Do I Look Like I Know How To Dress Corporate?

June 1, 2010
Fashion and makeup, My Life, Pissed Off

I found myself in a bit of a dilemma yesterday at work. When I first started the job back in February I’d wondered if anyone was going to say anything to me, but after three months I figured it was all good, which as it turns out, wasn’t the case at all. I was asked by my team leader to start wearing work clothes that fitted the company dress code as some people higher up had asked her to talk to me about how I dress. As it turns out my zany, off-beat style which I’ve toned down to suit a semi-corporate environment wasn’t quite right. I was pretty mad at first (still am, actually) because while I understand my style of dressing isn’t what you’d see listed in the regular company dress standards, I felt I was doing a bloody good job of looking nice while remaining an individual. Serves me right or making assumptions, I guess.

My manager asked me if I could just wear some regular work pants instead of my usual skirt/legging combo. I was appalled and honestly told her “I don’t wear pants” because I don’t! I used to wear jeans a lot and even use to wear black work pants all the time, but that was years ago and I’m strictly a cute skirt/dress with leggings kinda girl nowadays. I told her I’d do what I could but what I wore to work was all I really had and so the deadline of “tomorrow” (I know, right) wasn’t going to work because I wouldn’t be able to get anything “business-like” until pay day. I think she was surprised that I simply do not have normal, boring, work clothes like everyone else. I’ve worked in fairly casual places for a few years now and since this is a call center, I thought my funky twist on business wear would be more than adequate! Anyone who’s ever worked in a call center like the ones I’ve worked in probably get why I’m feeling so hard done by about this. Call centers are just always so much more relaxed clothing-wise than most office environments, because our jobs typically suck a whole lot more than typical office jobs.

So, this leaves me with a dilemma. I’ve obviously got to get some more corporate attire unless I want upper management hating my guts forever (I already noticed some evil eyes today because I literally just had to wear what I normally wear due to running late and not having any other options). So this is where I need YOUR advice, guys! I’m not a corporate sorta girl and I don’t want to look like a total business jerk with a big butt in crappy business pants. What brands are available that aren’t too expensive, look good and will prevent me from getting into any more trouble? Any shops in Brisbane that you can recommend that suit a girl with an arse like Kim Kardashian (who lacks the millions of dollars to make it look amazingly sexy). How can I take some dreadful work pants and make it look a little bit funky? How can I do this without selling my soul???

For the record, this is basically the sort of thing I wear to work every day:

Fashion Trends & Styles - PolyvoreWhat I wear to work

That is, a black button down shirt, usually with the sleeves rolled up a bit, a black tutu-style skirt over plain leggings with my satin, 3/4 sleeved blazer, some plain lats and maybe some cute clips in my hair or a nice brooch. I believe it’s the skirts and leggings that aren’t working or me, hence the suggestion of work pants, as I cannot see how my shirt/jacket combination can be wrong in any way.

So please give me any suggestions and if you work in a corporate business environment, how do you ensure you don’t to look like a frumpy old dag or a slutty secretary (seriously, it seems to go one way or the other and nowhere in between, as far as I’m concerned) and maintain some sanity???

(Please note any suggestions involving “Get a new job” are duly noted in advance and my options are already being explored)

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  • Nadine

    I wish I could give any useful advice. Honestly I can not think of any reason why they would make you dress up to work in a call center. People are strange…
    Maybe you could just replace the leggings with black tights and wear another sort of skirt. (Maybe they are offended because they think the tutu skirt should be worn underneath something?)
    That's pretty much all I can think of. I am glad I never had to work in a place like this before. :)
    What is everyone else wearing?

  • Verena

    Hm, can you get a pencil skirt and some heals to wear with the shirt and blazer? That's business-like, right?

  • I'd suggest keeping the blazer, switching the skirt for a plain black one that isn't ruffley and is more businessy, swapping the button-down shirt for a cute white blouse, and swapping the thicker leggings for some black tights. These are all pretty simple and you can grab them all at Target and they're not huge changes from what you're already doing. To keep your individuality I'd suggest grabbing a needle and thread and swapping the plain clear buttons on a white blouse for some simple but cute silver ones, putting a hot pink button on your business skirt, keeping your brooches (as long as they're not anything that would make work uncomfortable, ie skulls are probably not the best idea, and anything massive is probably out, but a smaller brooch on your blazer should be absolutely fine). A hot pink singlet under a lower cut thick white business shirt might help you feel more like yourself too. I think the key is the little touches. Have more plain and appropriate clothing – leggings and a tutu are out – but then dress up what you're wearing with accessories. If you're wearing a work blouse, skirt and tights, then rock a funky silver necklace, a hot pink headband, some earrings, a flash belt, etc. Just don't go overboard on the accessories. However, I would thoroughly recommend finding a hot pink handbag if you haven't already! That way, you can wear the most boring of black and white outfits and with the bag under your arm you'll still seem like yourself. :D

  • Katie

    You know, I'd suggest Cue, but they're not cheap. In any way.

    But I'd go for proper stockings/tights instead of leggings honestly (I was advised to wear skin tone stockings to interviews for office jobs but you could probably get away with black ones in a 70 denier or something not too opaque). (Heh have totally been beaten on the tights advice).

