is it weird to start dressing like my boss?

A reader writes:

Tl;dr – Is it weird to want to dress more like my boss (and do you think she’ll notice if I do?)

Okay, basically I’m so lucky in my current job. I’m a quality manager at the lowest level of management in my organization, but I love my job, I love my team, I love my boss, and I love my boss’s boss too!

My boss’s boss is the one who I consider a bit of a role model (although I wouldn’t dream of confessing this to her — I think I probably have a bit of a manager crush on her, in a non-romantic/attracted way, I hope that’s a thing and I’m not just a total weirdo haha!). She’s 35, which for her position in my company is really really young (most are between 50 and retirement age) and I’m 22, which is young for my position (my next youngest same level colleague is 32), but she’s just so put together. I feel like saying I want to be like her when I grow up, which sounds so ridiculous when I type it out!

My point is, I want to start being more professional and organized and feel and look more like (excuse my French) I have my shit together!

Sometimes in meetings I zone out (because I only really go to look like I’m doing something, as they have zero relevance to me or my team) but I’m in my head like, “That is a really nice top (or outfit)!” She wears a lot of plain tops with basic cardigans and lots of pastel/pale-colored clothes, whereas I tend to wear soft blazer-type jackets, floral trousers, and bright block colors paired with black or navy. I am thinking of expanding my wardrobe, and the more I think about presenting a more professional look, the more my thoughts flicker to this boss.

In short, I’m wondering what I said at the start. Is it weird to want to dress like her, and do you think she’ll notice if I do? (To be clear, I DON’T want her to notice.) Have you ever come across any managers who are worried that their employees like them too much (hopefully not in a weird way!)? I wouldn’t say I’m trying to emulate her specifically, I just want to start changing my professional image so that I can progress within the organization, and I feel she like she has a really good image!

You can totally start dressing more like your boss and emulating her general style!

I’d be more cautious about doing this if her style were especially unusual or unique to her — like if she always dressed in polka dots or in clothes with tiny giraffes on them, you wouldn’t be able to emulate that without it coming across strangely. But her clothes sound like a typical enough professional look that it’s not likely to stand out as a strange move.

In fact, paying attention to how senior people who you respect present themselves is a pretty common piece of advice, and there’s nothing weird about doing it.

Obviously, you want to be inspired by her look rather buying the identical pieces and assembling an identical wardrobe. But assuming you keep it more “inspired by” than “carbon copy,” she’s not likely to think anything of it. She may notice that your look has changed, and she may even notice it being similar to hers — but if anything, she’s likely to find that flattering in someone she manages (again, as long as you stay on the “inspired by” side of things), and will probably just assume that you’re taking cues on professional dress from her, which isn’t something she’s likely to object to.

And actually, in some offices it’s a noticeable thing that most women over a certain professional level dress similarly, and I suspect it stems from everyone taking their cues from each other — or originally from one senior woman — and all individually concluding “this is what looks polished in this office.” (It may happen with men too, but there’s usually less variation in their work clothes to begin with.)

{ 275 comments… read them below }

    1. pleaset

      One other thing – the OP’s choices do not sound bad at all, and I wonder if she should consider changing the fit and form of how she dresses, as much or even largely instead of the colors.

      1. Observer

        I was thinking about that as well.

        Also, the overall idea of having some good quality basics that work well with each other.

      2. Luna

        I agree, I like both bright colors and pastels, I don’t think one is generally more professional than the other? But I also work in more casual offices so maybe that doesn’t translate to more formal environments.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I think neutrals and pale colors are a very specific type of professional look (more conservative, really) — not that bright colors can’t be professional too, but it’s a different type of look, and it sounds like the OP may be drawn to her boss’s use of the former.

          1. Hellanon

            Yeah, I was in a meeting this winter with several other women in senior positions & we were all in some variation of beige & charcoal grey. We wear a lot of black here too…frequently paired with ivory or pale beige.

            1. Specialk9

              When I was in a formal business casual (but really closer to business) office, I had light grey as my main neutral, and accessorized with 1 of 4 pops of color (bright yellow, scarlet red, kelly green, OR teal/turquoise). Limiting color pops is a super easy way to look ridiculously polished and coordinated, cuz you only buy in those shades.

              Now I’m in a more casual environment, I still stick to those colors, but now my whole dress is likely to be that color. I keep it looking sophisticated with careful neutral accessorizing.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I think it also varies by seniority. For example, in my super conservative profession, bright colors are not considered professional… unless you’re a superstar or a partner (or equivalent level of seniority). Same goes for dangly earrings. And then they’re considered stunning.

        2. The Other Geyn

          I’m in the legal profession — so overall pretty formal (although I’m practicing in an area of that trends casual), but I’ve find that bright/pastel is okay even in court as long as it’s paired with something really neutral. Like no one will blink at a pastel blouse if it’s paired with a black/charcoal/navy suit.

          Funny enough, I end up wearing a lot of black and gray out of laziness.

          1. Falling Diphthong

            General advice from another AAM thread: If you are going to go one step more fashion forward than the rest of your office (or breaking out of your own feels-too-beige baseline), do it one piece at a time. So if you have yellow pumps, you’re in an otherwise neutral outfit with minimal jewelry. Statement earrings, and your clothes and shoes are sedate.

      3. Breda

        Yeah, I was thinking her wardrobe sounded pretty great! But sometimes you like to have options – I like swinging between elegant-ladylike and funky-practical myself, so it’s nice to have both in my wardrobe.

      4. Specialk9

        I think it’s totally cool to copy managers’ general mode of dress – it is a signal of desire to move up, and on a psychological level, is subliminally powerful (eg mirroring body language is one of the fastest ways to generate connection).

        That said, I think that your examples from your current wardrobe are more manager-powerful, and hers are actually psychologically less so — in other words, she’s succeeding despite her dress, not because of it. (The counter argument could be that her more low-key, feminine, informal style may make her seem more approachable or otherwise work for that setting.)

        A style blog I like a lot, Inside Out Style Blog, breaks down what she calls the Yin and Yang of style, with lots of examples of how to dress to look more assertive vs approachable. On the boss lady side (my term) she recommends high contrast – dark and light colors next to each other – and high structure (blazers with princess seaming, sheath dresses, traditional trousers), and on the gentle soft side are lots of muted soft colors and flowy drapey fabrics without much structure.

        I’ll post the link after.

        1. Specialk9

          I have no idea why my first post went into mod – no trigger words I can think of, no links, and I haven’t been fractious on the board lately.

        2. Em

          I was going to suggest you look at the Inside Out website as well. She gives a ton of information about how to choose clothes that are flattering for you (including lots of basic information e.g. body shape).

        3. Lunita

          I don’t know- structured blazers would seem to me to be more “powerful,” but floral trousers and soft blazers don’t really scream that to me, although the wardrobe is probably still professional.

      5. Exhausted Trope

        That’s what I was thinking! OP’s wardrobe sounds professional to me. However, it wouldn’t hurt to update with a few pieces more similar in style /color to her manager’s. It’s a good idea and might position her to be promoted.

  1. The Original K.

    I think taking cues from the higher-ups at work re: wardrobe is very wise, particularly for women. Because there’s more variety in women’s wardrobes, it can be easy to make a misstep about what passes for professional dress (and this will vary from office to office anyway; what’s professional at a white shoe law firm might not work at an ad agency), so taking a look around the office is generally a good idea. As long as you’re not wearing literally exactly what your boss wears and sticking more to general style, I think it’s fine!

    1. Naptime Enthusiast

      Yes, this. I work in STEM and for my first 3 years I had no female “style” mentors to emulate, and ended up wearing a lot of women’s button down shirts that I HATED because men wear button-downs and I knew that it was a safe option. It sounds like OP has been wearing a safe style as well with blazer-type jackets, which there’s nothing wrong with but isn’t for everyone. For the record, cardigans and solid colored tops are a very common option in a lot of business casual offices!

      OP, don’t be afraid to look at what colors the men in the office are wearing as well. I was in a meeting this morning where EVERYONE was wearing a button down shirt that was some variation of blue or gray. That’s the common color scheme in my office, so when I’m in doubt about what to wear for a presentation, I choose blue or black.

      1. Annie Moose

        This is honestly a problem at my company. We have very few women in technical positions, so it’s difficult to judge what’s appropriate–especially because the dress code here is a lot more formal than at my old company. (we have several women in marketing/BA/other positions, but they have different roles that involve clients in different ways, so I was never entirely confident just emulating them–plus, when I started, almost all were significantly older than me)

        For what it’s worth, I’ve come to realize that in an environment where it’s mostly men, there sort of is no standard for women’s clothing. Most of the dudes have no clue what you’re supposed to be wearing either!

        1. Sciencer

          Yes! During grad school I interned at a large company where 100% of the people on my team were men, and 95% of the women in my (very large) open-plan office were in administrative roles (I was doing research). It was SO HARD to know what to wear, especially because we were told business casual beforehand, but the men in my group regularly wore jeans or khaki-colored denim with casual-looking button-down shirts. Anytime I wore a skirt I felt so overdressed, but the women I passed in the hallways were in skirt suits and pumps. I settled on neutral-colored slacks, simple blouses, and cardigans, but it was a constant source of anxiety for me (especially since I had approximately zero business-casual clothes before starting, so had to buy everything I needed).

    2. A Good Jess

      Agreed! I’ve recently had to start attending some higher-level meetings. My typical “uniform” is neutral slacks, nice top, and cardigan. I noticed at these meetings, though, that all the women who sit at the table (as opposed to the chairs behind) wear blazers or suit jackets.

      Even though I’m usually in the back chairs and not at the table, I’ve started wearing a blazer whenever I go to one of those meetings, just in case. (I keep a gray knit blazer in my cubicle closet because it will work with pretty much any of the neutral slacks I wear– black, navy, or tan.)

    3. Les G

      At my office men and women wear the exact same thing: hiking boots, a loose short sleeved button up or tshirt, and those cargo pants you can zip into shorts. Sometimes folks come in with their own vibe but by the end of the week you know they’re slinging on that sweet timbuk2 messenger.

      1. Jules the Third

        I wanna work in your office… I love those cargo pants that zip into shorts. Mr. Jules and I bought 4 pairs of identical ones 15 years ago, when we could wear the same size, and were planning to hike the Grand Canyon. They were perfect.

      2. Blue

        … do you live on the west coast? That sounds like a textbook PNW stereotype. (Says the girl who wore flip flops to work every non-rainy day she lived in Oregon)

    4. halfmanhalfshark

      Definitely, and this works both ways! I work in what is normally a very business-attire industry (like suits every day) but noticed the top boss in our location wearing a lot of tunics, leggings, and flats. I cautiously started doing the same (convenient because the half of my closet that isn’t business wear is tunics, leggings, and flats) while making sure everything was neat and ironed and accessorizing a little more mindfully, making sure my hair was neat, wearing makeup (as opposed to letting a pencil skirt, twinset, and pumps stand take all the weight of my professional dress by skipping the makeup and stuffing my second day hair in a half-assed ponytail). After about six months, this boss instituted a “dress for your day” policy office-wide. Leggings, tunics, and flats for everyone!

