Don’t be too casual about a business wardrobe

04/21/2014 12:00 AM

04/20/2014 11:35 AM

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I am a new college graduate, and I’m unsure how to dress for work at my new first real job. The office claims to be “business casual” – whatever that is. Can you give me a translation? – K.P.

Dear K.P.: I wish! One office’s version of “business casual” is anything goes – except shorts, leggings and flip-flops. Another place might define it as khakis and a collared dress shirt without a tie for men and nice slacks or a skirt and a blouse for women. What’s a new employee to do? First of all jump up and down that you have a job straight out of school! On your first day of work, dress professionally as if you’re going to a job interview. Nobody ever got sent home for overdressing. Then look around, and see what everyone else is wearing and copy them. But there’s nothing wrong with the old saying that you should dress like the person whose job you want, not the job you have. In the workplace, what you wear does matter. It might be shallow and wrong. But it’s true.

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: When summer arrives, a friend will begin wearing spaghetti strap tops that show her bra straps. Is this a new trend, or should I quietly suggest she not do this? I’m old-fashioned and still wear hose and also see a lot of straps on people, so maybe this is now acceptable? – Sharon

Dear Sharon: Flashing your bra straps beneath a skimpy top isn’t “acceptable,” but it does seem to be accepted. In other words, it’s an unkempt look, but a lot of people do it. It’s been a popular warm-weather style now for a couple of years. Ick. I don’t advise that you “suggest she not do this,” whether quietly or not. As the late, great, advice columnist Ann Landers would often say, MYOB (Mind Your Own Business). Unless showing her bra straps (often accompanied by showing too much bosom) is affecting her ability to get a job or causing other dire consequences, I’d say keep your nose out of it. If you can’t stand to be quiet, I know how you feel! Here are some guidelines I put together when this style first became a trend.

• Plan ahead: Think about the “girls” when you’re shopping for that dress or top. If you don’t have the right underwear for the garment, don’t buy it.
• Skip the “see-through solution”: Clear straps are not the answer. They’re still visible!
•  Think coverup: A little shrug is a great concealer for straps gone wild.
• Be age appropriate: Younger women are most likely to pull off this look.
• Make a judgment call: If the bits of bra you’re showing are more function than fashion – closures, industrial strength straps and cups – don’t do it!
• Keep it tidy: If you must show off the straps, make sure they aren’t ragged or twisted.

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: Here we go again: Mother’s Day, and I don’t know what to do for my mom or my wife. Money is tight, and besides, they don’t need any more “stuff.” But they sure don’t want me to ignore the day. – Eddie

Dear Eddie: I’m a broken record on this one. Nothing is more from-the-heart than handwritten notes expressing why you love them. But give it some thought. Start now (Mother’s Day is May 11). Be specific: “Mom, I'll always remember when you …” Skip the generic sentiments you find inside greeting cards. And give them the gift of time. If mom lives nearby, spend a few hours visiting with her. Take a walk with your wife. It’s the gift of you, not just from you.

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