  • Sabrina

    It'll be he leggings. they are getting cranky at everyone about leggings. Stockings and a less ruffled skirt and you'll be fine

  • Like most of the comments here, I'd suggest swapping the tutu for a business skirt, and the leggings for some stockings. Black patterned stockings are all the rage at the moment, and I'm (quite frankly) sick of seeing them every morning mixed with business clothes… but it seems to be acceptable?

    As for pants? You've just gotta find the right store for you. I can go a year without buying new work pants, because I can never find the perfect ones for me. And then I'll find a random new shop and stock up on like 7 or 8 pairs of pants! I'm totally in love with EVENTS at the moment (I discovered them in Sydney, and they have a factory outlet at the Brisbane Airport). They're super comfy and suit my huge ass just fine :)

  • i think it's shit that they waited THAT long to say anything about your wardrobe. i've had a job do that to me before. it's retarded.

  • The Vinnies/Lifeline in Adelaide St Arcade has heaps of cheap buisness wear, its easier buying it that way that crying over the zillion dollars one has to spend on clothing you hate. They also tend to stock Charlie Brown, Cue and Wayne Cooper – I found a Cue waistcoat for $25 rrp $200+ and a Wayne Cooper mini skirt for $5 RRP $160+

  • Adelle

    honestly, when starting my new “corporate” job I had no idea what I could and couldn't do… and even their signs representing the difference between “casual” and “business” wear is mind boggling to me (I can't tell the difference). The only suggestion I have, is longer skirts.

    Sucks I know… so I bit the bullet and wore pants. Target has some decent ones which fit nicely and don't make you look too manly (which is how I feel in pants). Good luck and keep us posted on how you go I'd love to see your final decision on work attire!

  • As the only guy commenting here, I can only offer my own insite – I pretty much wear whatever I damn please to work because we had it out ages ago with the boss; the crux of the argument (and by argument, I mean civil discussion over a few beers) was that because we weren't interacting, face to face, with customers, we should be able to wear whatever we like as long as it doesn't offend the others in the office, with the exception that if we know we're facing the public (like at a trade show) we dress to a high standard, which for me means dress pants/shoes and a company shirt.

    Are you interacting, face-to-face, with the public C? If not, I think any dress code is pretty unreasonable, tbh.

  • saltedpin

    I recommend Cue — I buy nearly all of my corporate stuff there. They're pricey, but well worth the dosh, and usually include cute twists. If you can be bothered, looking in factory outlet places for samples etc. can be good. Also, Basque is another pricey-but-cute brand.

    Target is okay, they are starting to copy the look of the above brands at half the price and a quarter of the quality.

    Other than that, comb op shops. I got a great black trench for $20, and have found pencil skirts that go with everything when you're in a rush for $10 or $15.

  • saltedpin

    PS. This site:

    Is good for picking up some cut-price fashion items from Asia. Though you have to be comfortable not being able to try things on first, it has some of the cheapest shoes I've found, as well as cute pencil and A-line skirts that are cute but business-appropriate.

  • YES! I love that site. My boyfriend's bought some cool stuff from there nefore. I'm only worried about sizing because it's an Asian site, I can't imagine their sizs would cover me? I might investigate it though as their stuff is so, so cute!

  • I totally agree, we should have a relaxed dress code since we do not face customer at all, ever. I mean hello, we're a call center??? But I I honestly can't be bothered fighting it, and don't plan to work here for that long, so I will meet the minimum dress standards and keep them from thinking I'm sort of renegade (I had enough of that at my last job, if you know what I mean) asnd try and keep the peace.

    Thanks heaps for the input though, you are totally right and I wish I could be bothered to make a fuss about it (I would if I was passionate about the job, let me tell you).

  • I think it's just that my skirt/leggings combo are too “casual” more than anything so I'm going to start wearing stockings with my more sedate skirts and get a pair of work pants I think. It's amazing that adding a few inches of material to cover the feet can turn an outfit from casual to corporate though :/

  • Awesome advice. I will give this a go and try to let my personality shine without being too in-yer-face. I will have to retire my “business tutus” (damn right I own business tutus) and get some more sedate skirts and trade the leggings for plain stockings.

    I so do NOT need any more clothes in my already bulging wardrobe but oh well, bosses orders!

  • saltedpin

    Yeah, because you're tall I'd be a little concerned about sizing — but honestly, despite the 'Asian ladies so tiny!' stereotype, the sizing is not *too* different from here. Pants can be tricky, but skirts and shirts aren't too bad (depending on how broad your shoulders are). I'm not sure how tall you are, but as a rough comparison — Sara is six feet tall and can wear skirts that I bought in Japan with no problem. Shirts are more of a problem because her arms are too long for them. But if you stick to skirts (and honestly, looking at what you've posted above, the shirt and blazer seem fine, it's just the leggings and tutu-style skirt) you'll probably be okay :D

  • From someone who has worked in a call centre before, it was generally felt that people work a little harder when they were in business atire, and this was actually backed up by the stats. The quality and numbers of calls always dropped on casual fridays

  • I'd recommend Tokito in Myer. They're pretty cheap. Surely you can get some black pants with pink pinstripes? hehe. Pants are sexy on women I reckon. You can always get a jacket that covers you're butt if you're self conscious about it… like this:… or even longer!