  2. Wannabe Disney Princess

    As long as you don’t go all Single White Female, go for it!

    Maybe figure out what it is you like and incorporate that. Is it the colors? Is it the cuts? The fabric? Etc. Pinterest is actually a great resource for putting that all together so you can see WHAT it is you’re really looking for.

    1. anonykins

      Thank you for using that reference! Most people my age (late 20s) are very confused when I mention SWF

      1. Temperance

        What!? It makes me sad to think there are people out there who don’t know the phrase “bunny boiler”.

    2. Jules the Third

      Yes, this! Use your boss’s style as a touchstone, but keep in mind your personal differences, like height / weight / skin tones. I would look awful (pale and washed out) in pastels, but jewel tones or navy look great.

      Think through what you *like* about your current wardrobe, and you will save money if you can pair existing favorites with new pieces. Maybe softer silhouettes (cardigans) in bright colors, for example.

      1. Happy Lurker

        I love my cardigans now that I am in my mid 40s and in a casual office.

        When I was in my mid 20s, like the OP, I loved my casual corduroy and linen suit jackets. I felt the jackets helped me project the professional image I wanted.

        I think OPs description of current outfits is good and exploring a new style similar to boss is good too.

        1. chocoholic

          I am also in my mid 40’s and I wear cardigans all the time. My kids make fun of me for it. They work great and the right one can really dress up or pull together an outfit.

          1. MrsCHX

            My daughter made the most horrific face at cardigans and I had no clue that my mid-to-late 30s self was not “stylish” in my cardigans! LOL!!!!!

        2. Blue

          Early 30s and cardigans have been a key part of my work wardrobe for years! They’re just so handy/versatile

      2. AKchic

        Yep, body type is a major factor in clothing for us ladies.

        I cannot wear a blazer. Just can’t do it. I’m short, have wide shoulders a large chest and no waist. Blazers look ridiculous on me. Cardigans? Cardigans look wonderful and they feel great. Button-down shirts? Oh no. That’s not happening. I can never find a button-down off the rack that will fit my rack. Custom tailoring will only help as long as I do not fluctuate in size (which I do, every month, by 10lbs roughly) and my shape kind of wobbles around depending on the weight. Nothing stays in place enough to be custom made to my shape.
        I love basic tees, collared blouses, tank tops, whatever looks nice paired with a cardigan.

        1. Breda

          Conversely, women in my industry wear a lot of cardigans & ballet flats, but that combination makes me look like a teenager in church. So I stick to blazers even though they’re a little more formal than my job requires! And I am very grateful for the current trend in pointed flats, because those make me look like an actual grownup.

          1. Julia

            Yeah, I dressed more formally at my last job because I was the youngest person who also looked even younger than my actual age.

          2. Specialk9

            I love D’orsay flats because they have the cool sophistication of pumps but they’re flat.

            (They’re the flats that cup the heel, get cut away on the sides then have a toe cup – open or pointy. They are a very feminine shape, and have fortunately been in style the last season or two.)

            1. Nerfmobile

              Alas, D’Orsay flats don’t work well for me. They usually have a stiff heel counter that comes up a little higher than other flats, and they dig into my Achilles tendon and cause blisters. I need lower heel counters with more flexibility.

              1. Videogame Lurker

                I know they aren’t flats exactly but slight platforms instead, but Danskos are amazing shoes. Pricey, but I had a pair I got second hand (barely used) and they lasted me eight years before the shoe staples started coming out and the tread was wearing thin. Bought a new pair. They are pricey, but considering how long they can last, I could have bought several shoes over the years for less.

          3. Koala dreams

            Luckily women blazers can be found in different degrees of formal. I even have a flowery blazer that looks pretty nice, and is perfect for my casual office.

        2. Ellex

          Nobody makes button downs for short women with large chests. I also have muscular shoulders/arms. I can’t even get my arm in the sleeve past the elbow on some button downs – they’re designed for arms so thin you can slide a bangle all the way up to the shoulder.

          A nice t-shirt or Henley type shirt looks great with a cardigan or jacket (I can do blazers…sometimes…)

          1. cookie monster

            HI
            I have never tried this company before, but supposedly “style caster” makes women’s button downs by bra size.

          2. Traffic_Spiral

            I’m just gonna join you on the “No one makes shirts for buff women” table. It sucks. Let’s also add “and all the shirts are too tight around the armpits.”

          3. Temperance

            Seriously, I hate button down shirts. They’re made for smaller-chested women only, I think. If something fits around my chest, it’s ugly and saggy everywhere else. And long. It looks like I’m wearing a large man’s shirt.

          4. Paula, with Two Kids

            I’m a girl with big chest small shoulders. Fitted henly’s are my go-to. Or a blouse with a scoop neck. Anything to distract from my apple belly! I’m 48, I know what works, and 90% of items are just not for me.

        3. AnonEMoose

          I feel you on the button down shirts, as I am also distinctly well-endowed. I can occasionally find one at Lane Bryant or Torrid (and for casual wear, I LOVE the selection of snarky t-shirts at Torrid). I do have a waist, so that helps with jackets, but I still have to choose carefully, and finding one that fits my bust and shoulders can mean it doesn’t fit well at the waist.

          Luckily, my current workplace is casual, so my usual work attire is jeans, a plain t-shirt (or a sweater if it’s cold out), and I keep a sweater and a couple of other items at my desk for if I get chilly. My direct boss doesn’t really care about the dress code, so as long as I show up clean and wearing clothes that are in decent shape, he won’t care.

        4. philippa

          Ok, apologies if I’m wandering too far off topic, but for my sister Chesty Dames out there, you might want to check out Bravissimo if you don’t already know them. British company, with a great range of bras and swimwear but also work, casual, and party clothes. Finally I can wear shirts that button up the front while also fitting my waist! And their customer service is fantastic. They have shops and website in the UK and recently added a US website. (Just realised this sounds a bit like an ad! I have no business relationship with them, just wanted to pass on a tip about my favourite well-fitting casual work clothes.)

          1. AKchic

            Yeah… having a 34J in bra size, with a 32 inch waist, but a 38-40 inch stomach (hey, 4 kids will do that to you) and a 36-38 inch waist (depending on tush size for the week) – it’s haaaard to find good-fitting clothes.
            Then the mom-arms. Yeah… no. To fit my chest I have to go to plus size, but then it hangs off the rest of me like a sheet. If I go for regular clothing to fit the rest of me, then I stretch out the chest, if I can even fit it across my chest. If things are sized right, my upper arms will fit fine.

            Just don’t ask me about pants. I have no real hind end. No real hips. Stretch denim is a miracle.

        5. MrsCHX

          I learned to sew because I wanted to make button down shirts. Seriously. And I’ve made quite a few that are amazing — the neck and shoulder fits, the bust fits, the waist fits, the sleeves are long enough(!) and I discovered I don’t like button down shirts all that much! :-D

          BUT I do not own ANY dresses that aren’t handmade because I totally cannot buy them off the rack. So now I wear dresses, dresses, dresses.

          1. Specialk9

            I just learned to make things fit me better, lol. I even learned how to put in darts, for some things. Most tailoring is surprisingly easy.

          2. Marion Ravenwood

            Learning to sew has revolutionised my wardrobe. I’ve only got as far as adjusting necklines and taking things in, but even that has made a massive difference. Next project: make something that’s decent enough to wear out of the house.

    3. the_scientist

      This is good advice. In my experience, when I think of people who are incredibly stylish/put-together, it’s not so much the specific items of clothing they choose but the overall “look” and the ability to put together a full outfit. Fit and proportion are so, so important.

      I’m personally not a pastel person (give me jewel tones or give me death!) so I don’t think bold colours are inherently unprofessional in a business casual environment, but I do think you have to pay more attention to colour combinations.

      1. AnonEMoose

        I don’t like most pastels, either, at least not for myself – if they’re your jam, you do you! But given that I am pale, I feel like pastels wash me out way too much, and since I tend to look younger than my actual age, I feel like jewel tones or darker colors in general just work better for me.

        When I was a kid, it felt like everybody tried to put me in pastels all. the. time. I hated it. So I guess I kind of associate pastels with feeling young/patronized. Which may be part of why I still don’t like wearing them – although, again, if that’s what you want to wear and you feel good in it, go for it!

        1. Jess

          I have the same association w/ pastels even though I don’t think my parents ever dressed me in many pastels as a child. (Also the same problem w/ them washing me out, so that could have something to do w/ it.) Pastels are just one of those things that I can totally love the look of on other people but they still feel wrong on me. I have the same issue w/ floral prints—there’s a lot of great ones that don’t look too girly at all, but on me I still feel like they’re too sweet and feminine and just off-looking.

          1. AnonEMoose

            I’m not big on floral prints (or, mostly, prints in general), either. I tend to dress mostly in solid colors. If I want to add interest, mostly I use jewelry. I think it’s partly because, being on the short and curvy side, I tend to find floral prints and pastels feel a little too…”I’m a sweet little girl, you don’t have to take me seriously”. Which might be a perception thing, and I don’t necessarily feel that way when other people wear them.

          2. Someone

            Yeah, dressing styles are very dependent on the individual. I avoid pastels, too, for the same reason.
            Though I actually DO dress a bit girly! I actually wanted to adopt a more strict looking style but gave up – there’s something slightly girly about my very FACE that doesn’t got well with the strict style. I can’t pull it off, it looks fake. Glasses can remove that girly look, but at the expense of aging me by whole decades (gawd do they ever make me look awful…)
            So I’ve settled for a dressing style that’s somewhat sweet, but a grown-up sweet you don’t see on actual girls: Lot’s of black, jewel tones, solid colors or large patterns, heels, figure-hugging clothes, large earrings.

    4. SophieK

      Thank you!

      I get people getting very intense with me–either hating me and going out of their way to make my life he!!–or loving me and wanting to be my BFF right away without gaining consent.

      So I would amend this advice to say that its ok to move in that direction as long as you are sure the person likes you. If its a bid for the person to like you its weird and creepy. Start with trendy items that you might have bought anyway.

      Better though is to pick out a celebrity or two or TV character and emulate *their* style.

  3. AvonLady Barksdale

    I think most of us have had, perhaps subconsciously, a style mentor. This is a good thing! Go for it, OP.

    Per Alison’s last paragraph, that is sooo true. At one point, a supervisor and I had very similar wardrobes, even though I was about twice her size. We wore a lot of the same colors and fabrics. It wasn’t something we ever planned, it just kind of happened. No one commented unless we showed up in similar jeans-and-black-top ensembles on a particular day.

