.You won’t necessarily be sent home from the office, but you can get an embarrassing warning. Here are 6 key investment banking dress code mistakes to avoid.
Before beginning this article, I want to address a general issue about sexist dress codes that only apply to women. This is not an article supporting gender discriminating dress codes.
In fact, I have actually only seen men be asked to go home and change. For showing up in shorts and slippers during summer (yes, he was a trader).
But I’ve also seen women wear outfits that seem inappropriate because they don’t fit well, or because the clothes aren’t suitable for a work environment. The outfits can be gorgeous outside the office.
I’m not here to police women’s outfits, but to give helpful hints to what type of clothing has worked for the offices I have been to over the years.
I will cover outfits that are nice, and that would be perfect elsewhere. And outfits that can work for someone, but not for everyone, depending on how conservative your office is.
And the outfits shown here are not “wildly” inappropriate either. If I just posted five pictures of women in torn jeans, it wouldn’t be very helpful, as we all know jeans or torn outfits are a no go if you work in finance.
1. Festive details
This festive ruffles on this dress from Chelsea28 look amazing. That’s a dress I would definitely wear for drinks or dinner with friends, but I wouldn’t put it on in the office.
The ruffles give off a bit of a party look, and they can seem distracting. Try to avoid anything that draws a lot of attention to the design. One of the reasons we wear suits is to have a piece of clothing that won’t stand out and bring focus to something that isn’t work-related.
2. Crazy patterns
The same is true for crazy patterns or asymmetry. The clothes can cover all they want; if they make you look like a circus performer, you shouldn’t wear them in the office.
I think this is one of the few dress codes I have been informed specifically about by HR and bosses before pictures. No wild patterns or colors that stand out.
This dress from ECI is beautiful. It covers the shoulder, has no visible cleavage, and is long enough. However, the flower pattern is too girly for a finance office, and the dress will be put to better use at a garden party in the summer.
3. Open back and shoulders
Another trap you could easily walk right into, even though you avoid visible cleavage, is to show off too much of the shoulder and back.
I have seen women wear this. When the jackets are on, the dresses look completely normal. But later in the day, when the office is warmer and they want to cool down, it makes them look unprofessional.
This lovely gray dress from Clover and Sloane works well as long as you cover up the back and shoulders, but seen from behind, it is more party than business. This dress belongs on a date at a bar instead.
This black off-the-shoulder dress from Eliza J is also something I would rather change into when transforming from office conservative to classic femme fatale. It’s a sexy dress for drinks that doesn’t show off a lot, but the shoulder profile wouldn’t work in an investment bank.
4. The cleavage debate
The cleavage debate is actually more difficult than one would think. Everyone knows a deep cleavage should never be shown at the office, but where is the line drawn?
This is especially a problem for women with larger breasts. For them, a relatively innocent V-neck could turn into a sexy peep show.
Good examples are some of the dresses worn by Donna in Suits. They show off way too much cleavage for her, and would never be worn by anyone in an actual office environment.
This black sheath dress from Eliza J is something that would just cross the line for me. If the neck was cut a bit higher, the shape would be appropriate.
5. Too short pencil skirts
Pencil skirts are my best friends at work. They are easy to pair with almost anything, and most of them are easy to transform into an evening outfit by taking off the jacket and changing the top.
Some skirts, even those sold as a “suit piece” are too short or too tight to be worn at work. This can all depend on your body type, and if you are petite, this may be helpful.
Take a look at this skirt from Hugo Boss. Length looks nice, but the split in front makes it look awkward.
Another example where this is made even more obvious is this skirt from Jason Wu. Even though this skirt is a long, black, pencil style skirt, it’s a fashion piece and not something that’s suitable for the office.
6. Tight clothes or outfits that don’t fit
It’s difficult to show an example outfit here without shaming anyone for their body. How a suit or skirt fits depend on your body type. Make sure that you adjust your clothes to how you look at that point in time.
This means getting rid of the skirts that are one size too small because you bought them when you had just finished school. When you were still working out 7 days a week.
It also means getting your clothes properly fitted when you buy them, so they aren’t falling off your shoulder or hanging loosely. For advice on how to get a business suit for women fitted, wait for a guide to be posted here.