NDEAM: Suitable and Stylish Work Attire

Adult wearing suitable work attire for business: dark glasses, suit, tie, dress shirt

Editor’s note:  It’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)! Let’s look at curating a workplace wardrobe that is tailored to your career, comfort, and style.

What Do I Wear to Work?

You landed the job (Congratulations!) and you’re wondering what you’ll wear to work, or you’re a seasoned professional who’s looking to refresh your workplace wardrobe. Either way, we’ve got you covered. And I’m glad you’re here.  

You see, yours truly happens to have an affinity for fashion. Here’s why: Like hairstyles and accessories, clothing affords folks the ability to present themselves in a certain light. Wardrobe attributes such as style, cleanliness, and tidiness do make a statement. Presenting myself as confident, competent, and current matters to me, and these attributes may matter to you whether you are fully sighted, blind, or low vision.

As APH VisionAware peer advisor, Steph McCoy, states, “There’s a misconception that sight loss equals frumpy and unfashionable. Likewise, there’s a silent societal expectation where people with sight loss shouldn’t be fashionable. The truth is, there are people with sight who either have no interest in or lack fashion sense. Also true, there are people who are blind or have sight loss, and they are fashionistas.” 

How important is fashion to you? You may simply want your work apparel to appear professional, or, on the other hand, you may want to appear professional and stylish. The choice of how you express yourself is up to you.

Wherever you fall on the continuum of fashion forwardness, the following can help you decide what to wear to work: 

  • Start by researching your company’s dress code. If you haven’t been provided with the information in an accessible company handbook, ask for it from the Human Resources (HR) department. Because, yes, before considering style trends or personal preferences, it’s vital to meet the standards of your place of business. 
  • Listen to podcasts about clothing styles and trends. Reading blogs works as well, though web content is often too picture-dependent. Wherever you receive the up-to-date intel, sift through several opinions; learn the terminology; and choose styles you’d like to try. 
  • Visit a fashionable business selling the type of clothes worn at your workplace. You can ask for styling help, color coordination and sizing assistance, and more. 
  • Ask a stylish friend to shop with you. They can help you pull together outfits from several stores, including second-hand shops. 
  • Ask for virtual advice. Snap photos of a new look and ask for feedback from your stylish friends or even a paid stylist. If shopping in person, try on the outfit and send a pic. If shopping online, send a link/ screen-shot of the piece in question. 

When choosing clothes, think: 

  • Classic styles for longevity—If you purchase mostly timeless staples (meaning they won’t go in and out of style), you’ll have your wardrobe basics.  
  • Trendy accessories—If you want to sport the latest trends, start with a few accessories and pieces that can be worn with multiple outfits. Purchasing popular sunglasses, a belt, a jacket, and minimal tops/bottoms will be more cost-effective than re-buying complete, trendy wardrobes every year. 
  • Practicality/ function—Wear what is practical. I’m talking shoe comfort for those whose jobs are walking-heavy; dark-colors if the worksite is messy; easy-to-care-for items, etc. 
  • Body type—While you can wear whatever work-appropriate styles you enjoy, you can consider your body type and proportions when choosing clothing. As an incredibly petite person, I choose moderately-fitted clothing with high waistlines and full-length pants. Identify your body shape and research clothing silhouettes or styles which flatter you. 
  • Color—Has anyone told you, “You look good in that color!”? Different skin and hair colors really do look more striking in certain colors. Ask a friend which colors work well with your complexion, and choose clothing (especially tops or pieces around your face) that suit you well. 
  • Sizing—Attention is drawn to ill-fitting clothing. Correct sizes and hem lengths are a must. 
  • Capsule wardrobe—Keep a limited number of coordinated clothing items. Having a select number of tops and bottoms that can almost all be rotated and worn together will give you the best wardrobe bang for your buck, style and cost wise. 
  • Your closet—Shop your closet! For example, purchase a jacket to make the dresses you already own work-appropriate, and otherwise incorporate your pieces into your professional wardrobe. 

A Styling Resource 

Marie Hamilton of P.S. YOU ARE FABULOUS! is a personal fashion stylist for individuals who are blind or low vision whose mission is to “help you be the best version of yourself, independently”. Marie offers free services including style consultations, wardrobe services where she helps evaluate the clothing you already own, and shopping—where she says she helps find items that correctly fit you and explains how every clothing piece looks and fits. Additionally, Marie assists individuals who are blind or low vision with the curation of work wardrobes and interview attire. If you are interested in receiving styling assistance and if you are within 100 miles of 21703 (Frederick, MD), contact P.S. YOU ARE FABULOUS!

So, you’ve scoured your wardrobe and refreshed it with a few key pieces. When you get those clothes home, it’s time to organize and label them for ease of identification and care. Here’s your guide: Organizing and Labeling Clothing When You Are Blind or Have Low Vision. 

You’ll be ready to dress to impress. 

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