    1. Turquoisecow

      Yeah, I don’t have anyone specific whom I copy, stylistically, but there have been a few times where I saw another woman wearing a particular outfit and thought “oh! That’s a good idea!” and then emulated it to a certain degree.

      My original bosses at my first office job were all men, and the only woman in leadership near me – who I now work with at another company – is well, not a style icon by any means. So I started consciously trying to pay attention to what coworkers, and women in other departments were wearing. Floral print shirt, ok. Plain cardigan, I could do that. Low-heeled sandals, check. That kind of thing.

    2. joriley

      Yep, and if your office is friendly it’s at most a fun moment when people do notice. My coworkers and I all have fairly similar styles–last week my officemate and I both showed up in black pants and long-sleeve maroon shirts, and once or twice two of my coworkers have worn the exact same patterned dress on the same day. We just laugh about it and carry on.

      1. Breda

        Yeah, when people have about the same amount of money to spend on clothes AND go to the same workplace every day, you’re going to have some overlaps!

      2. Julia

        I often wore similar outfits to one of my nice co-workers, and we’d joke and say it was a uniform.

      3. Elemeno P.

        My coworker and 2 of our interns were all wearing the same color one day. We took a group photo to celebrate.

      4. Aardvark

        My team used to sit in an area of the office with a distinctly-colored wall painted in one of the company’s colors. occasionally several of us would turn up in company tees that not only matched each other, but also matched that wall.

      5. Classic Rando

        At a retail job a million years ago, three of us all had the same sweater. Two were gray and the other was a bluish gray, and the knit and shape were fairly distinct, so it was obviously the same. All three of us managed to show up in it on the same day once, we had a good laugh over it. Also, two of us had the same first name, adding to the twins jokes

    3. AnotherGenXDevManager

      At my first job at a suit & tie and skip the jacket on Fridays, but have it hung up in your office in case you go to the client type place, several of us women all shopped at the same store (casual corner, RIP, it carried petite, straight, and plus sizes) and so it wasn’t unusual to see five or six women in the same jacket and skirt, and quite possibly the same coordinating blouse because we’d all gone and bought whatever was new for that season. The client I worked for liked to tease us about it, but no one found it inappropriate, just funny.

      Honestly, I kind of miss having a “uniform”. I default to a lot of fit and flare dresses because they’re easy but I know I stand out a bit among my (male) peers because I’m fond of fun and funky colors.

      1. Judy (since 2010)

        I so miss Casual Corner. At the one near me, I could call in during the day, say “I’ll be in at 5pm, I’d like to try dark colored pants, size 8, machine wash only”, and then at 5pm walk into a dressing room with lots of pants to try on.

    4. The New Wanderer

      It’s not just for women either – there was one day when three of the men in my office showed up wearing long sleeve button down shirts in lavender. And yes, anytime more than two people were wearing the same color combos, there were jokes about uniforms and missing the memo!

  4. I'm A Little TeaPot

    Yep, I’ve definitely taken note of the types of clothing that other women wear to work. Some things just don’t work for me, but they do inform my wardrobe choices. When you’re new to the working world and are unsure, it can be really comforting to know that at least people won’t be secretly judging you for dressing like a teenager playing at your parent’s office. (looking at all the young women in my business casual/professional office who are wearing leggings and t-shirts, and not on Fridays. On your own time, you do you. When you’re at work, and everyone else is wearing nice business casual or full suits, that’s a different thing.)

  5. Squeeble

    Totally a normal and fine thing to do. My style changed subtly when I switched jobs, based on what I saw other women wearing.

  6. KR

    OMG OP I totally understand the professional platonic crush thing where you just think someone is so professional and put together, you wish you were more like them. I am the youngest person on our team (by 2 weeks. I have to know everyones DOB for my job) and I might be the youngest person in our department/division so I totally have male and female co-workers I look up to and try to emulate either because of how well spoken they are, or how professional they are, or how they dress, or how well they know their area of expertise.

    1. Jules the Third

      I still have some of that, and I’m in my 40s. There was this 50+ yo visiting trainer with a great deal of knowledge and enthusiasm, wearing structured blazers that I just loved. Nothing romantic, just professional admiration.

  7. Pollygrammer

    I’m kind of more concerned about the platonic-crush and the zoning out in meetings…be cognizant of how much you’re staring at the woman.

    1. Sylvan

      +1, this combined with dressing like her may not come off well.

      In my opinion,
      Do: Pay attention to your manager, use her as a dress code guideline
      Don’t: Space out watching your manager, copy individual pieces of clothing (risk of Single White Female vibes)

  8. Observer

    On another note, OP. Don’t go to meetings that are not relevant to you just for appearances sake. For one thing, you’re zoning out during those meetings and that is MUCH worse for you than not being there. Also, people are not stupid. If your Grandboss is as good as you say, she’ll wonder what you are doing in all of these irrelevant meetings instead of doing your job.

    If you really need more visibility, find another way to get it (even if it means trying to figure out a way to make these meetings more relevant to what your job actually is.)

    1. KWu

      Yup, came here to see if that part would get commented on as well. Visibility is important and it’s good to stay on top of things that might not be directly relevant to your team right now, but if it’s so far removed that you’re zoning out, it’s worth reevaluating your strategy. Are you there to learn best practices that your team can use? Can you offer your team’s help or involvement? Does it shed light on higher priorities so that you can better guide your team?

    2. Chai

      Agreed. If you’ve been instructed to attend these meetings by a higher-up, then you’re probably stuck with them. But if you’re attending them of your own volition? Don’t do it just for the sake of doing it. It’s a waste of your time at best, and at worst could actively harm your reputation if you keep zoning out instead of contributing.

      I say this as someone who works in an office where waaaay too many people attend meetings that aren’t relevant to them, so that meetings that really should be three people suddenly mushroom into having ten or twelve people there. It’s annoying, hard to manage (because at least half of the people in any meeting don’t know what they’re doing there and don’t contribute anything to the discussion), and wastes so much of everyone’s time that could be better spent on their actual work assignments.

    3. Lynn Whitehat

      I remember this being a major frustration when I was more junior. I was a required attendee, and being junior, I couldn’t refuse without being insubordinate. But when you’re more junior, your tasks are pretty well-defined. If your job is llama-shaver, you can just shave those llamas, you don’t need a half-dozen meetings about vision and strategy to do it. So you end up daydreaming a lot.

    4. EmilyT

      Agreed I cam here to say this.

      If you are zoning out in meetings, you might not think it is obvious but it will be to some people.

      If it’s not relevant to your team, and you absolutely must attend, take notes! Learn about different parts of the business. Having a greater understanding of the company as a whole and the different factors impacting different teams will really help you later on if you want to move up and need to deal with different teams and different areas of the business.

    5. Jubilance

      Was just coming here to say this. I’m sure the OP means well, but I’m sure her time could be better spent doing other things (working with her team, cross training, etc) than sitting in meetings that have no relevance to her.

  9. animaniactoo

    I think the major key to doing this kind of thing is to shop for things you look at and THINK that boss would wear that – but do not buy anything that looks too similar to something you have actually seen boss wearing.

    i.e. She has a top with a blue zigzig pattern on the hips – you can see about something with a different color/pattern in the same place, but NOT the same color or pattern as the one she has. Find something that is a little more unique to you in terms of colors or patterns that you like.

    In doing that, you’re adopting a similar style without copying so closely that it becomes obvious that she exactly is who you are using as inspiration.

    1. CM

      I think age is a factor too — something that looks stylish on a 35-year old may look overly conservative on a 22-year old. Like, I would think it was unusual if a 22-year old started showing up in a scarf and brooch every day. I’d also pay attention to what the OP’s peers are wearing and wouldn’t want to look noticeably different. If the VP shows up in a business suit and all the junior people are wearing jeans, go for something in between.

    2. Sylvan

      I agree. Use her as inspiration for dressing well within your workplace. Don’t copy individual pieces.

    3. Koala dreams

      I agree with your comment. If you choose to wear exactly the same clothes, it can look odd. However, you can probably find similar clothes, maybe pastel but another colour or another pattern, and fit them with your existing clothes in a nice way. Sometimes you can find pastel and bright colors that still go together, for example, and most colours can fit with navy or black.

  10. Environmental Compliance

    The first time I had to work in an office that required more business than casual (skirts & slacks), I definitely took a lot of cues from a couple women higher up to figure out what to put with what. I owned literally one pair of dress slacks and one skirt and two dress blouses. There were a couple women higher up that seemed to always emulate professionalism and confidence and always looked put together, so I took a couple notes on what they seemed to do for types of clothes together, fabric type, general silhouette, and went shopping at an online thrift store. I felt a lot more confident because I felt that my clothing wouldn’t make me stick out & would have the image I wanted to have.

  11. One legged stray cat

    Dressing how upper management dresses when you are a young worker often has the benefit of getting you better treated as well. Many young workers exude a bit of an intern feel and some co-workers unconsciously assume that the worker’s work product is immature as well. Dressing like you are ten years older often mitigates that assumption and people treat you more like a peer than a newbie.

    1. Jules the Third

      +1 Also, in heavily male industries, it sometimes gets you out of the ‘dateable girl’ category in men’s heads. I work in manufacturing, and I wear a lot of slacks / button downs. I’ve only started wearing more feminine stuff after I hit 40.

        1. Jennifer Thneed

          Apologizing is nice, but not necessary. What IS necessary: call out guys who make comments about stuff like this. It truly makes a difference.

          A lot of guys who won’t listen to anything a woman says will listen to something another guy says. In a way, you have a super-power of “men will listen to you”. Use that power for good. At the very least, if someone cracks a “joke”, don’t laugh. Instead, say “Not funny, buddy” and most of the time that’s all you’ll have to say.

  12. Bookworm

    I think it can be a fine line and may depend on a few factors. I encountered this back in college with my roommates: one of them (who was the youngest of us and arguably wasn’t emotionally mature enough to move away and into the dorms) did this with my other roommate. I didn’t notice but the copied roommate did. It was definitely a mimicry of style and types of clothing/shoes, although in copycat’s case she was trying to replicate the style as closely as possible rather than being “inspired by” or subtly adjusting her wardrobe for professional purposes.

    So this might be better if you do it gradually (maybe an item or two) and make sure the platonic crush isn’t veering into creepy. Not saying it is, but sometimes signals can get mixed and it can weird people out.

  13. ket

    It’s great to take inspiration from someone like that. One idea to consider: think about what you like about how you dress now, or one thing that you like that she doesn’t do, and keep that signature as you play with the rest of your wardrobe. It’ll lend some consistency, and you *do* want to differentiate yourself a little bit.

    If you do want to crush your career progression, like your boss, ask for advice about things you can do in these meetings that don’t feel relevant. Are they good for building relationships? Learning more about the company’s other divisions? What can you do to make them useful for you?

