If you are too young to remember those days long ago when men went to work wearing dark suits, fedoras, white shirts and ties, all you need to do is watch a few old movies from the 1930s all the way to about 1980. Whether spoken or not, people just knew that work attire meant men wore suits and ties and women wore modest, flattering, yet fashionable skirts or dresses.
For most women of the working world, very short skirts (like the mini skirts of the 1970s) weren’t acceptable as workplace attire. The Bob Dylan song “The Times They Are A’ Changin” didn’t specifically refer to workplace attire, but the statement pretty much sums up everything that has happened to change the way people feel about what is considered acceptable attire for workplace environments.
Relaxing Workplace Dress Codes
Human resource consulting expert Judah Kurtz of the BPI Group admits that dress codes are much more relaxed, and some of that may have happened during the dot-com age when casual Friday meant employees could wear jeans to work. Employers find themselves straddling a fine line between what they should permit (by allowing employees to wear comfortable clothing and express themselves through their clothing) and what is necessary for companies to keep up the professional image they want to convey to clients and customers.
What Employees Should Infer from Code Language
While many companies don’t have hard and fast rules about the dress code, most assume that employees are hip enough today to understand buzz words, or to figure out what is right for different circumstances they are likely to encounter on the job. For men, things may be more straight forward. When you have corporate meetings or lunch with clients, the khakis and button-down shirt you might wear if you’re just working in the office won’t cut it. The situation may not necessitate a formal suit and tie, but you’ll look very proper in a sports coat, slacks, shirt and tie.
For women, things get more complicated. Don’t ever assume that casual means you can wear jeans to the office every day. At the same time, don’t assume that you’ll be tied to solid-colored pants or skirts, and coordinating jackets. While those wardrobe staples are necessary and practical, you can still get creative by including some fun, cute and professional dresses and other seasonal fashions.
Modern work-appropriate dresses come in all styles and colors, so you can infuse your work wardrobe with some personality. Be mindful of acceptable dress length. It may be okay to wear super short mini skirts or dresses when you go clubbing with girlfriends, but on days when you’re meeting girlfriends after work, wear your business casual clothing to work, and change into your club attire just before you leave your workplace.
If you are trying to prove that you deserve a promotion, or want to become a big player in your company’s administration, understand what you wear to work will be every bit as important a consideration as your credentials on paper. Every employee is an ambassador and representative of the company they work for, and everything from long-term job security to raises and promotions hinges on your effectiveness in that capacity and how people outside the company perceive you — both professionally and personally.
Written by Abby Saunders. Abby is a marketing rep for several fashion designer upstarts. She loves tea and anything aqua.