Women Dressing for Success in the Workplace

As a woman in today’s workplace, do you feel like you are a little more scrutinized in what you wear than your male counterparts?

While women would like to think they are judged for their brains and skills and not their appearance, there is little doubt there are still some offices where what female employees wear to work is given greater scrutiny than men.

In a setting where standard company uniforms like a hospital or eatery usually means no big deal, other venues can lead to an array of options for dressing up or dressing down.

For women dressing for the office or to attend a work-related business function, it is important to dress the role without pushing the envelope.

While a number of women no doubt enjoy the attention they get in the office or at a business function, drawing too much negative attention is not a good routine to get into.

When females are dressing for the office, the most important thing to remember is who your audience is, especially if you are in sales and will be having contact with current and prospective clients.

Don’t Be Tempted for the Model Look

If you work in a setting where you will be coming in contact with clients on a regular basis, do not dress like a model.

Yes, it is okay to be attractive in your presentation, but be sure you’re not flaunting too much so that the client is more interested in your wardrobe than what you and your company have to offer. Not being taken seriously can kill that opportunity to pitch a product and/or make a sale.

Next it is a good idea if there are other females in the office to pattern your clothing appearances after them. That holds true assuming they dress in a professional manner and not something deemed too risky. The last thing you want is for a client to disregard your intelligence and think that you’re the next pinup model.

Another no-no is showing up on a regular basis in clothing that is too loud. While a purple fluorescent outfit may work well for a night out on the town, you are showing up for work, not a movie premiere. On the flip side, it is not advisable to show up for work wearing bland colors that make you appear drab and unwelcoming.

Does Age Factor into What to Wear?

Age also plays a role in how women should dress for their 9 to 5 routine.

If you are in your 40s, 50s or older, do not try and dress like a woman just out of college. If you want to be taken seriously don’t try and live your past in front of your co-workers and/or clients.

At the end of the day, common sense plays the most pivotal role in how your dress for jobs.

Remember, if you think something you’re going to wear will by any means call too much attention to you, keep it in the closet.

Dave Thomas writes extensively for Business.com, an online resource destination for businesses of all sizes to research, find, and compare the products and services they need to run their businesses.

Views: 2303

Comment by Samantha Lacey on February 27, 2012 at 1:52pm

Lisa, to be honest that "23 years" comment did make me wonder if I was being patronised a bit, but I have a work colleague who says similar things and I worry that I have become over sensitive to it now. I don't believe David meant any offence in the writing of this article, but it is symptomatic of the fact that women are far more likely to be judged on their appearance and I do not believe this article will do anything to further the feminist cause. 

Comment by Andrew Hanneman on February 27, 2012 at 1:54pm

I guess for me I don't care either way (not a female) but I thought it humourous that a male was telling females how to dress.  I figured there would be a list of comments regarding that fact....and there is

Comment by Dave Thomas on February 27, 2012 at 1:58pm

If this article helps to improve things in the workplace for women who are being treated unfairly.... then I'm all for it. The reason I bring up the "23-year thing" is because someone might have saw the article and thought who in the world is this guy and what does he know. I have seen many women and men for that matter dress for disaster in the workplace over the years.

Comment by Valentino Martinez on February 27, 2012 at 2:01pm


"Casual Friday" opened the door to "Business Casual".  The IBM white shirt, coat and tie a la MAD MEN are gone.  Anytime an employer rolls out a dress code it's mocked by the rank and file.

Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, mellinnials, fads, etc., are all trending to a middle ground in work dress codes. Customers don't seem to mind either.  BTW--"Sunday Best" dress for the most part has left the pews and the building.  Now going to church is a casual event.

Comment by Dave Thomas on February 27, 2012 at 2:06pm


I have worked in both environments (dress up and dress casual). I agree that things are becoming more casual in general. Having said that, a lot still depends on the role of the employee, i.e. advertising, sales etc. Even though in one of my recent jobs I did not leave the office, I (like the others) were required to dress professionally because we sat up front and had customers coming in on a regular basis. As for church, you hit the nail on the head.... quite a change from the suit and tie days!

Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on February 27, 2012 at 2:09pm

I'm glad Samantha shared her very valid feedback. When I first read this it struck me as entirely off topic and out of context for this venue at a minimum. Quite bizarre and random! 

I'm not an easy to offend person, but the tone and content of this article is absolutely insulting to any professional member of the workforce. I'm still perplexed trying to process what the point may have been in having something like this published. 

So far none of the comments posted have swayed me to believe that any positive interpretations could be made from this information.  

Comment by Dave Thomas on February 27, 2012 at 2:11pm

I guess the fact that we're sitting here talking about it in the first place is a good thing. As for offending anyone, that was hardly the reasoning behind the article. Thank you for your feedback.

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on February 27, 2012 at 2:18pm

"As a woman in today’s workplace, do you feel like you are a little more scrutinized in what you wear than your male counterparts?" - No. More appreciated perhaps? :) I do embrace my femininity and dress like a girl. I don't feel harrassed and have never felt any less appreciated for what I bring to the table professionally.


The challenge I had with this blog is it is very generic and doesn't offer any real life scenarios or even cautionary tales. Instead, you tell us not to be tempted by the model look (because we're not that pretty?) and dress our age (because we're not that young anymore). What if I work for a hip software developer in Pioneer Square (Seattle) where people look at you funny if you have less than 4 facial piercings and no dreadlocks?


Too vague to be helpful, IMO, but it did spark conversation with is a good thing.

Comment by Dave Thomas on February 27, 2012 at 2:21pm


Thanks for your feedback and reading. At the end of the day, conversation is a good thing. If this helps to remove some stereotypes (I think my comments show I'm all for that), then all the better.

Comment by Samantha Lacey on February 27, 2012 at 2:30pm

Dave, conversation and debate are all very well and good. But if that debate is only reinforcing or reintroducing the idea that women need a man to tell them how to dress (as is implied in your blog, even if by accident) then I'm not sure it's a debate worth having. Women and men are equal, I would never presume to write a blog about how a man should dress, I would never tell a man to dress his age. I would never think to know more about the intricacies of the male dress code than men. The fact that some men, however well meaning, feel they can do so is a symptom of society we unfortunately still live in. I think it's safe to say in all my years in business (not yet comparable to your 23) I have only twice come across people wearing what I would consider inappropriate workplace clothing. One was male and one female and both were in their first "real" job. The manager had a quick word and the next day they came in looking fine. There is such a wealth of information out there on interview and workplace dress, I don't think an article specifically targeting women was needed. I hope you don't feel I am attacking you, I feel quite strongly about equality between the sexes and although I realise you did not mean to upset or cause offence, I hope you now see why you may have. 


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