  14. AvonLady Barksdale

    By the way, I have seen this backfire once (and only once, which is why I remember it so clearly). A woman in a past office got promoted to a sales position and decided that she, like many other senior salespeople, would start wearing trendier, more black clothes and higher heels (this was NYC in the early 10s). She forgot that her clothes needed to fit her well and she should be able to walk in her own shoes. There was a lot of teetering and a few unfortunate pairs of leather pants, things that may have worked for other women. The moral of that story is that Alison’s “inspiration rather than duplication” advice is absolutely key.

    1. The Original K.

      Yeah, stylish shoes don’t matter if you can’t walk in them. Wobbling on heels is not a good look. There are lots of stylish flats out there if you can’t walk in heels (or just don’t want to!).

      1. Specialk9

        I walked behind a woman the other day who had on high stilettos, and with every single brisk step she wobbled 4 times! Every time. I would have been utterly exhausted from all that extra motion, or I would have sprained an ankle! Lady, you don’t have the skills or balance for them shoes!

        1. Lora

          American stilettos are uniquely awful to walk in, I find – the heel is simply attached too far back on the sole to be able to balance or put weight on anything but your tippy-toes. Italian, Colombian, Argentinian and Brazilian-made heels are WAY better, with bigger toe boxes and heels just a smidge closer to the anatomical location of your heel bones instead of your Achilles tendon – they enable you to stand on the balls of your feet, leaving your toes able to sense the ground and help you balance. I have a few pairs of (expensive) heels from overseas trips, and they’re all actually more comfortable than American-made flats.

        2. Classic Rando

          This all reminds me of the time I was at the Met and saw a young woman on the most obvious stealth date ever with a young man we dubbed “the hot guy from photography class”. She was wearing 5 inch platform heels, and by the time we found her was doing the “my feet hurt but I’m trying to hide it” walk. The young man was more interested in the exhibits than the “date” he didn’t know he was on.

          The lesson in all this, of course, is to plan your footwear choices wisely, in all your endeavors!

          1. Jennifer Thneed

            My experience: started a job the same day as someone else, and she wore new shoes. Brand-new shoes, on her first day, in a place she’d never been before. Guess what, they toured us all over the place and her feet killed her, and apparently it had never crossed her mind to not wear brand-new shoes to unfamiliar places.

  15. Chupalupe

    Ladies, is there anywhere that you like to shop for quality stuff for the office? I find Ann Taylor, etc. way too boring, but I’m also looking for clothes that are relatively simple in style – I’m curvy so I canNOT pull off the flowy, ruffly stuff that seems to be in fashion right now.

    Any favorites that anyone has? (I’m based in the UK if that matters).

    1. EmKay

      I’m tall and also curvy. I like Calvin Klein dresses a lot for the office. The sizes are consistent enough that I know that my size will fit me well 99% of the time, so I get a lot of them off of eBay, and wear them alone or paired with a blazer or cardigan. I get them new but out of season, so the price is discounted, sometimes quite heavily.

      1. deets

        I second Calvin Klein dresses! Oddly the CK blazers just do NOT work for me, but the dresses are really flattering and of consistent size and quality.

    2. Breda

      My go-tos are Loft & J.Crew (which is a LOT more wearable this year than the last few), but I’ve also started shopping more on ThredUp. It’s a real gamble, since you don’t know what the quality is going to be & there are no reviews to clarify fit, but that means I just order like 8-10 things and return most of it. You can get a really wide range of styles & brands there, and since everything is pretty cheap, I’m a lot more willing to take a risk!

      1. Toads, Beetles, Bats

        +1 for ThredUp. I’m hopeless at dressing myself nicely, so had a few rounds of Stitch Fix. The Stitch Fix stylists sent me some solid work capsule components. I then looked the labels up on ThredUp and ordered 5-6 more things in each line for super-cheap. Voila, an entire work wardrobe for roughly $400, counting the Stitch Fix boxes.

    3. A tester, not a developer

      I don’t have any suggestions, but I know that the FemaleFashionAdvice subreddit (on Reddit) has a daily General Questions thread for that sort of thing. The search algorithm within Reddit is awful, so I’d suggest just asking the question instead of trying to look for previous results, at least at first.

    4. Non-profiteer

      Lands End, for well-fitting (I’m plus-sized), quality, basic professional clothes. Many of them are also stretchy, and these days I’m always looking for stretchy that is also professional. :)

      1. Turquoisecow

        Second that. I’m curvy and short, and I got some Land’s End pants recently that were actually not too long on me.

      2. Kate 2

        Ditto Lands End, I am short and curvy and I love the tops! The sleeves are the right length!! Also the sizing is very consistent, so I can order the same size for all the tops I buy and be confident it will fit, no returns!

    5. Lily Rowan

      I like Boden a lot right now, and actually, at one job I was afraid to shop there because my boss and her boss both had a lot of dresses from there, so I was afraid of looking too much like a copycat!

      1. annejumps

        I love Boden, I apparently have 11 dresses from them. I found their pants to be awful, however.

    6. Suzan Arden

      I’d recommend Cos if you haven’t been there. I’m not sure what your work environment is like: I’m a lawyer in New York so the work clothes I wear range from business casual (office) to relatively formal (court, meetings etc). Not everything in there works (the hems and pleating can get a little out there for most offices on some pieces) and I don’t get my suits from there, but other than that, I can wear virtually all of the clothes to the office and many of the dresses to court. Relatively cheap in the U.S. (dresses, skirts, pants around $100-$120) and accessible online too if you haven’t got a store nearby.

    7. Elise

      Ugh, I feel you on the current style. I don’t mind it in my casual wardrobe, but most of what I see in Ann Taylor Loft is not going to be the right look for my workplace at the moment. I’m not sure what you have in the UK, but we have New York and Company here which sometimes has more of what I need for work (and it’s more affordable too). Dress Barn, White House Black Market and then general department stores are my other go to places right now. Have no idea if you have access to those, sorry!

      1. DCGirl

        There was something in the news recently about how one of the anchors gets a lot of her clothes from Dress Barn. I was impressed, because I would otherwise have assumed she shopped exclusively at a swanky New York boutique.

        1. Elise

          I only started shopping there about a year ago because the name doesn’t lend itself to sounding like a place to by professional wear! But I dropped in once because I saw something in the window and opened a whole new world of work wear possibilities. :) And if you sign up for their rewards, you can almost always get an additional discount.

      2. Kate 2

        I LOVE Dress Barn! Their clothes are gorgeous and every time I walk in I want to buy every single thing in the store, and that never happens to me. At most I like maybe 2 things in a store. I don’t think I’m picky, my style is pretty basic, it just doesn’t seem to be popular right now. Lots of solids, not too much decoration (bows, lace, glitter all over).

        1. PhyllisB

          I used to love Dress Barn, too. unfortunately, our local shop closed; so I only get to shop there when I go out of town. I also like Cato’s. I was looking for something to wear to a wedding a couple of years ago and when I went in, they had the PERFECT OUTFIT on a manikin. I bought the whole outfit, including the jewelry shown with it. I never got so many compliments. I realize OP is too young for this store, but I also love to shop on-line at Coldwater Creek. For women of a CERTAIN AGE their clothes are perfect. Bought a dress for another wedding there, and once again got tons of compliments, and “WHERE DID YOU GET THAT DRESS??? I LOVE IT!!!”

    8. DCGirl

      I get most of my work clothes at Lord & Taylor, making sure to take advantage of sales and discounts for using their credit card (which I pay off immediately). You an actually make Lord & Taylor affordable if you work at it a bit, and not shopping at Macy’s (the other department store alternative) means that I don’t end up with the same blazer six other women at my company are wearing.

    9. NYC Redhead

      corporette.com is all about this, although I find the pieces they feature to be on the more expensive end.

    10. Chai

      Corporette has lots of recommendations for places to shop! They do posts that accommodate a lot of different price points and body types.

    11. Annie Moose

      90% of my wardrobe is Banana Republic! (I shop at the Factory Stores, which have much better prices and sales) Not sure how good they are on the curvy front but it’s one of my go-tos.

    12. Amaryllis

      I have had trouble due to the practicalities of my work (need to hide stains and be very mobile, so no dresses/skirts/light colors). I also like simple cuts with a bit of an edge. If Rosa Diaz had a fashion blog, I’d be all over it.

      1. Mad Baggins

        I’ve googled and found websites/Pinterests/polyvore for wardrobes as found on TV. I’m more of a Gina/Amy myself but I’m sure there’s a Rosa one out there!

    13. Specialk9

      I like Talbots for the quality basics, especially blazers that are utterly perfect for years. (EBay or ThredUp)

      Eloquii for peplum tops.

      Eshakti for dresses (and some tops).

      Old Navy for tall straight trousers.

      Target for cardigans (Merona brand).

      1. Specialk9

        Oh and Ralph Lauren makes a 3/4 sleeve ruched / surplice dress in plus size that is magic. (Jersey fabric, I believe – something that skims over lumps but looks sheath-y.) I have 4, and got them all from eBay.

      2. Sylvan

        Target’s dropping Merona, but I think A New Day includes some of the same items. Try them on before buying to make sure.

      3. Bertha

        Target got rid of Merona, but it’s basically been replaced with A New Day. (Although I still search resale sites for Merona!)

      4. Matilda the Hun

        Yes yes yes for Talbots. They have straight sizes, petite, and plus/plus-petite, and so many pieces are in all the size ranges, so you don’t have to miss out on cute things!

        1. Lunita

          I have several pencil skirts, blouses, and cardigans from Ann Taylor and work slacks from LOFT because both sell petite sizes. For some reason I never end up liking BR clothes on me. Express, surprisingly, now has a decent work attire line that comes in petite as well. I just purchased a pair of wide leg slacks and a blazer. I love Zara as well but the regular line almost never fits me.

    14. philippa

      (Mentioned this up the thread before I saw your comment) – for curvy, esp on top, I love Bravissimo. If you’re in London or Brighton they do great bra fittings too.

    15. Annsy

      I like a lot of J. Jill stuff, too – their Wearever line works GREAT for my office (which is casual), and it’s all mix-and-match.

    16. Another Accountant

      I’m not sure if it’s available in the UK, but I’ve been obsessed with MM LaFleur for a couple of years now. They’re classic clothes that are designed and made very well, and there are lots of machine washable items, as well. It is more pricey than other options, but I buy them as staple items.

      1. Cait

        I commented farther down about MM LaFleur – huge fan! I prefer investing in a few high quality, classic pieces and I’ve been thrilled with everything from there.

    17. Wee tim'rous beastie

      Charity shops in posh areas. If you are in London, Pimlico has a good clutch of them on Warwick Way – I have bought cashmere overcoats, nice tops and cardigans there.

