Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Workwear by Grazia or How to Lose Your Job and Alienate your Colleagues

Recently I've been working in a corporate environment where the office dress codes are fairly conservative.  It has got me thinking a lot about what type of clothing really is office appropriate and how off the mark a lot of fashion magazines usually are for the majority of us when they make suggestions for office appropriate workwear.

The underlying assumption always seem to be is that everyone either works in fashion or a creative industry and can wear whatever they want with scant regard for office dress codes applicable to the majority of other industries.  That we should all be so lucky!  In particular, Summer fashion presents the average working girl with a sartorial minefield with magazines trying to push the latest trends which are, all too often, completely incongruous with most office dress codes.  Now I may work at the more conservative end of the office dress code scale but I'm sure that the majority of us have to be much more realistic when choosing what to wear to work, yet here are some of the office appropriate suggestions I've seen recently.

Looking for a way to ban boardroom wardrobe boredom?  Well one surefire way to do so is to get yourself banned from the boardroom faster than you can say "tailoring is so boring" by taking a page out of Grazia's definitive guide on how to dress to look cool for summer and permanently damage your career in the process. 

First up is their plea to take up that mythical item of office suiting: a pair of city shorts.

Source: Grazia UK

Shorts at work? Yes you can? Uh, actually, no you can't!  Unless you work in fashion or that ilk of course but the world is a little larger than that dear Grazia.  And yet they claim "there is no need to stick to fusty skirt-suits if you have a smart work dress-code."  Tailored shorts to the rescue apparently - through Grazia barely succeed in covering their ass (excuse the pun) by attaching the rules that they shouldn't be too tight and too short - "no Daisy Dukes ladies!".  Well phew!  I'm so glad someone at Grazia is drawing a definitive line under where the professional woman's acceptable thigh exposure should begin.  Me thinks the horse will already have well and truly bolted if you turn up to the office in any of the suggestions that do abide by their rules.

Three words to bear in mind when dressing for work: TOO MUCH INFORMATION.  Your colleagues don't need it.  To tell it to you straight, I have worked under many a smart dress code and most expect you to cover up, even in the heat.  Some provide explicit, written instructions that shorts, miniskirts and in some cases even cropped trousers are off limits.

I suspect none of the Grazia team have ever worked in an office with a smart work dress code because as lovely as tailored shorts are, they are anything but office appropriate no matter what you wear them with.  I don't know a single female city worker who would dare wear these to work and with good cause.  Despite any suggestions that choosing a well cut tailored style and pairing it with a prim top will tone it down, nothing will deflect the attention (particularly that of your male colleagues) from the fact that your legs are blatantly on show and that ultimately, you look unprofessional.  You are at work, not the beach.

Second up: wear a tee shirt with pretty skirt.

Source: Grazia UK

Some office dress codes are casual enough that they allow tee shirts but there are many, many others in which wearing a tee shirt to work will scream to your colleagues "I really couldn't be bothered this morning" whether you paid £10 for it or £100 to be fashionable.  Never mind tee shirts, could somebody please explain to me in which type of workplace (apart from the Grazia offices clearly) a crop top would be considered appropriate workwear?  Please! I'm dying to know!

Are we to delude ourselves into thinking the addition of a statement skirt (including one costing almost £2000) absolves the professional crime of baring your midriff?  Do your colleagues really need to see your belly button/belly piercing/muffin top/stretch marks/gap year tattoo?  Crop tops only look good on sixteen to twenty nothing year olds with washboard stomachs and even then they should never be worn to work.  Has it escaped Grazia that there is rather high rate of unemployment in this age bracket at the moment due to the recession?  Yet here they are gaily recommending this as an office worthy outfit without any caveat of what industry it might be appropriate for (selling ice cream at the beach would be my suggestion).

Finally there is suggestion of how to work that old chestnut, the boardroom to bar outfit, with a split skirt.

Source: Grazia UK

Although this look is more covered up than shorts and a crop top it clearly intends to ooze sex appeal and risks sending a message to your colleagues and more pertinently, your boss, that you would rather be at the bar than at work.  When I showed this picture to Mr V who also works for a corporate he guffawed with laughter.  So be warned ladies!  While you might score kudos points with your fashion savvy female colleagues the men might be thinking something else altogether.

I don't know what boardroom dress codes are for shopping editors but in any of the boardrooms I've been in you would be mad to flash even a hint of thigh.  There are few professions I would imagine looking sexy would be part of your job description.   Overtly sexy is never a look you should be aiming for in a professional setting especially if you have male colleagues.  At work you want to be taken seriously and have people concentrate on your performance at work.  Save the high voltage gear for changing into once you leave the office.

