Work Attire Do’s and Dont’s

Creatives are certainly known for originality; in fact, it’s a source of pride. But when that same creativity is applied to attire, it’s easy to run amok: A recent survey of advertising and marketing executives by The Creative Group revealed some employees’ ill-fated clothing choices, including one individual who came to work wearing scuba gear and another who sported paratrooper pants with a striped sport jacket and moccasins. And, no—it wasn’t Halloween in either case.

True, "dressing up" or "dressing down" are open to a variety of interpretations, especially in the creative field. However, looking professional is the best strategy because it provides instant credibility and signals to clients, customers and colleagues that they’re working with someone who takes the position seriously. Fortunately, there are some basic guidelines for those who enjoy making a statement in both work and dress:

As a rule, you want to dress to fit in, even though this may go against your creative grain. It’s important to know—and emulate—a company’s general dress code, whether you’re working full time or simply attending a meeting. Although many organizations are business casual, the meaning of that term varies depending on the firm. For example, in the legal and financial industries, "business casual" is likely very polished. If you were meeting a client from a bank, you would be well advised to don nice slacks, a blouse or button-up shirt and a blazer. On the other hand, if you’re working for an architecture firm on the West Coast, you might wear something more relaxed, such as khakis, a high-quality, plain T-shirt and a jacket. Jeans are common at some of these firms. If you do don denim, be sure you always sport "professional" jeans: They should be tailored and not too tight or trendy. After all, you don’t want to be called into a last-minute meeting with the CEO on the day you’ve worn jeans with floral bouquets embroidered on the backside.

There are a number of other potential fashion faux pas that you should avoid, including wearing attire with political or religious messages. No matter how committed you are to a cause or belief, the office isn’t the place to advocate potentially controversial opinions.

Always beware of showing too much skin: It’s best to avoid wearing midriff- baring T-shirts, low-rise pants or any clothing that you have to struggle to squeeze into. Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears are the only ones who can credit such attire to career success. Likewise, wrinkled, dingy or torn clothing never leaves a good impression. You also should avoid excessive or ornate jewelry and overpowering fragrances. Many people are sensitive to perfumes and colognes.

Remember, when it comes to attire, simplicity can be chic. To express your creative side through your clothing, stick to a unique pair of shoes or an antique watch, since both can make subtle, yet memorable fashion statements. In the end, it’s best to bring attention to your ability to do the job well, not your penchant for leather cuff bracelets.

The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and Web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.