      1. Someone

        That work’s in other area’s, too, actually, and applies to all kinds of shops that sell second hand clothing. There’s no guarantee that you will find something suitable there, but it definitely pays off to check them out every once in a while – sometimes they have really gorgeous stuff you don’t find anywhere else. Quite a few of my favorite clothes are second hand.

        I ought to check out those shops myself this season – I hate the currently fashionable nightgowns just as much.

    18. brontosaurusinspace

      Hobbs for sheath dresses, pencil skirts, jackets (I don’t much care for their current season, but they have good office staples even if ruffles invade everything else, and they’re not inevitably boring). Pricey, but it’s good quality and it lasts, and the cut’s good if you’re curvy.

      Whistles and Reiss both worth a look in the sales (Reiss is generally better for the tall and less curvy, but can be surprising).

      If you’re in London, the London Bridge branch of M&S seems to get good office clothes that they don’t sell in other branches.

  16. Ignore a moose

    Slightly off topic, but OP, how did you become a manager at 22?!

    Signed, 29 year old still stuck in an entry level role.

  17. Ladybug

    OP, taking style cues is a completely normal thing! That said, I feel you should also be aware of your social dynamic, too. Is your mentor someone who would be flattered if you wore something similar, or would she be put-off? Story time: my co-worker, with whom I have a cantankerous relationship (she’s retiring; I’m the replacement, and she’s resentful) absolutely gushed over a striped jacket I wore one day. She mentioned that she has a similar one, and then she wore hers the very next day! I was a bit put-off by the ‘twinsies’ factor, but that’s because our working relationship is fraught with her continued need to prove that she’s ‘better’ at the position. In short, be sure to step back and assess your interactions with your style mentor before you completely emulate her style.

    1. Bea

      She’s retiring…yet feels so much resentment?! Woah, is she being forced into retirement? That’s sad, I hope she feels better after the transition.

      The only time I’ve had issues with my replacements were when they couldn’t fill my shoes well enough. Then I’m like “whatever, I’m leaving anyways.”. But that’s a different world from stepping down to retire. I hope she is gone soon for both of your sakes.

      1. Ladybug

        She announced her retirement a year ago; she’ll be done at the end of this year. I’ve been “training” with her since the start of the year, and she’s the type who 1) wants to do it all herself, and 2) thinks that all changes are bad. My bosses are aware of the situation, and we’re all in “grin and bear it” mode. Six more months!

    2. Higher Ed Database Dork

      My former boss used to emulate our exec director but it was in that same weird duplication way, and we noticed. For example: he’d gush over ED’s new phone. Next day, Boss shows up with the same phone and proceeds to make a big deal out of it. Another time, he gushed over ED’s new glasses. A few days later, guess who has new glasses in the exact same style? This kind of emulation is weird, not flattering!

    3. Observer

      Why is your co-worker so resentful? Did she want someone else to take the job? Is she being forced out?

      1. Ladybug

        See above, but to elaborate a bit more: I think she doesn’t like sharing the spotlight with anyone. People who used to ask her things now ask me things. We have adjacent work spaces, but since she is closer to the door, she’ll intercept folks on their way to me. I’m late-30s, she’s early 60s, and I think she’s clinging to her perception of power before the “younger generation” takes it from her.

    4. Alex the Alchemist

      Yeah, a friend-of-a-friend shaved the sides of her head about two days after I did it to my hair and said I should be flattered. However, she was a person who, for our first year of knowing each other, absolutely hated me and then didn’t understand why I didn’t immediately want to be besties, so there’s that.

  18. Bea

    Ah to be 22 again. I love this letter and it reminds me of myself only my bosses were all men and grouchy old ones at that. They were still my mentors and I took so much from them over the years.

    I agree that barring trying to coordinate your looks and showing up in matching pants suits one day, this is simply expanding on a professional approach.

    I’m headed towards 35 and wear basics because it’s easiest to find when you’re this age TBH lol We don’t have your scope or depending on body type, any choice what so ever in expanding out of basic colors and cardigans.

    1. missc

      Crikey, I’m nearly 37 and in no way consider myself confined to ‘basic colours and cardigans’! Perhaps I’m lucky to work in a relatively creative industry, and perhaps things are a little different in the UK with regard to what’s fashionable/acceptable for work, but I wear the things I like and I don’t feel like I suddenly have to dress like I’m 60+ just because I’m over 35. The weather is nice at the moment so I’ve been wearing striped dresses, slouchy-yet-stylish patterned jersey trousers, patterned tops…definitely not ‘basics’!

  19. nnn

    Do feel free to be inspired by those around you (that’s how fashion works!) but the thing to keep in mind is what works on your body – both in terms of shape and colouring. For example, if, like me, you look undead in pale colours, don’t start wearing them just because Manager is.

  20. AnotherAlison

    One thing I’m curious about is whether the manager in question is representative of dress in that level of management or if she is doing her own thing. (Of course, at my office, there may only be one female manager at a certain level.)

    If there were 10 female senior managers, 9 of them wore darker neutrals and blazers, and the OP started showing up dressed more like the 1 who wore pastels and cardigans, that might stick out in a bad way.

  21. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night

    My boss and I are of a similar age, but over the past year or so I’ve definitely picked up some style influence from her – she used to work at the corporate headquarters at a high-end department store, and she’s very polished and put together as a result. I’ve always enjoyed fashion but skewed more towards bold, colorful prints and flow-y dresses, whereas my manager dresses more like what used to be called “preppy” – the kind of clothes Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger make. Due to my recent obsession with ThredUp I’ve added in a few subtlety tasteful items into my clothing rotation and I always preen like a teenager when she complements me on them.

  22. Temperance

    I’m going to go against the general advice here and advise you not to do this. I think it could very easily come across as creepy or strange if she has a distinct look. It’s good to see what more senior women in your org are wearing and to emulate that in your own way, but I guarantee it will be noticeable if you start copying her style.

    I had a classmate once who did this to me, and I noticed even though we only had one single class together. It was so strange and noticeable, especially since she sat next to me.

    1. blink14

      I had a suitemate in college who definitely bordered on single white female. We were shopping one day, and she was picking up the exact same items I was to try them on, and even in my size, which was much different than her own size. It was super creepy and the last time we hung out (she had graduated at this point).

      I don’t see any issue with taking style cues from somebody, but be very careful in copying piece for piece or a very specific style trend (like the pastels) to an extreme.

    2. sunshyne84

      I agree. You can ask where she shops, but find things you like, not stuff you imagine she would wear. Try to find a celeb style influence or anyone outside of where you work.

    3. Rusty Shackelford

      I think it could very easily come across as creepy or strange if she has a distinct look.

      From the description, it doesn’t sound like this is going to be an issue. Plain tops, cardigans, and pastels are not exactly a distinctive style. Unless you copy her actual garments, I don’t think anyone is going to notice the OP starts wearing pastel tops in addition to the bright ones she already wears.

      1. Flinty

        Yeah, actually the OP’s original style sounds more distinctive and the look she is going for is more…bland. Which is not likely to be seen as copying.

        1. Rusty Shackelford

          I just don’t agree. It’s too broad and vague to be noticeable. It’s not like the OP is modeling herself after someone who wears animal prints every day, or leather pants. “Pastels” is a very subtle statement.

          1. Libby

            I dunno… I’m with Temperance and I think the OP should be very cautious about changing her outfits – I do think wearing pastels suddenly will be noticible

  23. lonepear

    OP, if you have a friendly working relationship with her (and chatting with your boss’s boss isn’t eyebrow-raising in your office), you might consider asking her for advice. “I’m trying to build up my professional wardrobe, and I think you always look really polished and put-together; I’d love to get some advice if you have a few minutes sometime.”

    1. Tangerina Warbleworth

      I wouldn’t recommend this… asking for work advice would make sense, but asking for fashion advice of an upper-level manager would be a bit tone-deaf.

      1. Naptime Enthusiast

        This is a fair point. Just like female celebrities overwhelmingly get questions about their diets and fashion choices, female managers tend to get the work-life balance and non-business questions much more frequently their male counterparts do. It definitely depends on their working relationship and if this would be weird or not, but it’s something to consider.

        1. Pickled Beets

          I think it would be fine if the mentoring relationship was there, especially if it was over a coffee and part of a larger discussion about workplace norms and advice.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Hi! Can I make a plea for you not to steal that name? When commenters start using my fake names, I can’t use them in posts :) Thank you!

      3. pleaset

        “Fashion” advice about a professional wardrobe is is work advice. Especially for women.

  24. Queen of Cans & Jars

    This letter is so sweet and totally brightened my day. Thanks for posting it, Alison!

  25. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend

    OP, go for it! But also, your style sounds cool as well! I’m inspired to go pick up some floral trousers. :)

  26. Notacritismjustadvice

    Instead of saying “My point is, I want to start being more professional and organized and feel and look more like (excuse my French) I have my sh*t together!” try “My point is, I want to start being more professional and organized and feel and look more like I have it together!”
    There’s always a way around.

      1. Triumphant Fox

        I’m going to agree on this – that ads to the story and gives more personality to her letter. It also communicates some exasperation with herself/her situation in a way that I find funny and relatable.

    1. Specialk9

      I can pretty much guarantee, given how conscientious this OP sounds, she knows how not to curse when it’s not appropriate. But it’s ok here (even more so because she didn’t actually cuss) so she gauged this environment perfectly.

    2. Mollie

      I don’t mind the profanity so much. But I was coming in to say that “excuse my French” rubs me the wrong way. I know it’s used all the time but why pick on the French? Why not just say “excuse my Language”?

      1. Libby

        I kind of think that statement is super flattering to French?? Ie that its such a disconnect between a beautiful language and then the swear word?

        1. Mollie

          The French people that I know, take offense to the phrase because they feel that their beautiful language is being equated to swearing.

  27. kimonawhim

    Definitely take your wardrobe cues from successful people in your office!

    Tangentially related, we had a new crop of interns show up yesterday. We are an investment firm, business casual, but more toward business then casual. 2 notable intern outfits were 1) a flowered (very short) romper, and 2) cut-off jean shorts and tevas (!?!). They are not my department’s interns, but I sure hope day one involved an orientation on how to dress for an office.

    1. AnotherAlison

      I thought the micro mini skirt I observed yesterday was questionable (she had on a blouse and flats that offset it somewhat), but jean shorts? Another young woman here has a septum piercing. Things have changed a lot since 2000, and I guess I’m an old fogie now.

    2. Anonforthis

      Oh god.

      Please be kind to the interns and keep in mind that not everyone has the capacity to buy new clothes, especially when they’re just starting out – but yes, I oversaw intern programs and the conversations we had to have about work appropriate clothing was cringe-worthy. I tended to let things slide like wearing black jeans instead of slacks, because often it’s because it doesn’t make sense for an intern to dump a bunch of money into a professional wardrobe, but mostly it was things like wearing stuff that was way too skimpy/casual/see-through for the office.

