How to Dress for a Corporate Dress Code Without Falling Asleep

Four outfits that I swear to god won’t get you fired this time

10.12.16

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TECHNICALLY, I don’t think we have to wear pants at Man Repeller. I’m not 100% positive about that, but I’m also one of those people who can never find the document you’re talking about even though you’ve sent me the link a million times, so if we have at some point been given a dress code, I don’t know what it says. We’re definitely not allowed to wear anything that could be perceived as an attack on another person, and we have to interpret (at our own risk) what is and isn’t appropriate in terms of meetings. That said, this is a start-up environment filled with people who speak via outfits, so as long as yours isn’t vocalizing a desire to quit, you’re golden. No clue what I’d do in a more corporate environment…

…But that doesn’t mean I don’t know what you’d do!

More excited about this outfit than I look.

Everlane turtleneck, AYR trousers, Tibi coat, Manolo Blahnik shoes, Hermès scarf, Gentle Monster glasses

Perla Valentin, our Senior Manager of Ad Operations, helped me with this challenge. She told me some of the guidelines she’s had to adhere to in the past, like no bare navels or muscle tees. I took her information and ran with it, then added glasses to be extra dramatic. Because black and navy felt too obvious, I went with brown, navy, green and orange. I wanted texture in absence of patterned maximalism, and tied a scarf around my waist for interest, added color and Steven Tyler.

(Perla said these colors might still be considered too bold by a corporate office — definitely more than a storied company veteran might be used to — but she’s the one playing the HR role today, and though I set off a few detectors, I was otherwise approved.)

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J.Crew cardigan sweater and shell set over Elizabeth and James shirtJ.Crew trousers, Manolo Blahnik shoes, Gentle Monster sunglasses

Here was a chance I have long been waiting for: to wear wool high-waist trousers with a cardigan twinset. I don’t know why I’ve never attempted such a look in my real life, but I think it’s because the freedom to wear jeans every single day can make you really, really, really lazy. If I worked in a corporate office, there’s a high chance I’d turn into the company eccentric by virtue of trying new things that I wouldn’t on the weekends.

(Perla said this one was her favorite!)

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Anine Bing sweater tee, La Ligne skirt over trousers, Tory Burch shoes, Gentle Monster glasses

Perla raised her eyebrows at me which tells me that this outfit might raise some eyebrows. She confirmed that it’s kind of a lot, but wouldn’t get me fired. “It works.” Just like me! I guess the nice thing about this outfit is that if you get in trouble, you can take off either the skirt or the pants and then voila, normal outfit. You’d just have to be thoughtful about where in the office you choose to change.

(Just so you know that I know, I hate how the pants are falling with these shoes. I’d want them a little bit longer but HR said that violated safety regulations!!)

La Ligne pants and shirt, AYR dress as jacket, Tory Burch earrings

I thought this one would be the clear and obvious winner. I’ve got the collared shirt, I’ve got the standard shades of white and blue, and I’ve pulled my hair back and off my face like my grandmother is always telling me to. Here’s what Perla said:

“This is office appropriate. The colors aren’t bold. But you’re wearing pajamas. If your HR manager doesn’t know that velvet pants aren’t pajamas and are instead very fashionable, she might send you home to change.”

Let me get this straight: I wouldn’t be fired, and I’d get to go home early? Sounds like the perfect Susan Miller loophole to me.

Guys, what do you think?

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.

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  • CDC

    Ameliaaa you are killing me softly with all this perfection! They named Carrie Bradshaw the perennial Manolo Blahnik ambassador too soon; I say you take the title now.

  • Shea

    Not even kidding just yesterday I was thinking “it would be really cool if man repeller styled work outfits that they’d wear if they didn’t work at man repeller”… and today here it is!! I love these looks Amelia, they provide some much needed inspiration to start building my post-college real person wardrobe.

  • I read the corporate world was less of a place to ‘express yourself’ and more of the ‘pretend yourself’ kind … so your suggestions still seem tongue in cheek. A lovely tongue in a lovely cheek (sorry, I had to), still…

  • Mariana

    Love looks nº 3 and 4. Accessories/shoes are really key in some outfits, look nº2 would be a total bore (in my opinion) without that shoes and glasses. Corporate look can be challenging sometimes, feeling yourself without being “under dressed” and this looks are really on point.

  • Quinn Halman

    Amelia look 2 is the high school teacher that knows all the students’ gossip while being the most respected.
    And now I am wearing a cardigan.

    • Amelia Diamond

      hahahahah AKA my other dream job

    • Harling Ross

      YEP

  • Alison

    I love the shoes in look 2! And the brown-green combination in look 1.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Elizabeth Tamkin did the shoe market and got so much fun stuff for the shoot, bless her!

  • photo 9 is my face now also, is that face yoga ?

    • Amelia Diamond

      yes that is face yoga and it is very good for you!

      • I can feel the energy flowing around my cheeks 😮 🙂

  • Lola

    Amelia you look fantastic, but I challenge you to find a pant suit based look that wouldn’t scare people who didn’t ‘get it’ but would still make me feel like there isn’t a huge chasm between my real self and my work self. Part of getting dressed for work in a corporate environment is showing that you respect the dress code, and understand how to operate in the environment. I love the outfits above, but a few would not signal the right things to the right people. One thing I have noticed is that you seem to be able to get away with ridiculous shoes as long as they are sort of a normal shape. Thanks for talking about this stuff!

    • Amelia Diamond

      I really think JCrew for pant suits (if we’re talking affordable — if money was no object I would wear Altuzarra suits and Row blazers erry day regardless of dress code). And do you know AYR? Great suits too that fit cool.

