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I recently bought a new outfit for work. The first time I wore it, a coworker complimented me on it.

The clothes are nothing special, but are of a style of which I have liked for many years. I would like to wear the outfit again at some point, but I am afraid that if I do, it will be perceived as me trying to curry favor with this coworker. At the same time if I throw it away, I fear that it will be taken as an insult to them.

For what its worth, people seem to be unusually interested in how I dress. Recently outside of work, I was dressed slightly differently than usual and a person literally started trying to undress me to find my "real" clothes.

So how long should I leave this new outfit out of the rotation? weeks? months? permanently?

Obviously, I am an extraordinarily awkward and socially unskilled individual, or I wouldn't be asking.

  • 90
    Someone liking clothes you routinely wear is unlikely to translate directly to 'I'm trying to curry some favour with this coworker'. If you have an outfit you like, wear it and wash it as often as you like. So long as you're presentable, you might be overthinking this (This might vary depending on what you work as!). – user34587 May 24 '17 at 13:16
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    After washing it. Why would you not want to wear something again that you like and that seemingly suits you enough to elicit compliments? I would wear it as often as I like, of course washing it regularly. – skymningen May 24 '17 at 13:18
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    You seem to be overthinking this. Also if someone trys to literally undress you, you Report the pervert. – Raoul Mensink May 24 '17 at 13:21
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    Seems to me like this question would be heavily tied to the culture of your office, and location. – Zoredache May 24 '17 at 18:38
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    "literally started trying to undress me " WHAT? That is not normal. That is sexual harassment level. Do you really mean literally? If not, this wording distracts greatly from the rest of the question. – jpmc26 May 25 '17 at 0:08
115

This is probably going to be my shortest answer ever given.

You do you. Make your own rotation whatever feels comfortable. And if someone starts playing around like they're looking for your "real" clothes, let them know that it's not appropriate and push their hand away.

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    I would add that talking to HR might be a good idea, since those colleagues seem to harass OP. Trying to take off OP's clothes without approval ? That's serious matter to me. – sh5164 May 24 '17 at 15:16
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    @sh5164 - "outside of work" - HR is not going to touch that, I'd think (whoops, pun not intended, originally). They are generally only concerned with shielding the company from workplace liability. – PoloHoleSet May 24 '17 at 15:42
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    While this is good advice in general, the OP describes themselves as "extraordinarily awkward and socially unskilled", which in many cases means that they might not have a comfortable rotation to default to. This answer may benefit from some additional explicit advice (e.g. "no one usually cares, as long as you don't wear the same thing twice in a row"). – Milo P May 24 '17 at 15:51
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    @sh5164 Based on the question ("outside of work", "a person"), it doesn't seem like that incident was involving the coworker who gave the complement (or any other coworker). – Dukeling May 24 '17 at 16:05
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    @Dukeling - sounds like OP maybe has a very predictable template, even if the clothes aren't the same clothes (had a classmate in high school - jeans, sneakers, metal rock T-shirts - didn't wear the same clothes every day, but a version of that template, yes), so the looking for the "real" clothes was a joking acknowledgement of changing from the expected norm, possibly. – PoloHoleSet May 24 '17 at 16:23
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When I had to show up in an office every day, I had 2 weeks' worth of variety in outfits. I would do my best to vary what day a particular garment would be worn, because I didn't want to be someone who is wearing their "Tuesday shirt" But I did have an "office sweater" which would be worn whenever it was uncomfortably cold (which could be every day in that office).

  • You can avoid the "Tuesday shirt" by having either 9 or 11 outfits :-) – gnasher729 May 26 '17 at 21:45
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Wearing the same style every day is not only acceptable it's very practical. In fact many great leader do so. It give them a consistent look and remove one decision from their already busy daily routine.

I advise you to stick with your look, especially if your being complimented on it. Do not add stress to your life worrying about what to wear.

A quote from The Science Of Simplicity: Why Successful People Wear The Same Thing Every Day

Life is complicated enough, don’t allow the little things to dictate your happiness. Simplify, simplify.

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    From a socially practical standpoint, wearing the same style of clothing every day could garner negative attention, especially if you wear the same EXACT style every day. People might wonder if you wash your clothes often enough. – BlackThorn May 24 '17 at 16:32
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    This is a very male-specific answer. While not impossible for women, wearing an almost identical style every day will attract quite a bit of judgment. – Karen May 24 '17 at 16:55
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    @Karen Is that true? (legitimately asking, non-fashion-conscious male here). If you wore a blouse and skirt every day (obviously not the same one) people would notice/comment? – thumbtackthief May 24 '17 at 18:48
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    @Karen - ironically, most of the judgement will be from other women (not men who wouldn't notice). But yes, your comment is on point - there's a weird social convention around women's fashion, likely having ancient evolutionary psychological roots that nobody thinks about but still acts all judgemental – user13655 May 24 '17 at 18:51
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    I don't know where some of you are working, but both men and women in my office wear roughly the same sets of clothes to work and nobody really cares. Seems like we should have more important things to worry about than impressing others with the variety of outfits we own... – Cypher May 25 '17 at 5:31
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My standard to not wear the identical outfit again is "weekly". I do laundry every weekend, I wear pants about twice before washing and shirts once. This means that it is impossible to wear the identical outfit again in a week. Once Monday comes around again, I never bother with what I wore on what day the previous week. Some clothing doesn't get worn again for a few weeks, other clothing may be worn on a friday and then again on a monday depending on how I feel.

Don't worry about what the other person thinks. There is NO logical reason why wearing any item of clothing should convey anything other than "I like this garment".

7

Assuming that you are female and the person commenting was male: You need to realise that males very often say things with no secondary meaning. If a man says "this dress looks nice" then most likely it means what he said, and nothing else. It's no comment on your taste, not saying he finds you attractive, it means nothing but "this dress looks nice". If something else was meant it would have been said.

