Dress Code: More Ideas On What To Wear To Work


After our last work-centric installment of Dress Code, we received some good questions on dressing for trade jobs and sportswriting gigs, what’s worth spending money on, how many pairs of pants a woman needs — all issues to be addressed!

How many pants/shirts is a reasonable number to have?
Well, if you want to be really Spartan and don’t mind getting good-quality stuff and doing dry-cleaning, you could probably get away with:

  • 3 pairs of solid pants
  • 2 skirts (this varies depending on the number of pants; basically, you want a total of 5 bottoms altogether)
  • 1 solid jacket
  • 6 tops — blouses, shell or knit. Mostly solid, 1-2 prints is okay too.
  • 1 solid cardigan

A good rule of thumb, both for packing and life, is 3 tops for every one bottom. Most of us, of course, have far more than this in the rotation. But how many pieces do you really wear?

On What Should I Be Spending Actual Money?
In general, these things pay in wears for what you spend:

  • Jeans
  • Bras
  • Winter Coat
  • Black Pants
  • Good Jacket
  • Basic Dark Dress
  • Suit
  • 1 Pair good work shoes

And just about everything else can be cheaper! Obviously, everything can, but if you’re going to lay out some cash, this is probably where it makes the most sense.

I’m a sportswriter working with dudes. What should I wear?
Interesting question! The reader continued,

As a short, relatively young woman (29) it helps to not have people think I’m from the student paper. In past jobs, I’ve done the “look around at what other people are wearing and copy it” thing, but now when I look around the room, I’m the only woman in it, and I don’t know what to do…I need to be comfortable (you have to walk a lot, often across college campuses or through the back tunnels of big stadiums) and look put-together without looking overaccessorized or too girly. While my job is super quirky, I would hope the advice would be generally helpful to women who work in male-dominated fields. You don’t want to stand out like a flower pot in a Lilly Pulitzer dress and heels, but you also don’t want to dress like a drag king. I think my desire to downplay my femininity has resulted in some frumpy dressing, and I’d like to rectify that.

I talked to a bunch of friends in workplaces like this, and one amazing piece of advice I heard was: You can do one casual piece. For instance, do the Pumas, but wear a trouser. Do a tee, but not with denim. Do a dark jean, but wear a tailored jacket. With this rule, you stay relaxed but still professional. Some ideas:

I wonder if you have advice for those of us who work in trades!
Oooh, interesting. The reader adds:

I teach theatre production at a college, where I have to climb, lift, and build a lot of things, and I also work tech in theatres and stadiums. Musts for me are pockets to put things in, beltloops to clip things on, and closed, occasionally even steel toed shoes & boots. I get to feel pretty frumpy in jeans & t-shirts all the time. There has got to be a way to look cuter while I’m getting my hands dirty. Shall I push the Rosie the Riveter angle?

Short answer: maybe! If you like this look, it’s certainly cute and practical, and I’ve seen it done to excellent effect. I am also a superfan of overalls and coveralls, which you can usually get used – or, of course, in any outfitters. Roll up the cuff for a feminine, 40s look – although not, obviously, if this will compromise safety! I am also a fan of 50’s jeans (cuffed) and button-downs. And yes, the bandana is a good touch — and really holds your hair back! For your consideration:

Next up in Dress Code: What to wear on Date Night.

Earlier Dress Codes: How To Dress For Work
How To Shop Like A Grown-Up

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