Navigating trends at work is tough. You never want to be that girl, but you also want to look like you know what's what. We get it, and we think about this all the time. While the most foolproof way to know if a trend will work for you is just to try it, when it comes to the workplace we have a few strategies to help you make that judgment call in advance.
Bottom line: Every office is different and you know yours best. But, if you need a point in the right direction, here are a couple of questions to help you determine if a trend is ready to make its debut in your workplace:
- How new is the trend? I am not saying pull out your calendar, but listen to your gut. Is this new or has it become mainstream ? For example, five to ten years ago, long cardigans were pretty new (remember when Tory Burch first came out with this guy?); back then, you might have thought twice about wearing it in a conservative office. At this point, though, long cardigans are totally acceptable with a sheath dress (exhibit A).
Examples of trends that are probably still too "new" for the super conservative office are joggers (here), particularly the very athletic-looking ones that bunch at the bottom, and the duster style cardigans that almost "dust" the floor (here).
Here are some examples of trends that, despite being new, can easily be incorporated into your work wardrobe (with a jacket as necessary):
- Does it provide full coverage? Obviously if the answer is "no", then you already know. For work, this eliminates the off-the-shoulder trend, many of the lace-up blouses (too high of a risk of wardrobe malfunction), skirts with super high slits (why do they keep doing this to us?), etc., etc.
- Would other women your level or above wear it? I remember it was a big day when one of the female partners (who always looked fabulous) came in wearing dark navy nail polish. We were excited because this meant that we could also wear "crazy" nail colors like navy or dark gray (still pretty tame, I realize - this was a while ago). Look to your superiors but also to other women your level. There are certain perks that come with being a "superior," one of which is making up your own rules. Until you get there, stay in your lane, sartorially.
- What do you feel like when you put it on? Pay attention to that little voice that talks to you in the dressing room. If you would not be excited to walk out wearing the new item right then and there, consider passing on it. If you feel kind of awkward in it or feel like you need to text a friend, it may be too new for the workplace. If you still want to try the trend, but are hestitant to spend too much money on something that may not work out, consider buying the same item at a lower price point (Zara, H&M, Forever 21, etc.).
- What would [______] think about this? Fill in the blank with your least fashion-ey friend / relative / coworker who nonetheless always looks normal and acceptable for work. For me, I fill in that blank with my dad. If I walked into my parents' house wearing the item, would my dad look at me like I was crazy? Would he comment on it at all? If yes, it may be worth asking yourself if the trend is still too new or out there for the conservative office.
Regardless of the questions above, trust yourself. You are in the best position to determine if a trend is appropriate for your office. Different offices, even within the same industry or even within the same firm or company, can vary widely. Last but not least, even if you make a minor misstep, do not spend any of your vauable time sweating it - laugh it off and start again tomorrow.