If you’re like me, you spent much of the pandemic in leggings and cozy sweatshirts. Many women now have what InStyle has deemed “Post-Pandemic Wardrobe Anxiety.” Yet, as the world starts to re-emerge from our quarantine cocoons of comfort clothes and Netflix, maintaining a professional appearance is important.
And while I’m never in the business of telling people what they can or cannot do, the fact is that real estate is a very client-facing industry. And psychological studies at Princeton, NYU, and Dartmouth have found that people judge you in a matter of milliseconds after meeting you.
We already covered men’s fashion do’s and don’ts. And now here are tips for us. Along with suggestions on what can replace these realtor fashion no-no’s. Your appearance as a realtor is an extension of your brand. Therefore, it’s crucial. And so is your comfort—so feel free to deviate from the list to what feels best for you.
1. (Most) Leggings
The New York Times reported that leggings sales surged 21% in America and 61% in the U.K. during the pandemic. Which makes sense considering so many of us rocked the leggings look while on Zoom meetings, watching Netflix, and doing at-home workouts.
While many leggings look like athleisure, many brands have realized that women love the comfort of button-less pants. That’s why brands like Spanx and Sanctuary offer leggings that don’t look like, well, leggings.
2. Graphic Tees
On the way to yoga, I love my “Namaslay” shirt. However, it doesn’t exactly scream “working professional.”
I’ve concluded that there is no combination of words that will make me look professional. Sadly, that includes my favorite Foo Fighters shirt.
What possible phrase or brand will make you look like a competent, experienced local market expert? If you think of one, leave it in the comments section below.
Here’s a rule that I generally apply to life: If I’d wear it to the club, I won’t wear it to work. Miniskirts fall into this bucket.
Plus, when showing homes, you might have to pick things up. Even Elle Woods from Legally Blonde got the memo when showing up in court.
4. Most Leather (or Vegan Leather) Clothes
I love wearing my faux leather. I just do. But some leather looks more professional than others.
And similar to my rule for miniskirts, my rule for leather is this: If I’d wear it to a punk show, I won’t wear it to work.
So, if you find a cute faux-leather vegan skirt (like this one from Banana Republic), great! But if you find something that maybe the Ramones would wear, then maybe back off.
Yes, sneakers are comfy, versatile, and can be quite fashionable. But NOT wearing them can level up your whole outfit.
And to be honest, you can find shoes that are ultra-comfy while still looking professional.
6. Ripped Jeans
Although they offer the unheard-of benefit of air conditioning your knees, ripped jeans send off the “I just don’t care” message that can be the kiss of death for your next deal.
In fact, ripped jeans, or jeans in general, are banned at many Manhattan brokerages that have written dress codes.
“People can be turned off by a broker’s clothes. If they looked like they just got out of bed or are too casual, it doesn’t give you the feeling that this person is taking care of themselves; you need to be put together.”
7. Anything That Shows Too Much Midriff
Yes, Mariah Carey pulls off midriff-showing tanks exceptionally well. However, being an agent doesn’t involve performances at the Grammys. Here’s hoping that changes someday, though.
8. Workout Gear
The whole “I’m so busy; I just ran here from my yoga class” look does not show people that you’re a super-hard worker who sacrifices personal time for their career. (Even if your downward dog is Instagram-worthy.) It shows clients that you lack the ability to plan ahead.
9. Flip Flops
No one wants to walk around all day talking about mortgage rates and square footage with someone whose feet keep making flip-flop noises.
Worse, think of the beach bum message you’re sending to your clients. This leads us to our next fashion no-no …
Yes, it’s hot out. Yes, three of the listings you’re schlepping your buyers to have crummy A/C. But that’s still no excuse to dress like you’re heading to the beach.
11. Tube Tops or Bandeaus
What might look great in a ’90s music video that would play on “Total Request Live” might not be great for a showing.
If it’s hot out, opt for professional-looking shirts that are sleeveless. They exist!
12. Anything See-through
For most clients, a sheer dress does not inspire the confident, professional look that you need to cultivate to win hearts and minds and close deals.
13. Floppy Hats … or Pretty Much ANY Hats That Aren’t Warm
Looking like you just jumped out of the back of a smoke filled VW bus at Coachella doesn’t exactly exude real estate professional, does it?
Don’t worry, though. In the winter, pretty much all bets are off, and fashion takes a back seat to warmth.
What Not to Wear as a Realtor: Advice From the Pros
Lindsay Narain, Founder & Designer, VAUGHAN
“You should NEVER wear something ill-fitting, too tight, or uncomfortable-looking. The last thing you want is to have a client thinking you’re fidgeting and squirming because you’re being untruthful or trying to hustle a deal!”
Laura Handrick, Human Resources Expert
“As a realtor, you have a little more flexibility in your dress code than a corporate employee, such as a business executive at a bank or an HR manager. Nonetheless, what you wear speaks volumes about your professionalism. If you’re hosting an open house, taking clients to look at property, or meeting sellers to sign close documents, you need to dress the part of a professional: nice slacks or skirt, button-down blouse or sweater—nothing too tight, revealing, or blingy.
“In fact, sleeveless sun dresses, ripped jeans, leggings, piercings, or anything that reveals cleavage or your belly ring will scream ‘I’M NOT A PROFESSIONAL, I JUST DO THIS GIG FOR EXTRA PARTY MONEY.’ That’s probably not the image you want to portray.”
Amber Nuetzel, Merchandising Manager, Ever-Pretty
“Don’t wear anything too sexy, meaning nothing skin-tight and no thigh-high slits. If you want to be on the safe side, these are some tried-and-true business casual staples: slacks, blouses, pencil skirts, button-downs, flats (closed-toe) or heels, and tailored dresses.”
Men … You’re NEXT
Hello, fellas. Don’t think we forgot about you. I hate to say it, but you typically need WAY more help than we do when it comes to realtor fashion.
That’s why we’ve devoted an entire article devoted to the sins realtor dudes make. Like square toe shoes (gulp), light jeans (ick), and brightly colored shirts and ties (yikes!).
Over to You
What do you think of our list? Any fashion nightmares you think we need to add?