This article was updated on September 24, 2021
What you wear to work says a lot about you, so it stands to reason that every now and then examining the contents of your closet should top your to-do list.
If your wardrobe could use an update, these outdated business professional attire clothing items that age you should be the first ones you toss in the donation pile.
The workplace in general has seen a shift toward a more relaxed style in recent years. In 2019, CNBC reported that even top investment firm Goldman Sachs revised their employee dress code to lean more casual.
Working from home throughout the pandemic may have caused a temporary change in what business attire looks like, but at some point, you will likely still need to don business professional attire. Be it for a job interview, a meeting with your company’s CEO, or a formal networking event, business professional attire still has a place in the world of work.
According to a study published in August 2020 by the Academy of Management Annals, research shows that people who are considered “highly attractive” earn an average of 20% more than their less attractive counterparts. Wearing clothing that makes you look older than you are could land you firmly in the “less attractive” category by masking your youthful vigor and casting your stellar work ethic into the shadows.
Knowing how to dress professionally in a way that doesn’t age you can also help give you a leg up at work. Avoid wearing these outdated business professional clothing items the next time you have to dress up for work.
Outdated business professional attire clothing items that age you
Covering up your legs when wearing skirts or dresses in the wintertime is nearly essential in cold climates, but traditional sheer, flesh-tone pantyhose should be reserved for a visit with the Royal family. Opt instead for tights that give you a timeless look no matter what your age.
Advice from Style Basics recommends that if you’re in doubt of what type of hosiery to go with, stick with opaque black tights for a classic look that won’t date your outfit.
2. Ankle-length dresses and skirts
While some current fashion trends lean toward flowy full-length skirts and maxi dresses, when it comes to business professional attire, it’s best to stick with styles that hit right below the knee.
If you happen to have an ankle-length suit skirt in your closet, it’s time to update your look. Instead of longer styles, try a pencil skirt to keep your look sleek, yet classic.
3. Shoulder pads
Although the power suits of the 1980s may be remembered fondly, shoulder pads in 2020 business professional attire can really date your look— in men and women alike. Who What Wear recommends retiring your shoulder pad-clad blazers in favor of tailored, current styles.
Even if you lean more fashion-forward outside of the office and embrace the runway-inspired vintage suit look, wearing one at an office with a business professional dress code could age you.
4. Round-toed shoes for women
Once you invest in a good pair of work shoes, it’s hard to swap out your old pair for a new look. But, if you’re still clinging to a beloved pair of round-toed pumps, it’s time for an update. Who What Wear suggests picking women’s shoe styles with a pointed toe in order to avoid looking dated in your workwear.
5. Square-toed shoes for men
Although square-toed men’s shoes are still readily available to purchase at major retailers, Real Men Real Style reported that the look is less visually appealing than a classic, round-toed dress shoe. When in doubt, classic always wins out if you’re worried about looking older than you actually are at work.
6. Sweater sets
Even though sweater sets are on the more casual end of the business professional attire spectrum, they’re still a staple item in many workwear wardrobes. However, Harper’s Bazaar recommends skipping sweater sets past the age of 20, as they can have the unintended effect of aging older women unnecessarily.
7. Patterned knit suit sets
Women’s workplace attire has evolved greatly from the patterned suit skirt sets of the mid-century. If you happen to have any heavy knit suit sets with patterns like houndstooth or plaid, it’s time to refresh your suit style.
Opt instead of the streamlined look of a tailored suit jacket with ankle-length pants or a knee-length pencil skirt in a solid, neutral color. Vox reported that this updated look is ideal for conservative business professional dress codes.
8. Pleated pants for men
While some pleated pants have made a fashion-forward comeback in recent years, the general consensus in the majority of professional environments is that the look is decidedly dated, according to reporting from The Manual. If not properly tailored, pleated pants can add extra heft and bulk that ages you, so it’s easiest to skip them in favor of fitted, flat-front pants or trousers with a single crease.
Aside from the fact that suspenders can actually serve an important role in keeping pants firmly in place, wearing a pair is sure to age you. Picture Gary Cole’s character in the movie Office Space. Do you really want to give off those vibes at work?
Sure, suspenders have their place in more fashionable circles, but the goal of your business professional attire shouldn’t be to make a fashion statement. Skip the suspenders in favor of a traditional belt.