Image Breakers – 7 Tips for Avoiding Embarrassment in the Office

by Mar 11, 20153Plus, Board Room Image, Career, Professional Image and Fashion


There are very few absolutes when it comes to dressing, especially for women.  The further we grow in numbers and power in the workforce, the greater will be our say in what constitutes appropriate dress.  Some details of our dress, however, are known to evoke a negative response, and taking note of these can save us from judgement from our boss, our co-workers and most importantly, ourselves.  Here are some picky details that take you from image breaker to image maker and more:

  1. Jewellery in Excess

Too many accessories give us, the viewer, conflicting points of interest, or worse it makes a lot of noise when you are using your hands to speak.  Think about finding one point of reference in your outfit.  

Close your eyes in front of your mirror and when you open them, where is your eye  drawn?  

If it can’t settle on one location, remove at least one, if not two, pieces of jewelry or an accessory such as a belt.  Less attention to decoration means more attention to what you are saying.  The best idea here is to get a full-length mirror, and put it in good lighting.  You don’t have good lighting? Try one of these:  Acuity Brands

 2. Clothing that requires continual adjustment when it’s worn

If we are pulling, tugging, and rearranging our clothing often during the day, it is a sign that we are uncomfortable and therefore appear anxious, nervous or uneasy.  We may not be, but the impression is – that we are.  Even more important is our own discomfort with how we look.  If our outfit requires constant adjustment, how can we move, talk, listen and be present for our jobs?

Comfort and style do go together. What is in your closet that does not give you both?

 3. Visible bra and panty lines.

Perhaps this is a no-brainer, but I still see women presenting at meetings and events that haven’t checked in with their mirror before leaving the house.  There are a plethora of terrific-looking and feeling undergarments to prevent panty lines.  A client recently told me she hated thong underwear  — until she found a brand that felt fabulous – meaning she couldn’t “feel” them.  She only needs them for certain outfits, and as a very flamboyant presenter, there was a lot to be seen.  And, bras, by the way, are an undergarment as well.  Please invest in a flesh-colored bra, and wear that one under sheer, white and off-white tops.

We want to see and hear you, not your bra.


4. Snagged, frayed or pilled fabric.

Again, this might require good lighting to notice. While it is admirable to get the most for our money in a piece of clothing, when our clothing appears worn, torn or not attended to, there is an underlying question of how much we pay attention to details.  Not only in our clothing but more importantly in our work.

There are a few good tools to utilize for pilled fabric (see my favourite article by Bonnie McCarthy:, but snagged or frayed may have to make its way out the door.


5. Missing or loose buttons.

One of the best ways to prevent angst when getting dressed and needing our favourite jacket that we notice is missing a button, is to remove the jacket from the closet.  In fact, put it in the car. Unless you are going to fix it yourself (still take it out of the closet), it can go in your car, and therefore be one step closer to being fixed.  And, what about finding the extra button that came with the jacket or pants in the first place?  I recommend attaching the button (in a plastic bag) to a hanger that holds the jacket or pant.  Or keeping those buttons in one place in your drawer.

One important idea with buttons is to consider changing the buttons and buttonhole size on any garment if you continually have trouble buttoning the item.  It’s no secret that buttons have grown smaller as manufacturers cut corners and reduce costs; making it difficult to get that button in and out of the hole.

 6. Un-ironed, rumpled or wrinkled

Again, the easiest way to prevent morning frustration is to remove the pieces that are too wrinkled to wear. Keep a separate space in your closet or elsewhere for clothing that needs attention. And, one of the best ways NOT to iron is use a steamer.  What may seem like a luxury is really a necessity for our wardrobe.  Not only do we dry clean our clothing too often, but we can also easily steam an item in less than half the time it takes to iron.  Wrinkled clothing tells the world we are too busy to pay attention to the one person we want you to listen to. Ourselves.


7. Dirty, stained clothing.

At the meeting that I rushed into, I noticed the tea stain on my shirt.  It would have been easy to spot in a mirror (had I taken a moment to look), and it was easy for my audience to see.  I made a joke about it, but it felt more like an excuse for not paying attention to details.  Sometimes we honestly don’t see these mishaps, and it’s okay to be vulnerable and honest with our viewers.  What is more helpful for us is to be proactive about our closets, and to look at them as a place that reflects our personality, our personal style and our message.

That message? You matter!  And when we embrace that, the rest is easier.

Katheleen Audet Subscriber
Kathleen Audet is president and owner of Your Authentic Image. For more than 20 years she has been studying color, design and image management. She began her business on the East Coast specializing in color analysis and makeup application for personal and corporate clients. Eventually her consulting diversified to include clothes, closets, and stores with private clients and speaking for groups. Now based in Nevada, Kathleen works with women in northern California, Chicago, and the East Coast.
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