Shopping, Style and Beauty

Stilettos, Sweatpants and Suits: The New Office Uniform

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I recently met with an real estate broker to check out some apartment prospects. Granted this was a Sunday and I know people can get a little laissez-faire with their wardrobe choices when it comes to the weekend, but when this guy rolled up in a stained Snapple sweatshirt with baggy sweatpants and some lace less Fila’s, needless to say I was less inclined to trust him with any major life decisions.  Just because you’re holding a briefcase doesn’t always mean you’re a “professional.”

It got me thinking,  what is the modern dress code? Gone are the days of padded Power suits, and casual Friday meant you could maybe wear loafers,  now that the rules have changed, where do you draw the line when it comes to dressing office-appropriate? Here are a few things to avoid whether you’re a freelancer or a cubicle dweller.


I know this seems like a no-brainier but sure enough every week I come into my office and there’s someone who’s dressed to the nines and sporting a pair of nasty Old Navy flip flops. I don’t care if they’re leather, Torch Birch or whatever, nobody wants to see your exposed feet making flapping sounds all over the place.  And it’s not just young people, or “Millennials” that wear them. It’s grown-ass men and women that wear them to meetings, on the train, and until the last possible day before it’s officially winter. No matter what title you hold or university you went to, wearing flip flops out while you’re getting paid makes you look like an extra from Weekend at Bernie’s.

How-to: Jeans

I have a friend who’s company announced they were finally allowed to wear jeans on Fridays. The catch: they had to pay money to do so. Granted it went to charity but it sounded like draconian office policy nonetheless.  Some professions have obvious uniforms, you’re not going to defend someone in court wearing a pair of  plucky cords, or strike an international business deal wearing a bright printed cardigan ( I don’t care if the first lady does it). But when it comes to pulling off office-casual,  denim can be a big grey area.  As a rule of thumb, leggings are not considered pants nor will they ever be. Jeggins= Jeans+ leggings also do not constitute as things sane people wear. If you’re going to rock jeans to the office, as I like to do as often as possible, make sure they’re a dark wash , fit properly, aren’t “distressed”, and don’t suffocate your junk. Belts are always a welcome addition as well.


Unless you’re taking part in some team-building exercise or you work at foot locker, t-shirts, whether printed, v-neck or otherwise are a big no-no. Even tastefully layered under a blazer can still look a little disheveled. And this is coming from someone who once bought an outfit before work and changed in a Starbucks bathroom. Now making fun of American Apparel is like shooting fish in a barrel, but I can blame them for the men wearing v-neck movement that has swept the nation like wildfire. I’m not against showing off some manly attributes now and then but nobody wants to see the chest hair you’ve been cultivating for the past year anytime before 1am or in a lighted environment.

Short Skirts, or lack thereof

If jeans were a grey area, finding an appropriate skirt length is a mine field of pantyhose, HR, and JCrew catalogs. I’m not saying we need to whip out the old catholic school rule of measuring above the knee, but I do recommend trying to sit in something before purchasing it.  It’s also not your fault if you work with creeps because they will leer no matter if you’re wearing a full-length down coat.  It’s bad enough you’re stuck inside an office all day, nobody wants to add a mature-cut tweed number that situation. Just look for non-clingy materials with maybe some interesting draping, that way you look sleek without a slit in sight. Patterned tights also work wonders class-ing up an outfit.

If you work from home, well then my only advice is to keep your sweatpants clean and have a trenchcoat by the door for when the UPS guy comes.

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Laura S - Spendthrift Scribe

Laura S - Spendthrift Scribe

Laura S, left the "sixth borough" three years ago to settle in Brooklyn. After working at some daily rags, she now does writing on the side but still eats more Ramen then necessary. When she's not moving residences every 6 months, eating her way through every neighborhood, and trying every microbrew known to man, she is unsuccessfully rediscovering home economics. With her binging days behind her, she's now exploring new projects and rediscovering the city that she loves (although is still prone to sliding on her knees during a Prince karaoke set).


  1. September 28, 2009 at 11:24 am

    I’ve always said that people who wear their pajamas or similar to the office (or in public, really) ought to be shot on sight. You’ve struck a very raw and short nerve with this post, my friend.

    However, whilst working from home, it’s my trusty kimono FTW!

    PS. You’re so right about the creeps. Nasty bastards.

  2. Kate Kotler - DIY Diva
    September 28, 2009 at 11:48 am

    I actually used to keep a pair of slippers in my cube to change into when I got into work for days when I was wearing heels or other uncomfortable shoes. I totally agree on the too-tight jeans, too short skirts (um, hi Lindsay Lohan wannabe crotch flasher!) and v-neck t-shirts on guys… I have to disagree on the no t-shirts ever and flip flop edicts, though. I think that in a casual office setting that a nice t-shirt with nice jeans or casual pants (read: yoga pants that look fancy and nice) is just fine. And, I rock the flops as much as humanly possible (though I have extremely pretty feet that I keep well groomed. Guys wearing flops outside of the beach is a big no-no for me. Buy a damn pair of tennis shoes instead).

    Though these days I work from home and my most common outfit is a pair of pj bottoms that are pink and have skulls printed all over them, no shoes/socks and a somewhat grotty wife beater tank top/sports bra combo – hair pulled back, dorky glasses and no makeup. I know — TOTALLY HOT!

    No wonder I have to beat the guys off with a stick… 😛

    (Good post, Laura!)