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: 2301

Comment by Dave Thomas on February 27, 2012 at 2:39pm


I welcome the comments and yours especially were well stated (not patronizing you). I have been around bosses (most of my jobs involved sales folks in the office) that have encouraged some of their women sales people to look and dress a certain way to improve the chances of landing a client. While everyone should be treated equally, we do live in a world of stereotypes to this day. If I'm assembling a team, I want the best workers, doesn't matter if they are all men or all women. I did in a previous job work with a woman in advertising who was in her mid-50s and was trying to dress at work like her daughter. Not only was she embarrassing herself, but also the company when she would meet with clients. She eventually was told to tone it down with the dresses, makeup etc. I would say the exact same thing about a man in that position who is trying to be hip and dress like a guy 25 years younger than him. It will be a good day when it arrives when both sexes are treated equally in the workplace. Companies that succeed are those who get a team effort from the team, meaning they need to treat everyone equally along the way.

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on February 27, 2012 at 3:45pm

@Dave that's the kind of cautionary tale that is not only helpful but lends credence to your blog. :)

I'm all for equal treatment and equality, but men and women are different. I like dressing up and high heels. I don't think I need a neutral color power suit to be taken seriously. I've been known to rock an animal print dress and 4 inch heels at work - as long as a woman isn't showing too much skin and dresses to flatter her figure (not too tight, not too loose) what's the problem?

Comment by Dave Thomas on February 27, 2012 at 3:48pm


I think what ended up happening at the example I gave Samantha in recent comment was that both men and women can have fun with their outfits at work, but this particular individual was trying to turn the clock back 25 years. Some of the other women in the office caught on to the matter too, lol. When other women start turning on one of their own at work, all heck can break loose.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on February 27, 2012 at 7:24pm

Dave, Dave, Dave  Have you not learned yet in your 23 years that the most dangerous thing in the world is a man trying to tell a woman how to dress.  First of all you don't have a clue about why women dress the way they do.  So this thing sounded like something out of the 80's.


Dont dress like a model.  A model what?  Some of the clasiest dressers in the world of work dress like high fashion models.  Better to have said, don't dress like you are on the way to the bar and don't want to change clothes.  But then maybe i know a different kind of "model" than you do.


Better to have said, Don't dress like a frump.  Now women understand frump and they don't like being frumpy.  Tell a mature woman to dress her age and you just pissed off half the women in America because you mentioned two things that women get insulted about fast.  Age and being told how to dress.  Do you have a death wish?


Most women in the workplace spend a lot of money on their clothes, they dress depending on their mood a lot of times and they like compliments like, "You look very nice today".  Unless of course they are red eyed femminists who get pissed off if a male co worker does't drop his eyes and take two steps back before he says , "Good Morning".

Oh and by the way, as a writer you might want to take a look at that one sentence where your grammar went off the rails a bit.  I think it is "had seen" and not "had saw".


Now as to equality, i hope to heaven men and women are never treated as total equals.  I can not imagine wanting to sit around, scratch my nether region and tell sports stories.  Albeit i can empathize with the guys when they starting bitching about their last property settlement.  Go figure, maybe it was the way i dressed.

In line with that i might suggest that you focus writing sports anaolgies unless of course you think all women should dress alike in little uniforms, with sensible shoes and white little blouses.

If this old gal dressed her age i would be wearing support hose and a mumu.  So thanks for the advice but i think i will stay on the model track.  My four to five inch heels will make a grown man cry and the animal print causes barking at the moon. 


Now all you guys go find some Kaki's and blue shirts.  Buy five of each so you don't have to make a decision, nobody will know how old you are and the dress code thinks you are part of the janitorial crew.


Ciao, baby


Comment by Bill Schultz on February 27, 2012 at 7:53pm

LOL, I'm not touching this one.  

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on February 27, 2012 at 8:27pm

LOL Sandra I love you. :) I'm with you on the equality issue. I trained my sons to open doors for women and give up their seats on the city bus. Equality my ass - treat me BETTER :) (but that's probably getting way off topic I suppose...)

Comment by lisa rokusek on February 27, 2012 at 8:39pm

Hee.  I love these comments.  

But I'll say it again, Dave. You say in the comments (after being critiqued) that you would give a man the same advice as you gave in your article, but the fact remains that you didn't speak to that in your article - in fact your article was all about how you think women should dress.   Your article was in essence a man telling women what they should do - how they should be.  Eeeeyikes!  Danger Danger Will Robinson.

However I also must agree that I, also, do not wish for equality if equality means sameness.  We are different, but I'd be happy with equal pay for equal work.  ;-)  But I digress.

Comment by Valentino Martinez on February 27, 2012 at 8:53pm


You're going too far if you're saying I can't go back 25 years in terms of my look.

Disco Tino is awaiting the return of Bell Bottoms and Super Wide Lapel Coats...Retro is returning and when it does you'll be out of place dude...

Comment by Sandra McCartt on February 28, 2012 at 12:27am

Equality, who the hell wants equality,  I will walk all over you in these 4 inch heels and trust me i smell better than you do.  How many tickets have you smiled your way our of lately.  Until you can put on flase eyelashes  in the backseat of a moving taxi, apply lip liner without a mirror and change your pantyhose standing up in a hallway,without taking your dress above your knees ,in time for the next meeting don't be for tellin me or any of my sistas' how we need be dressin for successin.  We been successin while you were still tee teeing in your corderoy overalls.


And as to the "cats " in the office.  Those would be the frumps from the secretarial pool who don't know the difference between Gucci and the Gettysburg address. .  I'm thinkin they might have been your muse for this article.  In the event that would be correct tell them to put a little fun in their lives, try dancing and brighten up those basic brown pant suits.  Only the mother of the groom wears beige.

Comment by Dave Thomas on February 28, 2012 at 10:04am


Perhaps you were having a bad day at the office with the personal shot or two you sent my way.... maybe you were not happy with the clothing choice of the day.... not sure. Anyhow, thank you for your feedback and for reading. By making this one of the more talked about stories on the site.... I think y'all accomplished some good with this story.


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