick to understated makeup and save the smokey eye for happy hour. Your underwear is also a vital part of grooming and can make a big difference in how confident you feel. Invest in a pair of the best panties that fit well and make you feel comfortable and confident. No one should see your undergarment at work so keep your bra straps hidden and don’t wear colors that show through your outer clothing.

These small details can make a big difference in how put-together and confident you look and feel throughout the day.

Final thoughts

These fashion tips can help boost your confidence levels in the workplace and force others to take you seriously. Remember when returning to the office to invest in a well-fitting suit, wear clothes appropriate for your industry, choose colors that make you feel good, accessorize wisely, and pay attention to grooming details. Implementing these fashion tips can make a big difference in how confident and successful you feel at work.

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