What Do Your Office Fashion Choices Say About Your Work Style?

Fashion is fashion — it comes and goes, fluxing with whatever trends our top designers set for the season and dictating how we, especially New Yorkers, present ourselves according to social norms. However, we are in an age that Alexander McQueen described as that of individualism: "It’s a new era in fashion — there are no rules. It’s all about the individual and personal style, wearing high-end, low-end, classic labels, and up-and-coming designers all together."

But what about the workplace? How does fashion cross over into our professional lives, and is it important to reflect on? We can argue that this day and age, we have become more digitalized than ever. Personalizing the workplace by affording more time for face-to-face interaction brings us more in touch with our coworkers’ individual personalities, and in turn, their individual styles. In the same way a journalist writes with their own flare, so we dress ourselves in flare that mirrors our own voices. Allowing the freedom in the workplace to express your individualized style is a reflection of the open-mindedness of the company and its managerial ethics. If we are all confined to wearing all black suits and ties to the workplace, are we really showing up with our whole selves? Are we showing our employers our true colors?

One example of a fashionista on the rise is Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who finds mixing various fabrics and patterns is reflective of her thinking “outside of the box.” Following this advice, Mayer redesigned all of their online interface and banned all employees from working from home. Marissa is on the forefront of fashion externally, which internally reflects a more personalized approach to the workplace in her management style.  

This newly endowed “bravery,” the diving into new colors and prints, has a psychological effect on how a person presents themselves, “Of all the many trends, new, reinterpreted, or copied, Marinelli — [a writer for Psychology Today] — reported femininity, bold colors, and strong structures dominated the runway.” A mix of sharp edges such as shoulder pads mixed with the feminine frill of lace gives off of the impression of someone who is both approachable but firm in their stance. Hence the forever versatile workplace blazer, which is more and more often being redesigned from the classic black to those with prints such as stripes, floral lining, and even rhinestones.

The bottom line is fashion has an impact on the eye. We are visually attuned to the way people look, and a first impression can be the strongest indicator of how we are going forward with our work. If you show up to work wearing all black, the first impression is one of seriousness. But, if you add a pop of color here and a little fringe there, we can give a cheers to the individual who is taking a risk and the workplace who is being more open-minded to how they treat their employees.