When you said "you think about throwing it away but it could seen as an insult" - A man wouldn't see it as an insult, he would see it as a waste of money, throwing away a brand new and nice dress, would not be able to understand why you do this, and would be totally shocked about your - to him - bizarre behaviour if he found out that his compliment made you do this.

Again: When a man says A he means A and not B. If you say A to a man and you know he must understand you mean B, no, he doesn't.

PS. After clarification about the "undressing" event: The person who did that was not a man. He might look like a man, but in that case looks are deceiving.

  • Agreed. Also, if you believe I can remember what my female colleagues wore yesterday, think again. – Roland May 26 '17 at 19:26
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You are overthinking

When I worked in an office I had 2 pair of pants, and 4 shirts for Monday - Thursday. And 1 set for Friday.

Every day I wore mostly the same things. Monday was this set, Tuesday was this set, Wednesday was this set, and so on. There's no reason you can ware the same thing every day so long as it's clean and presentable. Other then that it's no ones business.

You mention "being undressed" by someone. Well you were outside of work. Remember to keep your social interactions and work interactions separate. Workplace romances rarely end well. Assuming it was a mutual flirting thing. If it was unwanted, then I suggest the good ole beer over the head (pour not smash).

As for perception, as long as your clean, hygienic, and meeting your companies guidelines on dress code, then no one at work should say anything. It's also possible that the person in question just really was trying to pay a complement. Even though I wore the same cloths every week, I still got compliments. It's a good, informal way to start a conversation.

Don't worry about "angering" some one, or "gaining favor" with someone based on how you dress. You just ware what you want to ware (in side the dress code of course) and ignore anything else.

There is only one exception to the guidelines above. If your "client facing". You should take care to alter your rotation so that a client doesn't see you in the same cloths all the time. For example I wore the same thing every Tuesday. If I had to talk to a client though, I would swap out Tuesday's set for some other days. Because if a client only ever saw me on Tuesday, they might think that I never change cloths, and I didn't want to present a "look" that made me seem "inflexible". So when dealing with clients there may/will be additional considerations, but when dealing with coworkers "screw it" and do what you want (in side the dress code).

4

At first, your post seemed like you overthought this, as if wearing a piece of clothes that was complimented was going to send the wrong signals to a colleague, which wouldn't and even if it did, you can deny it and it should be fine.

But when you see that a colleague started to take off your clothes outside of work on the single basis of "seeing your real clothes", It seems that the problem could be way more serious than that.

As a "awkward and socially unskilled individual" as you said, you might not see the harassment your colleagues are doing to you and just think that it's "a joke" or not knowing what to do about it.

Harassment is unwanted or unwelcome behaviour which is meant to or has the effect of either:

  • Violating your dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or
  • Offensive environment.

And what you may be victim of is sexual harrasment :

This can include:

  • Sexual comments or jokes
  • Physical conduct, including unwelcome sexual advances, touching, sexual assault
  • Displaying pictures, photos or drawings of a sexual nature
  • Sending emails with a sexual content.

If this is the case, this is a very serious matter and you should go to a lawyer.

I might be totally wrong, but if that's the case at least now you're informed and know what to do.

The Citizen Advice article from which the quotes are.

  • 2
    Not sure how HR has jurisdiction over what employees do on their own time, away from work, in completely optional social (I assume) settings. Your link refers to harassment at work, the OP specified it was outside of work. – PoloHoleSet May 24 '17 at 15:44
  • @PoloHoleSet OP talked about a scene outside of work as an example but said that the coworkers seems to do that quite often, and OP is really stressed about what to wear at work. As I said I might be wrong but If OP's colleagues act like that it becomes work matter. – sh5164 May 24 '17 at 15:49
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    I disagree. What employees do on their own time is something HR would have no control or jurisdiction over, any more than they could tell me they don't want me wearing sneakers and a T-shirt when I go to a local bar. Since they can't tell me what to do, they can't tell my co-workers, and they certainly can't claim control over any non-work situation where people happen to come together. Any HR professional is going to ask "Sorry, but what does this have to do with your job/work? Let me know if anything like this happens on the job, or at company-run functions." – PoloHoleSet May 24 '17 at 15:53
  • @PoloHoleSet I edit the HR part, since we can't determine if those actions happen in the workplace too. – sh5164 May 24 '17 at 16:13
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    As noted in my comment on another answer, the attempted clothing removal incident didn't take place at work and it seems like it wasn't involving the coworker who gave the complement (or any other coworker). – Dukeling May 24 '17 at 16:24
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Should you not wear the clothes again in response to a compliment? No, I think maybe you have a particular style that you wear that is nearly monolithic, so the compliment was meant with genuinely good intentions, and they gave it as encouragement to continue to change it up from the expected norm.

So, don't wear that outfit more often than others, but put it into your regular rotation. As an aside, between the compliment and the joking (I assume) reaction to your changing up your choices, it seems like both work and outside of work acquaintances have noticed a certain amount of predictability or lack of variety. To the degree that it is convenient when you would be purchasing additional clothing anyway, maybe acquire more items that align with the complimented/noted style than with your traditional look, so your "regular rotation" gets a bit more variety.

This is from someone who still has/wears T-shirts that pre-date the Internet, so I'm not some kind of trendy-fashion-inclined person. The only message you'd be sending is that you, personally, like wearing those clothes. The person who complimented you won't think anything of it, unless you lurk around that person's cubicle fishing for more commentary. I like the "you do you" answer, but don't put too much stock into worrying about what people think about your attire, either way. For some people clothes are a big personal statement. For others, like me, they're something I put on because I don't think people would appreciate my nakedness, generally.

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