Skip to main content

Lauren M.G. Burt: The etiquette of seasonal work attire

With the arrival of spring comes a welcomed change of wardrobe. Gone are the heavy coats, wool sweaters and worn-out boots. Warm weather calls for bright colors, fewer layers and dressing with ease. But sunny days are not an open invitation to wear pool-party attire to the office.

When I started my career, a wise — and well-dressed — person said, "The devil is in the details," and that adage has never left my mind. Not only is it true when it comes to work and life, but also in regards to wardrobe and style. Small details like the right shoes, manicured nails, a well-placed accessory or correctly matching a belt and shoes are just as important as the outfit. Human resources professionals often say they place an applicant higher on the list when they notice a tidy briefcase or polished shoes during an interview.

Interview Attire: Interviewing for a corporate job versus a job at a tech start-up can be two completely different situations. Do your research before the interview to evaluate the culture. With warmer temperatures, choose lighter jackets to beat the heat. Make sure dress hemlines are long enough. Even if a workplace appears more casual, dress for the job you want and present your best self with appropriate attire.

Shorts & Sandals: Shorts should never be worn in a professional setting. The only exceptions that come to mind are a golf outing or volunteer event that calls for casual, comfortable clothing. The same goes for flip-flops. If you would wear something to the pool or to mow the lawn, it doesn't belong at the office.

Casual Friday: The last day of the work week is not a green-light for yoga pants and T-shirts. Assess the environment by taking style cues from your boss or the leadership team. A dapper and clever mentor of mine often says, "Dress as your career allows." Don't remove yourself from the promotion list by dressing inappropriately in the summer, or any other season. Tank-tops, torn jeans, mini-skirts and flip-flops should be edited from the 9-to-5 wardrobe.

When in doubt, don't: If the skirt is too short, the shirt is too tight or the outfit is just too casual — don't. If there is a moment of pause when getting ready for work, an interview or a date — don't wear it. Err on the side of effort, and being a touch over-dressed than under-dressed is a safer bet.

In full-disclosure for readers — I don't love jeans and I think casual Fridays may be the beginning of the end. However, I am a firm believer in knowing your audience and showing respect for an occasion by dressing appropriately. One can never be too well-styled, professional or pulled-together. Dare yourself to be the best-dressed person in the room.