Decoding Business Casual: Why It’s Okay to be Elle Woods (Sometimes)

I have a confession to make about entering the work world: I’m terrified to get the nickname “Elle Woods.” I was in a sorority and have a strong affinity for pink lipstick! Plus, clothes have been my thing since I got my sewing machine in 6th grade. I’m slowly learning that there is definitely a time and place for everything. Case and point: pink lipstick looks much better with a black dress than something with a lot of colors. 

Why Elle Woods isn’t Always A Bad Thing

Elle Woods is a recognizable character known for pink, proving everyone wrong, and becoming comfortable in her own shoes. The movie is written in a world where it’s okay to wear a cute pink suit in the business world and still float to the top of the class. I’m not saying the real world isn’t like that, but there are a lot more Professor Stromwell’s and Vivian’s than depicted.

When walking into a professional setting, people automatically judge you based on how you dress. It’s the classic case of judging a book by its cover. Most importantly: it’s easy. When there are so many other decisions to be made, people should default to “you’re competent to get the job done” at first glance instead of “I don’t know about this one.” Unfortunately, clothes are the first assumption people make. 

This effect is only multiplied by the fact that no one in the office knows your background. They don’t know what your GPA was in college, what your extracurricular activities were, where you’re from, or even your name yet. All they can gain from you is what you show them in how you dress. Instead of having them focus on how bright or eclectic your outfits may be, instead, tailor it to the point of comfort and style!

You can find out more information on how to talk to a tailor in this article!

While all of this seems reasonable at face value, so many “professional workwear” social media accounts break some of the rules of professionalism. I’m all for Picasso saying “learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” However, there are certain rules one must not break in order to be taken seriously.

Tweet: “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” – Pablo Picasso”

There are few explicit rules outlined for women’s dress in the modern workplace (a few are listed below). For each rule, there seems to be an unspoken balance behind the scenes that each woman is thrown to the wolves to have to figure out.