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Is it OK to dress casual at work?

Updated: Jul 19

Jessica - I just started, and I see everyone so casual in the office, but I'm not sure I should be this casual with a client. What do I wear when I go on an appointment?

Great question, I'm glad you asked. There are only a few hard fast rules here, first and foremost being - don't look like you live on the streets. For some of you, this is a no-brainer conversation. For example: I once worked with a girl that looked like she was modeling the newest season runway fashion and she looked GOOD every day, but I've also worked for a company where it said NO BALLGOWNS on the dress code and expected everyone to look like a suited business professional. But on the other hand, I've had Designers out to my home that looked like they lived with the pigeon lady in Home Alone.

While fashion is not important in this scenario, common sense is.

Here are my tips and tricks for looking your best with a client: 

  1. Let's start with the obvious: Take a shower, Brush your hair and put on 1 item of makeup - lips, eyes, whatever (guys wear a belt, we don't need to be flashing people when we measure the windows) It will make you look polished without over grooming. 

  2. Wear something SIMPLE, paired with ONE unique item: Great scarf, One of a kind jacket, fun nail polish, beautiful jewelry/accessory, etc. I learned from the late great Valerie Bursten that a Designer should always wear something that is unique to them to make them memorable, but to keep it simple as not to detract from the design and customer's home (that's why you see a lot of designer's wear black to "blend in").

  3. Invest in COMFY but beautifully classic shoes. I personally, wear heels to all of my meetings - it's my signature look from above. But before investing in a new stellar pair your client's will be wild for, make sure you can wear your shoes for 8+ standing hours. Although I can be the queen of heels, I learned the hard way to never wear 3"+ heels at a job site, you never know if it will be a construction zone. The idea is to walk elegantly and with confidence in your shoes, not trip over yourself.

  4. Have a great client bag. Find something very durable, classic, and only use it for those purposes so it does't wear out. From your head to your toes and accessories you should look polished and enticing.

Notice however, I did not give a long laundry list of materials on and off the dress code list. Reason being is that every company has their own rules and regulations when it comes to dress. If you are asking because they don't and you still need direction, here are my thoughts:

  1. Jeans are ok ONLY if paired with professional attire and appropriate to the meeting setting. My rule of thumb is if you're all dressed up for work and could just swap out your pants without changing your professional attire (no t-shirts or polos), then you're good. This would be appropriate at installations, quick drop off/deliveries, or after hour networking events.

  2. Always bring an extra pair of shoes - guy and girls. First, you never know what you're going to step in accidentally - so be safe instead of buying a new pair. Second, some client cultures require you to take off your shoes and swap for an "inside" pair. You can impress them and keep hygienic if you pull out your own from your "Mary Poppins bag"

  3. Try to limit graphics on your shirt - patterns are ok, but in general if you're going to be playing Vanna White, make sure you aren't a walking billboard. You want to remain as neutral as possible during your sales presentation, after all, its about the client - not you.

Dressing to Impress just takes a little planning and thought. It does not have to be elaborate or expensive, just professional and polished. You don't want to add any unnecessary obstacles from how you dress or groom yourself getting in your way to make a client think....

"She's too young" "He's too old" "She smells funny" "If he can't dress himself, how is he going to dress my windows...?"

Just think about it before you walk out the door and into a client's home, it can set you up for success.

Your Ringleader,

Jessica Harling

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