What to wear?
July 19, 2011 4:47 AM   Subscribe

Fashion emergency (I never thought I would use that phrase): Client is visiting, I have nothing to wear. How offended will they be if I'm underdressed?

I thought a client was visiting our office on wednesday so I took all of my clothes - I mean like, every single shirt and pair of slacks I own - to the dry cleaner to be ready by tonight.

This morning I checked my email "reminding" us that while the client is coming in on Wednesday, they'll be coming in for a tour and a few preliminary meetings today and here's an agenda and blah blah blah. WHAT! For whatever reason I was not aware of this and if I knew this in advance I would have expedited the dry cleaning process or done it sooner.

So I have two outfits here:

- I have a really ill fitting pair of khaki's and a polo that are a bit wrinkled (I don't own an ironing board) and I'm not quite sure why I even still own them. The pants are really slim and don't even have a belt loop so I couldn't tuck my shirt in, but with a pair of nice brown shoes I could maybe pull it all together. I can maybe wear it somewhat passably but really it looks like I'm wearing a wrinkled shirt that's too small for me and a pair of pants that I grew out of.

- I have my dressy-ish jeans and a sightly ratty but somewhat casual dress shirt that I bought really cheap. When I wear it, especially with a nice pair of brown shoes, I look composed and likes someone who "dresses well", slightly stylish, and at least cares about their appearance. MAYBE I could get away with this because it's a casual office - this dress shirt/jeans combo is totally acceptable with no clients around. I should note the dress shirt does not go with the khakis at all.

I have never met these clients before and don't know how conservative they are. I usually play it safe and dress up, but I have seen a few who are clearly more casual. Do I dress well/stylish (jeans and dress shirt), or dress "for business" even if I look disgusting and maybe even like I can't afford nice clothing (too small wrinkled khakis and polo)?

Any other solutions? I'd wear the khakis with a really nice sweater but it's about 95 degrees here. Also I'm a 23 year old guy by the way.
posted by windbox to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total)
Disclaimer: I am not in business, and it may help to know what field you're in & location may even be relevant.

Why not do the jeans, dress shirt, and shoes today? You'll match the others in the office who aren't scheduled to meet with them today, it seems. And then you dress up tomorrow when you more formally meet with them. (At least, that is my read on what you've posted. Please clarify if you're meeting them today and/or tomorrow, or are just around both days.) That way you look like you've dressed appropriately for the events of the day.
posted by knile at 4:56 AM on July 19, 2011

I would go with the second option. Clothes that don't fit are going to make you feel self-conscious.

What time are they coming? Can you go to a store and buy a pair of decent khakis and a shirt quickly?

Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 4:58 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go buy a new pair of pants and a shirt. If money is tight, go to Target or something (though if you're getting everything dry cleaned, I suspect you can afford a new outfit).
posted by amro at 4:58 AM on July 19, 2011 [11 favorites]

Of those two choices, I'd go with dressy-ish jeans and dress shirt.

And no one needs to know that you checked and saw the "reminder" email.
posted by mauvest at 4:59 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you have $60 and a Marshalls nearby? That should get you some slacks there and a shirt/tie combo. They probably open at 10am.

Also try calling the dry cleaners as soon as they open to see if they can have anything ready for you this morning. Even if they don't have your whole order ready, all you need is one set of pants/shirt from it.
posted by carsonb at 4:59 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a 29-year old guy, and have worked in sales/client-facing roles in the Boston area for the last 10 years or so. Knowing where you work (general field, general region) might be helpful to know, but as a generic reply:

You do not want to go into work and meet with this client dressed as you have described your option. The goal in this type of situation should be to to not draw attention to your clothing, and either a ratty dress shirt or rumpled clothes have the potential to hurt your career by making you look unprofessional/unprepared. The minimum standard for "business casual" in most client-facing settings is a properly-fitted pair of slacks (either grey/heather or khaki, unpleated) and a blue or white oxford shirt in your size.