      I felt awful because it was almost always the female interns we had to have conversations with – even if the guys showed up in ratty unhemmed khakis, at least what was supposed to be covered was covered.

      1. Observer

        The thing also is that at some point these interns are going to HAVE to make these investments, so it makes sense to start the process now. If the intern is wearing something that is only slightly off, that’s one thing. But something as off base as these examples NEEDS to be addressed. In most jobs, they won’t be given a grace period of a couple of payroll periods to get decent clothes. The first time someone shows up like this, they will get sent home.

        1. Anonforthis

          I’m just saying that many interns are not going to be about to spend $800 at Anne Taylor to completely outfit themselves for their first internship, so if an intern wears a cardigan instead of a blazer or runs out of dress pants before the end of the week, I’m going to be more understanding. I oversaw intern programs for some very conservative federal agencies and many interns just didn’t have five suits. I’d point our interns towards places like TJ Maxx and advise them to get basics they could rewear more than once in the week.

          The biggest issue was really them not being covered up enough or wearing things like flip-flop style sandals – stuff that was SO casual there was no dressing it up.

          1. Observer

            Yeah, well this wasn’t about not having $800 to drop at Anne Taylor. It’s about some really basic stuff – like the TJ Maxx blazer or decent pants instead of a romper (!) or cut off jeans.

            And, please don’t focus only on covering up. There is no real excuse for showing up in “distressed” jeans or “ratty un-hemmed” anything. In some ways it’s worse than lack of coverage.What’s considered inadequate coverage can vary and surprisingly hard to navigate. But neat, clean and decent condition is far more straightforward, and far more broadly applicable. ie It applies even in a really casual environment. Lack of that standard is far less understandable and it comes off as more disrespectful. There are also far fewer confusing messages in that respect. Even Steve Jobs and his famed black turtleneck and jeans were CLEAN and in perfectly good condition.

  28. art.the.nerd

    OP wrote:

    > Sometimes in meetings I zone out … but I’m in my head like, “That is a really nice top (or outfit)!” She wears a lot of plain tops with basic cardigans and lots of pastel/pale-colored clothes, whereas I tend to wear soft blazer-type jackets, floral trousers, and bright block colors paired with black or navy. I am thinking of expanding my wardrobe, and the more I think about presenting a more professional look, the more my thoughts flicker to this boss.

    I suggest, OP, that you pay attention, don’t zone out, and do an excellent job at your assigned tasks. These behaviors will help you far more than imitating your boss’s fashion style.

  29. Pickled Beets

    I’ve taken style inspiration from other well-dressed professional women, but there was an awkward year when another lady and I just had similar taste and managed to buy four outfits that were nearly identical – and continually accidentally wore them on the same days.

    I’m a little more confused by what I’d consider a downgrade, though. Are cardigans considered more professional than blazers now? Might be a style difference as my field is pretty conservative, but I’d be especially concerned as a young manager who may at times need to fight to be taken seriously (sounds like a great environment currently, though!).

    Maybe it’s because I saw a picture once of people at the White House and all the men were in suits while the woman was in a sweater. I vowed never to be that woman.

    Anyway, one other factor – make sure the colors are flattering on you. Bold colors to pastels is a big change; someone else mentioned coordinating with the rest of your wardrobe (think capsule style). Generally, the more flattering they are, the more you’ll want to wear them. That’s how I keep from wasting money on clothes I end up not wearing, anyway.

    1. Anonforthis

      It’s a weird pet peeve of mine how every male news anchor wears a suit while all the female anchors seem to wear skintight, sleeveless sheath dresses and massive heels. How are you in an office where you are both comfortable if you’re in summerwear and he’s in winterwear?

      1. Cait

        YES!! Me too!! HUGE pet peeve of mine. I get so distracted when watching the news. The women sit there with no sleeves and the guys are all buttoned up.

        1. New Job So Much Better

          Drives me nuts. A blazer or shrug on top that sleeveless dress would look so much more professional.

      2. Rusty Shackelford

        It bothers me too. The same thing happens in sports broadcasting – the men are in suits and ties, and the women are in sleeveless sheath dresses. (Personally, I think they should be dressed comfortably, like the fans!)

      3. Lumen

        Did you hear about the Australian (I think) news anchor who kept seeing judgemental online comments about his female coworkers’ attire, so he decided to wear the exact. same. suit. every day for a year? He changed his shirt and underclothes and of course laundered the suit itself on occasion, but he wore the same suit.

        And at the end of the year he made a point of it: his colleagues would get ripped to shreds if they had the ‘wrong’ type of collar. If they wore the same dress twice in six months. If someone thought the hemline was too short or the sleeves unflattering to their arms. If someone didn’t like the color. But he wore the same thing every day for a year and NO ONE NOTICED OR CARED.

        It was a beautiful call-out.

      4. Collarbone High

        Every time I come across an episode of The Big Bang Theory I find myself wondering if Penny has a thyroid disorder since she’s apparently comfortable in spaghetti strap tank tops in the same room as men wearing multiple shirts.

      5. Kate 2

        Yes! Bare arms say summer/fun to me, not “I am a professional and equal to the guy in a suit, listen to me”.

        1. Kate 2

          ETA : Which maybe shouldn’t be a thing, suits being seen as serious and everything else as not, but throughout human history the world over there have been higher status/appropriate clothes and lower status/inappropriate clothes, so I don’t think clothing hierarchies will ever change.

    2. Collarbone High

      I once worked in an office where most of the women shopped at White House Black Market, and duplicated dresses happened a lot.

  30. If the shoe fits

    I think that imitation ( or in your case, inspir-mitation) is a sincere form of flattery. Have you thought about, or is there a mechanism where, you might be able to reach out to her as a mentor and ask her to help you get your stuff together, since you both are on the more youthful side of the office?
    Also–just a side rant: Can we please talk about the sheer idiocy of the “professional” shoes that women are expected to wear in a business setting? After nearly 40 years of working, the bulk of it in more or less professional settings, I really want to be able to wear my ugly flat old lady shoes without looking frumpy. Can we please unite in favor of comfy shoes? Ballet flats just don’t cut it anymore….. (sigh)

    1. Ista

      Regarding shoes, the block heel is definitely back “in”. I looked around the other day on the street (NYC) and everyone was wearing block heel sandals and shoes. It looks really modern right now and is definitely more comfortable to walk in.

  31. peanutbutterprincess

    I think this is perfectly natural and kind of endearing. Even as a nurse whose always worked in strict dress-code hospital units (no unnatural hair colors, no piercings, nurses must all wear one color of scrubs, etc) there are definitely always “trendsetters.” These are usually senior nurses with bright personalities whom everyone looks up to. Anyone who finds a “dresscode appropriate” way to show personality in our world usually inspires a few followers and different units and shifts will have a similar distinct “look.” For instane, on my unit, most of the day-shift nurses have long hair affinity for creative up-do hairstyles, prefer dansko-type shoes and wear a lot of makeup. On night shift, we tend to wear little makeup but most of us have shorter hair and a tendency to wear patterned headbands, bright sneakers and socks and will occasionally push the envelope by wearing sweaters not in our approved color scheme. Hilariously enough, after a new nurse joins the team, most of the time within a year they will start to look like everyone else they work with. In my observations, this trend is most obvious on units where the staff get along and work as a team very well and it is extremely flattering to have a fashion choice, no matter how minor, be emulated.

  32. CaliCali

    FWIW, I don’t think bold colors versus pastels are any more or less professional. I know the kind of look you mean, but as someone very naturally pale, pastels wash me out, so I tend to go for more saturated hues. I’m in my mid-30s and I typically get compliments on my wardrobe at any place I’ve worked! So I think while you can always look to others for inspiration, don’t forget that you’re allowed to figure out your own distinct definition of a professional look (since it seems like you’re already kind of there). I’d actually focus more on emulating other aspects of her personality/work persona (obviously not creepily copying her, but gathering inspiration in areas where it matters more).

    1. Mockingjay

      Good point about ensuring colors suit your complexion. Same for styles and cut; select things that work for your body type and height.

      I think what you are trying to emulate is her overall polished appearance, day after day. Find one or two styles that work for you and buy those consistently. For instance, I own mostly sheath dresses because those look best on me in a professional setting (no matter how much I love my 80’s-style shirtwaist dresses). I view them as a uniform: easy to put on, easy to accessorize (same fake pearls and flat shoes), and out the door.

      1. Eye of the Hedgehog

        Actually going for the similar style but in the bolder colors LW currently favors might be a a good way to not seem too SWF.

  33. Amaryllis

    As long as you can meet the practicalities of your position, taking inspiration from a higher-up sounds fine.

    In my type of work, you can often use wardrobe to pick out the noobs. Anyone wearing pastels or skirts hasn’t been on the job long enough to get aggravated by ruining shirts with grease on a job site, or crawling under a desk with your skirt riding up. Those of us with experience wear pants at all times, and dark colors consistently.

  34. Cait

    Hi OP – I think most of us have been where you are. It is a great thing that you’ve taken notice of how the professional women around you dress. Might I recommend also looking outside your direct reporting line for wardrobe inspiration? When I started out, I found a blog called “the work edit” (apologies Alison if this isn’t allowed) that helped me build my wardrobe. I’m sure there are many others like it as well out there in the blogosphere.

    Also, I’ve found it best to invest in a few really great, solid pieces. Quality over quantity. MM LaFleur is my go-to favorite. Spend some time researching clothing (I know, research sounds heinous) but there are many really great work options out there. Good luck!

    1. 2horseygirls

      I really like this blog, as she explains how multiple pieces work together in a way that does not scream “I have been stalking capsule wardrobe blogs” (because not everyone can pull off black all the time), as well as why something that you would THINK would work, just does not.

      The best part is how she will build off a fun accessory (a scarf, or bracelet) because we have all had those “OMG I love this and must wear it every day!” items, and she shows how to build a functional wardrobe around a great piece that really speaks to you.

      http://www.theviviennefiles.com/

  35. Llama Grooming Coordinator

    Basically…Alison is spot on. Except – LW, I would go for changing one aspect (like wearing blouses with prints that she’d wear or a cardigan/dress combo with prints and colors you normally wear) at first.

    Yeah, it’s really hard for a woman to dress professionally. But also, you’re the one wearing the clothes, and while I don’t know your office culture, it doesn’t sound like your choice of attire is inappropriate. Dress in a way that feels comfortable for you at first and then see how it feels.

  36. Millennial

    I once saw a post that went along the lines of “I am an amalgamation of every girl I ever thought was cool.” I related so much to that!

    Also I want to vouch for OP in that platonic female boss crushes are a thing! There are so few women in management and seeing someone who is successful and stylish and everything you hope to be as a young twenty-something is inspiring.

