- The Washington Times - Monday, August 22, 2005

If you’re organized, dedicated - and lucky enough - to be able to exercise during your work day, you’ll find yourself presented with a dressing dilemma not faced by those who keep their clothes on from nine to five: Namely, how do you stay looking fresh and professional after a sweaty workout in the gym, with clothes squashed in lockers and precious minutes ticking by?

Here’s how:

Getting there: For the morning workout, take a quick shower and get dressed at home, wasting no time on makeup application or hair styling. If you are fully dressed when you leave, you will be in no danger of forgetting any part of your outfit. (Ditto for the lunchtime workout, but in this case you’ll need to complete your morning routine since you’ll be heading straight to work.)

If you prefer to head out of the house in your gym clothes, make a checklist of your work wear items and double check your bag before you leave. Use a hanger bag to keep suits and other tailored items fresh and wrinkle free. Alternatively, buy items that are manufactured with wrinkle-resistant technology. As with travel, this will make the packing process easier and your appearance more professional.

Bring a towel, gym clothes, makeup (ladies), accessories, shower items and a change of undergarments in a gym bag. Consider renting a locker at your gym for storing those regular gym items, which will lighten your daily load.

Storing your stuff: Many gyms have small lockers for rent, and full-length lockers for daytime use. Hang your clothes in one of the latter, making sure not to damage them in the process. Wovens that are not too delicate can be looped over a hook, while knits should be folded and placed on a shelf to prevent stretching. Place shoes where they will not be crushed by your gym bag. Put rings, necklaces, etc. in a jewelry travel bag - never set jewelry directly on locker shelves. It will be forgotten, or will become stuck in locker crevices. Lock up all valuables.

Unless you have concerns about theft, place your shower items in an unlocked locker during your workout. This will allow you to jump straight into the shower after your workout, possibly avoiding lines from the rest of the early morning or lunchtime crew.

Getting ready at the gym: 1) Tip for the shower: Use pre-soaped disposable wash cloths. These are great for face and body, and will eliminate the need to wipe off soapy containers when you exit the shower. 2) Tip for your hair: Come up with a low maintenance hairstyle that keeps you moving without much fuss. Rely on hairclips and shower caps when necessary. 3) Tip for makeup: Put it on before you get dressed to prevent it from staining your clothes - you won’t have your closet as backup.

Final Tip: Workout hard! It will recharge your batteries, and make the rest of your day more enjoyable. You’ll also be more productive at work!

Ms. Speer:

Is cleavage becoming a fashionable accessory in the office these days? I think it’s totally inappropriate, but I’m seeing more and more of it around my office and others’. If it’s distressing to me to sit next to a woman who’s bursting out of her shirt at a meeting, I imagine it is pretty distracting to the men in the office. How do you tell your employees to cover up when they obviously don’t think it’s a problem? (Is this some kind of muddled post-feminist idea, that showing skin is empowering?)

Sherry - Bowie, MD

Dear Sherry:

Post-feminism or not, necklines have certainly dipped in recent years, and cleavage is poking out everywhere. Appropriateness is a question of amount. A slight hint of cleavage, such as that sometimes revealed by a button-down blouse or V-neck knit top is fashionable without being unprofessionally provocative. Conversely, halter tops or any shirt that leaves little to the imagination is out of place. Suggest your boss or HR director send an office-wide memo about dress codes, versus individual complaints.

Hi Jordan:

My hair is cut short between my shoulders and ears but I have lengthening hairpieces (falls) that I wear socially - can I do it on the job and how do I deal with questions?

Janet - Dupont Circle

Dear Janet:

Have at it and when the ask answer with the obviously…a new look is fun, isn’t it?

Dear Jordan:

I have a hairy chest - should I wear V-necks?

Michael - Potomac

Dear Michael:

Wear a collared shirt or turtle neck under the V-neck in the office but on Saturday afternoon when you are out with the guys — go for it!

Ms. Jordan Speer is the senior editor of an apparel business magazine and has been writing about the industry for more than nine years. Send workplace or corporate fashion questions to [email protected]

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