If you can afford it, you might go to a men's store and explain your situation. Suggestions that come to mind here are the Men's Warehouse, who are known for being short-notice tailoring, Jos Bank and Sears (for Lands End). Failing that, you can look for something off the rack from the latter two, or even for less expensive variations on slacks and dress shirts from places like Marshalls, Target, or WalMart -- although the quality on all will be worse.
posted by ellF at 5:06 AM on July 19, 2011

Yeah, go to a store and buy decent clothes (off the rack, not tailored!) as soon as possible. Having know idea where you are, I have no idea how feasible this is.
posted by John Cohen at 5:17 AM on July 19, 2011

Or, no idea.
posted by John Cohen at 5:17 AM on July 19, 2011

When did you bring your clothes to the dry cleaners? Could you call them and see if you can either get some back early, or grab something you dropped off without it being cleaned?

Also: Buy an iron. Even if you almost never use it, it does come in handy to have at home.
posted by xingcat at 5:37 AM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

You should buy an iron, but as an emergency solution you can always throw (dry) clothes into the dryer for a bit and they will come out unwrinkled. Of course this is extremely energy-inefficient and environmentally unfriendly, but in case of emergency I have done it before.
posted by andrewesque at 5:46 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I live by Downy Wrinkle Remover to get around ironing, but would also recommend a quick trip to buy something off the rack.
posted by goggie at 6:00 AM on July 19, 2011

If I'm too lazy to iron, I throw my wrinkled clothes in the dryer with a damp/wet towel for about 5 minutes. This usually 'steams' the wrinkles out.
posted by BeBoth at 6:12 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Holding the clothes above a kettle when boiling will steam the shirt and you should be able to get the wrinkles out.

Jeans and Polo? button the buttons to the top? go for a mod-ish look, add skinny tie?
posted by MarvinJ at 6:14 AM on July 19, 2011

Oh my. With all due respect MarvinJ, please don't button the polo up to the top or pair a skinny tie with it.
posted by Falwless at 6:26 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd second the idea of calling the dry-cleaner and asking if they have *any* of your clothes done already.

You say you don't have an ironing board, but you don't mention the lack of an iron. For a long time I didn't own a board, either; I did all my ironing in my tiny laundry room, working with a towel spread over the top of the dryer. It worked fine for basic dewrinkling, though I had to convince myself that sharp creases down the sleeves were stylish since I didn't have an option for spreading out the shoulders over the point of the board. But it works.

On the other hand, you're surely dressed and at work already, so nevermind.
posted by aimedwander at 6:40 AM on July 19, 2011

I've always found dry cleaners to be more flexible than you'd think about timing. They'll give a comfortable time table and, me being me, I'll usually say, "Oh, okay... but would it be possible to get them tomorrow?" I've never been turned down.

If that makes you feel self-conscious, you could offer them a "bribe" in a subtle way by explaining your situation and saying something like, "I'd be willing to pay an expedition fee, if that's available." If you're a regular customer, they'll probably be willing to accommodate you regardless. If you're not, they'll probably want to turn you into a regular customer.
posted by gilrain at 8:27 AM on July 19, 2011

All good advice upstream, but maybe something to keep in your head?

They didn't hire your clothes, they hired your brain. Exude confidence, know their file inside and out and how to make them money. I think the uncomfortableness you're feeling about your dress is just anxiety about a big client.

The way it will likely shake out is, "Oh, he's wearing jeans." So about our account then...

The win/win here is that they pay you money to make them more money. If you are making them money, they dont care what you wear. Suits are good for weddings and funerals. Smarts are good for business.

Chill, own the moment. And for godsakes, no polo shirt and skinny tie.

Don't shave, go into total House mode. You are not there to kiss their ass, you are there to make them richer. If you are doing that, they will love you a bunch.
posted by timsteil at 8:54 AM on July 19, 2011

Between the two options, I'd go stylish over rumpled any day. I do not want my agency looking thoughtless.

But really, when I was in consulting and the clients sprung up on me, I cancelled my 9am meeting, ran (literally ran) to a shoe store and a discount rack at Banana Republic, steamed them in the agency shower by 9:35 (hung 'em up on the hook while I filled the shower stall with steam) and was in the client meeting all professional by 10am.

(It would have been worth the cost just to see the gobsmacked look on the face of my sabotaging colleague who "forgot" they were coming in but happened to be wearing a suit.)

I always keep a suit jacket and a pair of dress shoes in my desk now in case I have to fake it at a moment's notice.
posted by Gucky at 3:21 PM on July 19, 2011

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