Addressing the Dress Code

A reader writes…

Dear, Anita,
Do most companies have a dress code? Are pantyhose and full suits the norm?

Dear, “Dress Code,”

This is a tough question for me to ad-dress (this is me being punchy!)

Dress codes vary by business, industry, and location. In general, however, I would say that YES, most companies have some sort of dress code established, and as an employee, it is part of your job to adhere to the guidelines. Some places require a specific uniform; others enforce a strict professional-dress policy, while others may be a lot more casual. 

In the world of business, where you are working in an office, I’ve noticed that “corporate” attire has turned to “business casual” more than ever before. That’s not to say that flip-flops and shorts are acceptable, though for some industries it’s perfectly fine, and some companies offer it as a perk when salaries are a bit lower than the rest of the market! Blouses and slacks (for women) and button-down shirts or even Polos with slacks (for men) are becoming more and more widespread.

Here’s the challenge that I see when it comes to the “business casual” code as a female employee… coordinating tops and bottoms appropriately can be tricky. Combining the styles of “business” and “casual” takes a certain eye – some people just don’t have enough fashion sense to pull it off appropriately. In fact, I read an article where the Certified Image Consultant and Chair of the Association of Image Consultants International (Kelly Machbitz) said, “I’ve noticed that Casual Fridays have morphed into ‘Happy Hour’ Fridays — you can tell who’s got a date that night by what they wear to the office that day.” SO true!

Being asked to wear a full suit may seem a little stuffy (and can be costly when it comes to dry cleaning bills), but at least people don’t have to pick out what they’re going to wear by mixing and matching things. It’s basically “these pants go with this coordinating jacket.” (Your personal flair comes in with the shirt (and tie) you choose!

Here’s the big question for the ladies… Whether you’re business casual, professional attire, or required to wear a uniform, do you have to wear pantyhose?

Men, you have no idea how lucky you are not to have to deal with these form-fitting, leg squeezing pull-ups that will get a snag or run if you even LOOK at them wrong!

To me, pantyhose should be banned. Now, I understand that they can serve a purpose in keeping things together, hiding varicose veins, and giving some women a more finished look… but please don’t force them in the dress code! Optional is fine.

I’d love to hear from each and every one of you…
1. What are some of the worst outfits you’ve seen at work? (Keep it clean people!)
2. (Specifically for the gals) What is your opinion on hose?

Can’t wait to read your comments!

21 Comments (+add yours?)

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    Dec 26, 2013 @ 18:03:07

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  2. Wren
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 04:56:50

    As a teacher candidate, our program supervison has a strict dress code that we are to follow while we are in the classroom or at any school functions. I’m sure some of this doesn’t need to be addressed, but I’ll give you a glimpse into what is expected.
    1. No low cut blouses. If in doubt, wear a camisole that covers more skin.
    2. No tops that show skin when you raise your arms.
    3. Skirts should be long enough that you can bend over and not expose anything above the knee.
    4. No sandals or flip flops.
    5. No sneakers.
    6. Understated jewelry.
    7. Very little or no cologne (due to children with asthma).
    8. Tasteful hair styles/color. No glaring, fake haircolor.
    9. No tatoos.
    I know this is pretty comprehensive. ANd this is just for the women. The men must wear a button down shirt with a tie every day. Jacket is optional. No jeans. No sneakers. Khaki pants are ok, sometimes.

    I didn’t have to adjust my wardrobe to accommodate these requirements, but many people did.

    Good luck.



  3. Barbara
    Feb 08, 2012 @ 11:24:31

    At my job, the dress code is business casual”. I prefer to wear a simple skirt, sweater or other top, and yes, pantyhose. Not only do I personally find skirts much more comfortable and practical than slacks (not a popular opinion, I know), but it looks professional, and makes me feel like I am at work. Most people wear slacks and a sweater or top, and do not seem to be suffering, even though they cannot wear the national uniform of jeans, T-shirt, and running shoes. I think people who want to be taken seriously as professionals/people who know their job should try to look the part.



  4. sailortitan
    Feb 06, 2012 @ 17:31:38

    Nylons are distractingly uncomfortable and I find them difficult to work in. I’m glad they aren’t the norm anymore.

    At my office, we have a business casually code where clean “put together” street clothes that include nice jeans and non-sneakers are allowed. I think this is a good look for the office since it’s put together enough that you look like you put effort dressing up comfortable enough that you can work in it.



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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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