In a nearly 30-year career (of course, I began at age 10), I’ve seen a range of work environments: conservative law firms, funky ad agencies, tiny non-profits and massive global corporations.
No matter where you work, these five fashion sins are a career derailer in any environment, at any age.
If anyone thinks these “looks” tell the world you’re trendy, give your head a shake. They’re saying “lazy” or “oblivious,” and marginalizing you as top talent in your organization. Please, in a world where men still earn and advance faster than women, why would you go out of your way to shoot yourself in the foot and diminish the respect that others have for you?
But here’s the bright spot – you can reverse any of these faux pas in an instant … or slip this Job Bank House Mother blog on the desk of the co-worker you want to help get back on track. Ready, ladies? Here are my Top Five:
1). Jacket sleeves too long. I guarantee you think you’re saving money, and I also guarantee that everyone else thinks you look like a 7-year-old who is playing dress up in mom’s closet. Nothing says “kid stuff” and “little girl” more than too-long sleeves on a suit or blazer. Frequently, petite sized women commit this sin – and if you’re small in the first place, why are you buying clothes that make you look like a 5th grader if they aren’t tailored? Are you impressed by men with ill-fitting or wrong-sized suits? So, why do you think it looks adorable on you? There are great tailors all over town – your new outfit is not ready to wear until the store, or a tailor, fits the sleeve to you. The sleeve should end just at the wrist to allow a little bit of shirt (or a handsome watch/ bracelet) to show. My favorite downtown tailor is Tower City Tailoring on the 8th floor of Terminal Tower. Tell Grace I sent you.
2.) Walking on your pants. I am rendered speechless every time I see a 23-year old wear slacks in a work setting with 5 inches of extra fabric pooled on the floor and around their ankles. What could you possibly be thinking? Are you trying to make sure your ankle monitor doesn’t show when you sit down? This faux pas is even worse than sloppy sleeves, as you are literally dangerous and incapable of responding to an emergency. Fire drill, attack by a random angry goose, or how about walking faster when you feel unsafe in a dark parking lot … is your ridiculous length going to be the reason you don’t return home in the same condition you left it? Your “not ready for prime time” hems drag on the floor, collecting grass clippings, mulch and dust, announcing to customers: “I can’t be bothered to dress myself properly, so why would I approach my work for you any differently?”
3.) High Heel Demolition. Wearing heels means maintaining them as well. I have seen heels that looked like an exploded cigar, with curls of destroyed, ripped leather peeling upward like carrot peels. And, when you have no rubber left at the heel tip, it needs replacing ASAP. Women say they can tell a lot about a man based on the shoes he wears, and how he cares for them. That story’s no different for us. I once looked on in horror as a senior executive was an hour away from hosting a room of businesswomen for an important networking event … with a dozen ripped shreds of leather rising from her tattered, filthy looking heels. As I was her marketing director, I made her give me her shoes and told her to please wear tennis shoes to the hotel meeting room. I met her in 60 minutes with the heels repaired properly. Please remember that you are being sized up head to toe by clients, referrers, prospects, colleagues and your boss. The shoes go along with that overall impression – shoe repair is a fast lunchtime fix, and your co-workers can give you recommendations on a local repair shop.
4.) Navels. I do not wish to view the mid-section flesh or navel of the vice president of finance, or a nonprofit executive director, or the chairman of the board, my local rabbi, or the surgeon that’s going to operate on my mother. The most powerful and trusted professionals manage to conceal this part of their body from the rest of the world, and it has, remarkably, not hindered their success in any way. Why, then, do I want to see it on you? You are pursuing a career, trying to make a great impression on decision makers, and putting your expensive college degree to good use. You are not trying out for a Forever 21 fashion shoot or on tour with American Idol. Belly shirts and midriffs have absolutely no place on the job, ever. Unless, of course, your job involves a pole, selling bikinis or serving cocktails. Cover it up, and keep it that way. I and my appetite thank you.
5.) Flaked Off Nail Polish. If you wear a clear or light pink shade, you have a bit more leeway on when to remove your polish, as it’s difficult to see chipped off nude or light colors. But the management-level colleague I took out to lunch with a major university leader chose to wear severely flaked and picked off deep maroon polish, making a gross impression on a school that seeks to send its desirable grads to top employers. It was disgusting, and said “I can’t be bothered to be pulled together” and “you aren’t worth 4 minutes of my time to remove my chipped off polish so I show up with clean nails.” No one has to have their nails polished … but when you do, if it isn’t in job interview or first-date shape, then for that important meeting, don’t wear it at all.
Kelly Blazek shares work success tips and observations from the corporate front lines in her Job Bank House Mother blog at http://kellyblazek.wordpress.com/