I fully concede a huge range of work dress codes exist in offices and across different careers but I seriously question whether the level of flesh exposure proposed in these outfit suggestions would be appropriate for any of them.  While we would all like to inject some personality and look good at work I feel that these sorts of articles are not helpful and very often misleading.  Why not cater for a range of professions (outside the realms of the usual fashion/creative/marketing et al...) rather than serve up three major disservices to the credibility of women in the workplace in one magazine?

Most of us are not being paid to be cutting edge fashionable or sexy, we are being paid to do a job and represent a company.  This doesn't mean you can't be stylish at work but you should carefully consider the dress code of your office before swallowing advice like this which really needs a career health warning slapped on it.  This is the type of of fashion journalism you get when you get unpaid interns that have neither salary, raise, bonus nor promotion at stake to write your workwear suggestions for you!

27 comments:

  1. great piece! you had me cracking up....the suggestions were ridiculous! a CROP top??? for work? wow, like who would think that was a good idea???

    i must say that last skirt with the slit is amazeballs

    Vonnie
    http://www.socialitedreams.com/

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  2. What you said, V!

    These editorials are the major reasons I don't buy the weekly glossies anymore. They are so far apart from my reality.

    SSG xxx

    Sydney Shop Girl blog

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  3. Miss V, you are wonderful and I adore this post so much I've given you a shout-out. Shorts in 99% of offices are a total no-no and thigh-split skirts? Have Grazia completely lost the plot? Well it seems media outlets everywhere have lost their way lately so I guess Grazia is no exception. I have always included an odd twist to an office outfit - even if it's a black or grey suit there's going to be an odd handbag, vintage brooches or nutty pair of shoes in the mix. But shorts? No. Split skirts - nuh-uh. Great post hon:))) xoxo

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  4. I work in a totally casual setting where I could absolutely wear shorts if I wanted to. Cargo shorts. Not some freak of nature fake suity-shorts. I choose to be more dressed "up" than my colleagues but even dressed down I would never wear a crop top or short shorts to work. And the whole "hookin' it at work" trend with "sexy officewear" I just do not get. At work, no one should be thinking "sexy" when they see me. I'm shooting for some combination of "competent" and "creative", mainly.

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  5. Great article - I work at a university where there differing dress codes (unofficial mainly) for academic, or administrative and/or management staff. I agree with your comment about being taken seriously and being paid to do a job.

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  6. I have always worked in a creative environment of sorts, so I've never had a strict dress code, but agree 100% with you on this one. Great post!
    No Guilt Fashion

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  7. Your analysis is spot on. I think this is one reason I so successfully tuned out fashion magazines many years ago. In some ways, they are written to keep unquestioning 'fashionistas' down. In academia, I can get away with a bit of creativity and risk, but I have encounters with students, colleagues and administrators on any given day. Each of these encounters is coded in a different way. Something about my look has to communicate with students 35 years younger with myself. My colleagues need to see that the focus is less on my appearance than on my expertise. And my administrators want to know that nothing about me might warrant a lawsuit...

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  8. Fantastic post!I'm just about to become redundant from a job in the public sector, where an anything goes attitude to dress means I frequently turn up at the office in floral dresses and suchlike. I'm hoping to get a job in a much more corporate environment and have already began addressing the distinct lack of appropriate workwear in my wardrobe... I wouldn't dream of buying shorts, t-shirts or sexy skirts for that sort of environment.

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  9. You are spot-on as ever. Where do these magazine get their ideas from? You've got to laugh.
    I remember causing complete and utter shock by wearing trousers to work in the 1990's, boy, did I get stick for that. x

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  10. Wow, great take on this article about work-wear. I totally agree. I have been trying to be creative with what I wear during this heatwave, while still looking professional. I work in a fairly casual environment so I could get away with a lot, however I don't believe that's the way to represent your company. Thanks for this.

    xo L.

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  11. A girl after my own heart!! It's amazing how Grazia could even think any of this stuff is work appropriate! Crop tops?? Slits in skirts??! They are off their rocker!!

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  12. Oh, yes, I totally agree! The article has nothing in common with reality. They need their sanity checked!
    I may not work in a strict office dress code environment (I've worn some crazy (by office standards) outfits to work) but I'd definitely avoid looking sexy in the office.

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  13. It`s sad & annoying how boring people are... I`d be happy to see some variations (like classy shorts!) in business-wear. It`s all fine to me as long as people don`t come to the office in dirty sweatpants.

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  14. Really awesome post! I often feel with fashion magazines that they do not offer ideas that are really feasible for the average woman- working or not. 2011, for instance, has been a big year to push sky high platform shoes - but they really are impractical for someone to pull on the average day... and the same goes for this workwear you mentioned. Magazines just offer a fantasy, nothing more - when you buy too much into the trends they push...it just sits in your closet, barely worn until the next seasons trends.

    xx.
    Judy

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  15. What a great post. I think you should submit it to IFB Links a la Mode. I used to work in a Manhattan law firm and the office manager would go around in the summer to see if we legal secretaries were wearing pantyhose with our skirts. Bare legs were verboten. I'm not kidding. And it wasn't that long ago either, I'm not talking about the 1950's! The office manager would send people home for inappropriate dressing. The points you raise are valid and true in the workplace as I knew it.

