NEW YORK —
Save your skin.
Mini-dresses, mini-skirts, short-shorts, halter-tops, and half-shirts should not be worn in a professional setting. (When in doubt, if the article of clothing has a hyphen in it, it is probably off-limits.) More than a hint of cleavage should be avoided — and no bare backs. Showing skin in the office does not make you look sophisticated, it makes you look naked.
Shoe choice matters.
I'm less bothered by sneakers and flip flops than laceup, over-the-knee boots and sexy four-inch heels. You may have picked a wonderfully appropriate skirt or dress, so continue the winning streak by saving the glittery platform sandals for another occasion, like pole dancing class.
The shorts conundrum.
I am unable to offer you a hard and fast rule about shorts. I wear (appropriate-length) shorts to work. My boss does too, because "What else are you supposed to wear when it's 90 degrees outside?" Slate's HR manager, however, says shorts are a no-no — though she would not stage a shorts intervention unless the offending culottes were "distracting." Since opinions vary, this brings me to my next point.
When in doubt, ask.
I hire and manage some interns during the summer, and exactly one intern has asked me what was appropriate to wear to the office — and I respected her for asking. A friendly HR manager, internship coordinator, or person you report to should be happy to give you a few guidelines specific to your office, especially if it means she won't be getting an eyeful en route to the coffee machine.
Now that you are armed with this essential knowledge, go forth into the workplace and impress everyone you meet with your hard work and keen intellect. Ladies, I will see you on the other side of the glass ceiling.
Goldstein is the innovations editor at Slate, involved in site-wide innovations related to social media, traffic, and new editorial technology.