    Reminds me of a higher up woman who used to get ready next to me at my work gym. I would feel put together (granted, I work in tech so its a suuuuper casual environment – wearing jeans as I type), but then she would come to the mirror next to me dressed straight out of an Anthropologie catalogue. Since then I’ve been gradually upgrading my wardrobe to higher quality pieces because I learned that “casual” can still look polished.

  37. Avacado

    What are floral trousers? Like dress pants with flowers on them? I can only think of late 80s, early 90s cullotes?

    1. Breda

      Yes. They are moderately trendy right now: https://www.jcrew.com/p/womens_category/pants2/relaxedcrop/pullon-easy-pant-in-floralprinted-silk-twill/J1076?color_name=charcoal-champagne or https://www.anntaylor.com/chinoiserie-tropics-jogger-pants/468298 or https://www.talbots.com/online/pants/womans-exclusive-talbots-hampshire-ankle-pant-cascading-blossoms-prdi44932/N-10366?selectedConcept=&akamai-feo=off or https://www.talbots.com/online/pants/slim-ankle-pant-garden-print-prdi45700/N-10366?selectedConcept=&akamai-feo=off

      They lean a little more casual/funky, but can absolutely be dressed up with the right combination of top + shoes.

      1. pleaset

        There is woman in my office who is quite stylish and fashion forward, who wears pants like that a lot. She’s very well put together in general, so it works.

        Aannnnd I’m a guy and had several pairs of pants sort of like that, but cut like chinos. Custom made for me in China years ago. I wore them a few times to a business casual work environment, with the rest of my clothes quite conservative: decent shoes, a dress shirt, etc.

        That is not for the faint-hearted guy though though.

    2. Former Retail Manager

      They are exactly that! I have a couple pair. Floral was popular in Spring….like always. The prints can vary dramatically from garish to quite tasteful. Gotta be careful with the flowers.

  38. feministbookworm

    For some reason I keep finding myself in a parallel situation to OP’s. Currently, a female manager one level above me and I have very similar styles (blacks and jewel tones, cardigans over blouses with large patterns, etc…) and on several occasions have come in wearing nearly identical outfits. The day we both wore black blouses with large floral patterns in the same color palette and had several meetings with senior (all male) leadership was super fun… It also doesn’t help matters that we share a first name. Bizarrely, this is not the first time this has happened to me– at a previous job my director and I both owned cobalt button downs that we would inevitably end up wearing on the same day.

    Luckily in both cases it was clear that we just happened to have similar body types/style/coloring, but I was definitely concerned at first that they would think I was trying to be a creepy clone.

    1. Lumen

      Apparently in the days when Ginsberg first joined O’Connor on the SCOTUS bench, people – including people making arguments before them! – would mistake them for each other, or call them by each other’s name, or call them both the same name. It probably didn’t help that they really DID have a ‘uniform’ at work.

      Unrelated, just a semi-funny, eye-rolly story about how women are for some reason expected to differentiate themselves in fashion as much as possible in a room full of men wearing identical black or khaki slacks and various shades of the same blue button-down shirt.

  39. NW Mossy

    My boss and I have similar style, so much so that I own a couple of dresses that I know she also owns. She’s even said that she won’t wear one of the known duplicates unless she’s seen me wear it earlier in the week to avoid any twinsies awkwardness. It’s also really common for us to do that whole “I love that, where’d you get it?” exchange of compliments.

    There’s probably a bit of unconscious imitation on my part here, since I didn’t shift to a more dress-centric style until I reported to her. That said, we each put our own stamp on the same basic vibe and it doesn’t look matchy-matchy. It also helps that our hair colors and styles are very different.

  40. writelhd

    I have kind of a weird culture class I have to dress for, and I have no female role models to emulate in that respect. I’m technically part of the customer-facing staff, who are told to wear business casual, but my role is that of a technical advisor to sales/customer service, so I can get away with slightly more casual, and it benefits me to do so to look more “engineer-y” credible to clients who are sadly often older male engineers. But even more culture clash-y than that, my role has evolved to doing a lot of work in the field as a construction inspector, with some interactions with subcontractors and builders. Typically builders and more supervision-type people in the building world are men, and they have A Uniform: dirty jeans and a button up shirt, that perfect blurred line between “I work in the field (jeans)” “but I’m a manager (button up shirt).” There is absolutely judgement in that world of guys who’s clothes are too clean, too nice, too pressed, etc. Just the right amount of dirt is like a method of communicating your rank. I could go for that too even as a female, but my boss told me point blank I can’t wear jeans when I’m in the office because my role is client-facing, plus I learned my lesson the hard way after going out on the field a few times and having to grab a caulk gun or crawl through an attic and accidentally ruining clothes I had hoped to keep serviceable for the office for a while.

    So, I gave up trying to dress for all worlds and just change clothes based on the role I’m performing. For office work, I do the business casual thing, and there’s other women there to emulate. But, for when I go in the field, where there’s no women to emulate and the office stuff would work against me, I change into a collared shirt with my company logo on it, some caulk-stained khakis (Hah, boss, not jeans!) and some mud shoes. Sometimes I “inconveniently” can’t change out of those things when I get back because I’m so busy! Whoops!

    1. Naptime Enthusiast

      I feel this pain, especially when on work travel when I can only pack a certain number of outfits. Some trips require me to “dress it up” because I’m the customer, but then the manufacturing personnel don’t realize I’m the technical expert of the group. Other times I’m sitting on the shop floor all day and getting covered in grease, and then walk into the office area where I stick out like a sore thumb. The only person I have that consistently is in the latter situation wears jeans and a t-shirt without a collar, so I at least know I won’t be the most underdressed person there!

  41. Lumen

    OP, I feel you. I have a “manager crush” on my grand-boss too. It’s not romantic or about attraction at all, I just admire her so much. She’s accomplished so much for how young she is, she is respected and liked throughout the company, she works incredibly hard, and keeps an even keel even under ridiculous stress or frustration. Also, her personal style is so *chef’s kiss*

    I don’t think it’s weird or inappropriate to emulate and be inspired by your boss’s style as long as it’s not “Is that shirt new? Where did you get it? *buys exact same shirt* Haha twinsies! Wanna take a selfie?” But you don’t sound like that’s your plan. :)

    Personal style takes time to develop, and usually starts with imitating people whose appearance/presentation you like! Make sure as you shop to listen to your own gut. “I like this style of shirt but I’d prefer it in a louder print” or “That chunky necklace looks too big on me, I’ll go with something more understated” is how you figure out your own style and self-expression even while you’re starting from a foundation of someone else’s ‘look’.

    Also, most bosses appreciate it when their reports start ‘upping their game’ in the presentation department.

    1. Ellie

      Ugh, I am so happy reading this post and the few handfuls of comments on the he manager crush thing – I always thought I was the only one! I have a massive manager crush at the moment, which for me is just an intense level of awe/respect/appreciation/admiration that actually just makes me want to do my job better – even if it means I get a bit silly after work is over. But I used to give myself so much shit for my manager crushes, and have only slowly learned to cut myself some slack and just go with it, seeing as it’s not actually hurting anyone or not something I would ever want to pursue romantically. So it makes me happy to see I’m not the only one!

  42. Teapot librarian

    I actually asked my boss where she shops so that I could buy similar styles.

  43. TotesMaGoats

    I remember being at a chamber of commerce event one year, late spring. Everyone was in black/grey something and I’m in a coral jacquard sheath dress. I know I stood out but I also know I looked super professional. I think you sound like you have a great style now but if you like how your boss dresses then she can be a good model too. Finding what works for you (and at this particular job) is a work in progress. When I first started my current job, I was overdressed I think. Now I have a much better idea of the days when pants and blouse will work and when I need to step it up. My current summer wardrobe are the New York and Company crop pants (ankle pants on me because short) and a blouse. Or their cotton dresses. Sleeveless but long enough for work and POCKETS. Pair with sandals for Friday or cute heels for a meeting. FWIW, I’ve also started laying out my clothes for the week on Sunday night. I save so much time in the morning AND I get better use out of my closest because I’m forced to pick other things than my 3 favorite shirts that I wash all the time.

    1. Former Retail Manager

      I also LOVE NY & Company and have a ton of stuff from them. Very affordable when they’re on sale (and they’re virtually always having a sale). Also love the idea of planning out a week’s worth of work outfits. I have a TON of clothes that I don’t get much use out of (chronic shopper here!) so this forces me to wear those. If I really hit a wall, I’ll find something I want to wear and then search that item on Pinterest (red top work outfit, etc.) for inspiration.

    2. Amaryllis

      ankle pants on me because short

      +1 I hope the cropped business pant trend lives forever, or else I will have to return to spending a significant portion of my wardrobe budget on hemming.

  44. Snowman

    I’m just so happy that OP is so enthused about having a professional “crush” on one of her higher-ups. Just reading the letter made me smile! I definitely have had similar “crushes” in the past relating to management style, but I could use a style mentor at my particular office.

    Relating to men dressing similarly as the ranks go up, I think Alison is right on both her points. Men do seem to have more restrictions when it comes to business attire, but at lower levels there’s more leeway (patterened dress shirts, more color options, possibly polos). Any executive team I’ve ever seen has been in what looks like the same black suit.

  45. Hobgoblin

    Does anyone know where to get clothes with tiny giraffes on them? That sounds fantastic!

    1. LadyKelvin

      If anyone has it, it’d be modcloth! They have all kinds of things like that. I have a silk shirt with tiny elephants on it. It looks professional but if you look closely they are elephants not polka dots/small patterns.

    2. Alex the Alchemist

      I’m late to the party, but I recommend CowCow Dress! You can find cute dresses with just about any print on them. I’m about to order one with some bats and another with ghosts to add to my love for Halloween wardrobe.

  46. Laurelma_01!

    I recall reading somethings years ago that you dress at the level that you inspire to. Great advice in many aspects, but I also thought you had to be careful that you do not dress above your immediate supervisor (unless they are lazy in the clothing department). My current boss, forget it. She dresses kind of odd, not professional. Still dresses like a graduate student, but is in her 60’s and serves as the department chair. Think of hippy light weight cotton dress and no slip, or knee pants with a dress jacket. She’s got nice individual pieces, but doesn’t do a good job putting them together. I hate the knee pants, with knee socks & athletic shoes.

    Years ago we had a vice president that would fly in. She would be in for 2 – 3 days at the most. I think she got her travel clothes through TravelSmith. No wringles, all black. Nice slacks, blouse and a cardigan. She had dark hair, looked good on her. A few times she wore and black faux wrap dress. Can fully understand the basic coloring for travel.

  47. OJ Mojo

    This is something I noticed with my boss too. I loved her style because it was polished and professional but casual enough to not stand out as overly dressed up in our office. I just asked what stores she shopped at to get a general sense of what she looked for and went on a trip. I never bought any clothes that I knew she already had but the store had similar options that fit into the same criteria. I don’t think she ever noticed but I feel better about it.