      • Lola

        Ah was literally just going to say the J Crew look books are so good for inspiration which you can sort of pare down and take styling tricks from. Also, once you are sort of known as the ‘trendy’ (not my words, those of an older whiter man) one, people sort of accept it from you. I will get on it with AYR, Thank youuuu!

        • Amelia Diamond

          But will keep keeping in mind, we know that a lot of you guys work in environments that may not let you dress super creatively!

    • I second this. If I wore anything remotely like this in my old corporate office, particularly when I’m not in a senior position, it would be seen as disrespectful. That’s not to say you can’t be playful in what you choose to wear, but I think there could be a significantly watered-down version of this that’s worth looking at, considering I HATE wearing “normal” corporate gear.

      • If I had to wear it, I would use above pics as inspiration: a serious suit, for example, with real, lively colors worn under a white blouse/fine cashmere sweater/the pinstriped jacket, but only visible in small strips (neck, wrists) – like Nr. 2.
        Or an orange strip for a belt, though not hanging down that far as Nr. 1.
        Or Kermit-green shoes to an otherwise totally serious outfit.
        Or something only a person who’s never had to adhere comes up with 🙂

    • ESW

      I think you have hit the nail on the head in terms of “what signals you want to send.” It is not that you would be fired for wearing the looks above, but you wouldn’t want a superior to think you “weren’t a good fit” for a particular client or project because of your “quirky” style,

    • meme

      God yes! I was called the office “hippie” because I liked to play with proportions in suiting (!) And I was always wearing blouses and blazers and no-toes-exposed shoes. It baffled the rest of my friends and family.

  • Haley Nahman

    Amelia you are AMAZING in these

  • Vickee

    I am loving that skirt over pants look!

  • Molly D

    I tried on about 45 pairs of work pants at The Loft yesterday. Bought none. Thanks for showing the light at the end of the work pant (no s) tunnel.

  • Harling Ross

    I need velvet pants on the immediate

  • claire

    #6 !!!!!

  • Hot for teacher in the BEST possible way! Also, trousers for days.

  • kea

    Your hair. Tell us your secret! Also love all of these, starting to save now for that jcrew outfit….boom

  • Marina Javor

    Looks 1 & 2 are slaying and totally appropriate for work/office. Agree on response to look 4. I don’t get the pajama trend at all and am decidedly disinclined to try it. Even on the high fashion/street style level my reaction is I’d be one matching night cap with a poof ball away from an Ebeneezer Scrooge costume.

  • Lindsey

    I am obsessed with all of these! Honestly, I have been so inspired by you guys lately to up my game. I’ve always been a jeans and tee shirt person myself (with the occasional sweater for those “chilly” California days), but because I’m also kind of a minimalist, I would only have a few of each that I would rotate incessantly until they were worn out. And then I would look so schlumpy. Nobody at my office cares what I wear (I’ve worn rompers in the summer, and jeans almost every day), so a lot of these outfits would definitely work. All of that to say, thanks for providing such great inspiration to change things up! Definitely need more pants in my life. (Ok this is the most rambling, non sequitur-filled comment ever…)

    I LOVE YOU GUYS AND THESE OUTFITS ARE ALL KILLING ME WITH DELIGHT.

  • ESW

    I work for a huge corporation. I would happily do the first two weeks, with a few tweaks. The second half of these, while they would not get me fired, would make me look like I don’t “get” the corporate culture.

    Personally, I like to do very work appropriate outfits and then take mini-risks with makeup, jewelry, or other accessories.

  • Abby

    The second one is the only outfit I could get away with wearing at work (and my corporate environment isn’t even that strict!) but I love it and want to live in it now.

  • Alice Pawley

    Those manolos 😍😍

  • Michela Galante

    THOSE MANOLO BLAHNIK SHOES!!!!!

  • Kelsey O’Donnell

    Love you, but you still don’t get “corporate”.

  • Oana

    Amelia the first 2 looks are on fire!! And the Manolos <3

  • Amazing

  • Bailey Stark

    I want to work in a corporate setting now.

  • Mallory

    I struggle with what to wear to work all of the time! I want to maintain my own style, but there is a fine line between dressing for yourself and dressing for the corporate world (in order to maintain some level of respect). Looks 1, 2 and 4 are all looks I would totally wear to the office! Those velvet pants are AMAZING! And I need the Manolo Blahniks!

  • chouette

    “If I worked in a corporate office, there’s a high chance I’d turn into the company eccentric by virtue of trying new things that I wouldn’t on the weekends.”

    It me!

  • These are awesome! In the future, I’d like to see a MR twist on like, the Claire Underwood look for work. She looks like such a BADASS, adheres to corporate dress code, her wardrobe feels very luxurious, but it sometimes lacks personality that you guys bring to your outfits so well.

  • Personally I like the approach of staying conservative with shapes and cuts, but going crazy with colors and prints and textures/materials.
    I already taught clases while wearing brigh koala-printed pants. One of my best friends (a male) goes to work with outfits like bold yellow pants paired with a bright blue panda-printed shirt.
    My go-to leather jacket has a classic cut but is bright green. My winter wool coat is bright yellow.
    So it’s funny, I would feel more comfortable wearing a crazy neon classic-cut suit to work than a skirt over pants or a scarf around my waist (but I don’t have a dress code, I just have to impress my students enough so that they think I’m more of an eccentric genius than of a clown escaped from the circus) (and it’s France, I don’t know if it makes a difference)

  • Kate

    The thought of working somewhere where these questions are relevant makes me feel panicky. I respected a school uniform for twelve long years without resentment – uniform that involved gloves, and a BERET. Okay, I didn’t respect the beret. But now, I just feel, if I look clean, professional and like I made an effort with all the bits covered that need to be covered, HR people who don’t understand pleasing pants breaks or the validity of velvet should keep their lack of imagination and understanding to themselves. Sob. Please don’t make me go back to school.