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  16. Sadly I can't see Grazia's outrageous suggestions (somehow the pics don't show) but your words are enough for me to get the idea. It's a tricky point... Most people I work with adhere to office wear rules - I don't. For me being able to wear what I want comes close to a human right and luckily no one has ever challenged my choices. When I'm overdoing it with too many minis and yellow trousers I wear pencil skirts and silk blouses for a while. But a bare midriff would be a no-no for me pretty much anywhere except the beach.

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  17. Ha...I agree with the short suit ridiculousness...no way in HELL can anyone working in a proper office get away with that!

    Obvi, some offices are more conservative than others. I can get away with a fine knit tee and really dress up all the rest, and I do have a slit skirt, though it's not a crazy high slit. But for the reasons you noted, it's probably best to avoid all of these items lest you come off as a total sex kitten.

    Ont thing to always bear in mind when one DOES don something a little risqué, as the skirt above, for example. Lose the sex on a stick sandals. If you're going to show a little leg, you better put some sensible, closed-toe, classic pumps on! I always try to balance the proportion of skin, as I've written about on my blog. 80/20 rule. 80% covered, 20% skin.

    Great post! And I agree with Jill, submit to LALM!

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  18. ha! Seriously. I work in a relaxed corporate office setting where jeans are allowed- but jesus, sneakers, t-shirts, flip-flops, crop tops, shorts and the like are big no-nos, even with jeans being allowed.

    I've seen some girls in suits with "shorts" except the tailored shorts were to their knee, and that would probably be okay in my office.

    The people that write these probably wear rompers to work

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  19. Brilliant post as ever! I am a huge Grazia fan but even reading that article at the time, I thought the idea of wearing a sequinned full skirt into a boardroom was sort of demented. In a good way, but still completely unfeasible in any work environment, where the focus is meant to be the work at hand. And the line about the Daisy Dukes? Er, thanks for clearing that one up, Grazia! Lolz! xx

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  20. Oh to live the life of a Grazia girl, all city shorts and platform sandals to work.
    I agree 100% with you on their 'work' outfits. While I used to wear what ever I liked to the shop, managing a restaurant requires not only a level of decency but practicality as well. (ie must be able to bend over and reach up with out exposing myself)I would love to rock up to work in a slit pencil skirt but I cant really see it going with my sensible work shoe (ie ugly but supportive)plus my ability to run when it gets busy would be seriously hindered.
    Ill say it again ahh to live the life of a grazia girl

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  21. So true! I work in Silicon Valley where people rarely wear suits, unless they have a meeting with a client or an investor. So hypothetically you could choose to wear a suit on a normal day and then maybe someone could wear shorts. But even though, you don't want to be sexy at work! You want to be taken seriously and seen as professional. I really appreciate being able to wear whatever I want (I don't have clients or investors), but I always try to keep it low-key.

    http://fashionistalab.com

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  22. I know you have to take these articles with a pinch of salt and crop-tops are a total no no. But I have a pair of black tailored knee length shorts I wear with the rest of a suit for work I think it is very do-able so long as you do it right, and that is as a university lecturer. I also often wear t-shirts or a coloured silk top as an alternative to a shirt. I just think I am 29, half the age of most of my colleges so they can just deal with it, they generally have a problem with my age anyway so I do like to stoke the fire!

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  23. Great post V. I work in a pretty conservative office which demands that all of the men wear suits but the girls seem to be more relaxed, so I can get away with a tee and adding an office-appropriate skirt, or even jeans with a shirt but I wouldn't go with a crop top or short shorts. Or a slit. I also agree with Vahni (Grit and Glamour) about the ratio of bare skin to covered skin - if I'm wearing a dress and heels, I like the dress to be knee length, at least.

    Great great post, xx

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  24. This post completely tickled me pink, I always find myself sniggering over workwear articles in magazines. Some of the stuff they suggest wouldn't be appropriate for even my workplace, which is a science lab and I can basically wear what I want! That said I have worn crop tops to work, but only with a high waisted skirt, so I'm not sure it counts :P.

    Thank you for commenting on my blog! That's exactly why I love Christopher Kane too, his collections are usually guaranteed to be really different to anything else out there.

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  25. Can I just say that I love when you do this with magazines! Probably one of my favorite genres of posts. V vs Vogue and Grazia!

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  26. Perfectly said. We all must garner respect at work, and too much sex or too much fashion tends to work against that. Loved reading this!

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