  48. Kate Daniels

    The line about women in the same office eventually dressing alike is SO true! I dressed too formally for my job in the first few weeks, but observed what my other co-workers were wearing closely. A year in, there were often days where it seemed like we all had a “uniform” because we’d all synced to the same basic style.

  49. MasterofBears

    A very reassuring piece of advice an older colleague once gave me: ifyou’re worried about coming off as creepy, you’re probably ok. The truly creepy don’t tend to worry about it

  50. There All Is Aching

    OP, non-romantic manager crushes are definitely a thing! Remember the 20-something Charlotte hired to take over her job at the gallery on Sex and the City? Total manager crush. Though she was only her “manager” for like, a day. And you won’t fawn in such an obvious way!

  51. GreenDoor

    Manager crushes are real. :) I’m female and there are a few female leaders in my organization that I would love to just shadow all day so I could take on their speaking style, their dress style, their ability to shut BS down, their ability to…well, whatever. It’s real. I’ve always had a female mentor (whether she knew it or not) everywhere I’ve worked and I’ve always learned a lot from them.

  52. More Than One Me

    “It may happen with men too”
    In my region of ngoland, there’s an org founded by a stylish gay man who dresses in a manner that was very hip a few years ago and is now just bit dated. It’s very distinctive and much more formal than the norm in our neck of the nonprofit woods. Over the years, virtually all of the young men work for that organization, many of whom are quite straight, have adopted this style, so much so that if you see a young man with a certain cut of trousers and style of tie you just know that’s where he works. It’s adorkable!

  53. It's Me! OP!

    Hi all!
    First off, thankyou so much for all your comments, I am actually a bit blown away! I’ve lurked on this page a bit in the past, but I don’t usually foray into the comments section – just read Allison’s advice and move on – so I was expecting like 5, maybe 10 if I was lucky! To have a look and find there’s 200+ was unexpected to say the least!
    Couple of easy points to address first:
    – I really flipping love the phrase ‘grand-boss’! :O I haven’t come across that before and I think it’s just perfect!
    – I’ve been told by friends that my organisation has a kind of weird structure (public sector so maybe that explains it, idak)… There’s over three thousand people in my office, but only about 80 of those people are in our ‘group’. With that in mind, whilst there are masses and masses (and masses) of senior managers, there’s only one I interact with and see on a regular basis. She looks after 4 ‘groups’ so spends 2/3 days at our office per week and the others roughly 1 day every fortnight. The only time I see that manager’s own line manager is when she’s at our site for formal events, so she is naturally wearing actual suits on those occasions, I have no idea if she wears these to work every day!
    – I am told this is typical of the public sector but the lower tier of management is totally dominated by females, but with very few in the senior and exec teams. Obviously I’m in the lowest tier myself so far more of my managers are women which probably does put me in a better place to start with!
    – The meetings I refer to zoning out in are one that are mandated for me to attend unfortunately! Lord only knows I wish I could bail and do my actual work which is falling off the desk some days!! Having said that I still agree with all the comments about me paying more attention, I definitely deserved that! *blush* I mean, I’m not sitting there staring at her (that would be creepy/weird for sure!) it’s more just that my mind is drifting… I mean, I do take notes and feedback occasional pieces of information to my own team but the specific meeting I was thinking about when I wrote my question is a daily buzz meeting, so a huge proportion of the meeting covers general group performance, which used to be relevant to me so isn’t something I need to learn about, but I now manage a specialised team with completely different performance measures and targets so I have separate meetings for them!
    – Thankyou so much again to everyone who took the time to validate my manager crush (I was really starting to get worried around the one hundred comment mark with no one addressing it yet haha!)
    – I got the management position from an external recruitment exercise, in applying for something that was never supposed to be management, but a specialist post at the same pay band. The specialist post filled up, but then a directive came down from on high to set up a new team, within the group at the office I’d applied for, and they ended up asking all the other business units if they had any recent recruitment lists at the first manager grade and they rang me! Even though that was around 18 months ago I think that is really where a lot of my insecurity about my wardrobe stems from, is that I’m in a job I didn’t apply for and probably wouldn’t have been qualified/experienced enough for an open application!
    – I mean it’s the kind of organisation where people take pride in being one of the ‘careers’ (yes there’s enough of them to make that a thing!) which probably says a lot about the workforce…! There’s I love the ‘career pack’ atmosphere because of the experience it brings, it’s just very difficult to be 22… still hunting down my manager hat and shoes… managing twelve 40+ yr olds, with an average between them of 25+years of service! Yikes!

    So much for addressing the easy ones haha!
    Regarding the actual body of my question I’m very (very) glad to hear this whole dressing like each other is totally a thing! I do have someone in my office who I know has a couple of the same tops as me but I have an emergency plain black top in my drawer for any wardrobe match crises (is that too much?! Judging by the comments no one else seems to be as bothered by that!
    I wouldn’t say my grand-boss’s style of clothing is unique or specific, the dress code is relatively relaxed in my office (they recently said we can wear demin and trainers… As long as we still looked professional and business like… Which on the face of it is pretty contradictary and caused the whole site management untold stress and anguish!) but the whole point is that everyone kinds up wearing their own thing.
    As people have asked/posited it is a very vague style she has, but no one else really has that style before of the aforementioned dress code malarkey so maybe it will stick out more than I’m hoping it will…
    It’s not that I’m concerned about my own dress style being unprofessional or inappropriate, it’s more that I’m concerned I’m too bold and bright and ‘out there’ for people to see me as sensible and promotionable (or is it promotable…?) material!
    As an aside I actually have a major desire to have purple hair, however this totally contravenes everything I’m saying I want from my all-new, all singing and dancing professional ‘look’, so I guess I’ll have to put that one to bed if I want to get into the career pack in this business!
    Anyway, this has gotten rather long so I’ll end it there and check back tomorrow :) :)
    Once again, thanks for all your lovely advice – I will definitely be checking out some of those shop suggestions regardless of how I end up deciding to dress!

    1. Observer

      Are you in the US? Some of the language doesn’t sound like it.

      In any case, I think most of the advice would work elsewhere.

      I suspect that purple (or pink, blue etc.) hair is probably not a great idea at your stage – it will almost certainly make you look “young” and less serious. Having some pops of color won’t have quite the same effect, as long as your colors don’t light up the room when you walk in and you make sure your colors coordinate properly. But, matching some neutrals / less vibrant pieces with brighter colors or jewel tones works well too.

      The keys are to have clothes that fit well and reasonably good quality materials. If your budget won’t allow really good materials, get decent stuff and keep an eye out for wear. If it looks worn out or “tired” don’t wear it in the office.

      1. It's Me! OP!

        Yes – I think I’ll just have to put my purple hair to bed for a while! :(
        There’s been loads of shops recommended on thks thread that I’ve never thought to look at for work clothes before so I’ll hopefully be able to get some new inspiration from those!
        As I’ve mentioned elsewhere I do love my coloured jackets though, so even as much as swapping some of the black tops underneath with white ones might be a place for me to start!

    2. silence

      for temporary purple hair you can get coloured hair spray which washes out for the weekend.

      1. It's Me! OP!

        Yeah, I’ve tried those in the past but unfortunately my hair is too dark for them to show up well, but not outside the realm of possibility as I have considered going a lighter brown colour if not purple!

    3. Ginger Baker

      Depending on how long your hair is and how you normally wear it, you might be able to do hidden streaks of color that can be easily concealed in an updo (or when it is down and the updo shows off the color – there are options!). For instance, I almost always wear my hear up in a basic bun, and I could easily dye the ends (which get tucked under when I pin it up) or another section depending on how willing I am to be careful when pinning it up. Other folks who have shorter/bobs I think do things like bright blue underneath that only shows when they pull that “top” layer of their hair back to reveal it. Just a thought!

      1. It's Me! OP!

        Okay maybe it’s regional then haha! I am in the UK and wouldn’t dream of calling them sneakers! Defintely trainers, maybe stretch to pumps but never sneakers!

          1. pandop

            They most definitely are not high heels in the UK – pumps are what you wear for PE at primary school!

              1. Bee

                Yep they’re trainers OP!

                I’ve never heard anyone in the UK refer to ‘sneakers’, though I know that’s the US term for trainers.

                Pumps here are ballet flats, ballet pumps. Again, I think pumps are a certain style of high heeled shoe in the US.

                Also confusing, we have no concept of a ‘dress shoe’ here in the UK like they do in the US!

  54. Argh!

    If you’re into clothes you will probably notice other people’s clothes no matter what you wear yourself. This is one letter I’d like to see a follow-up about. I’d like to know if buying what she wears makes it easier or harder to concentrate in meetings, and whether it has any psychological effect.

  55. Miles

    Always a good idea to take your boss’s style as a cue how to dress if you can pull off something similar, or if not, at least try for an adjacent clique

    It’s one of those subconscious things that get you better raises or opportunities.

  56. Princess Cimorene

    In late and only read the TL;DR
    But all I could think of was Jim dressing like Dwight
    “Identity theft is not a joke Jim!”


    okay now I am going to go actually read the letter and response which I’m sure is nothing like that scene from The Office, lmao

  57. Girl friday

    I would be wary of emulating the outside if you really admire the inside. I’m reading that you like this person as a role model, so instead of the Quick Fix of a wardrobe, examine how they treat other people and manage their career and life. Otherwise you might end up looking like a syncophant.

  58. Mountainshadows299

    OP- I totally get having a “manager crush.” I’ve had one of those, if only for the fact that both the professionalism and “put togetherness” of my boss really shone through.

    I think it’s perfectly ok to ape the general style of people at the workplace while still putting your own twist on it. The aforementioned boss and a senior member of our mostly female team ended up being the people that most of us would tailor our style to. It got to the point for a short while that we’d end up having days where various members of the team were accidentally “twins” because we’d wear the same colors, albeit in different styles.

    Being young as you are, it shows maturity to want to emulate someone who is clearly very polished, so I wouldn’t worry too much about overlapping on style provided it’s still *your* style. I also don’t think that bright colors are terrible in the workplace (depending on your profession), but knowing how to pair them correctly and mute them with more neutral colors is *definitely* a skill. I tend to still wear bright unusual colors, because I feel that it is more of my personal style, but I’ve learned better how clothing cut and pairing colors appropriately really make a difference in how you’re perceived.

  59. Gallahad

    Whoa, Allison, you missed an obvious comment. Another way to get a more professional image is to be more professional. Start paying attention in those meetings to learn about what other departments do, why the issues are issues, etc. Offer to take brief notes for others, if you need to, to stay awake and focused and LEARN!. (Yes, a small danger of “admin” syndrome but the advantage of being a real help to senior management and getting to learn about the why’s of issues above your pay grade is very much worth it. A smart person like OP will quickly transcend any “admin” bias based on the value of the information / work they attain).

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