Remember when Business Casual looked like this?
Q: What do the following items have in common?
- Rubber flip-flops
- Belly baring shirts
- Gold lamé leggings, and leggings worn as pants
- Velour track suits
- Hawaiian shirts worn unbuttoned over undershirt
- Floor length halter dresses
- Sweatpants with "Juicy" across the derriere
- Skin-tight tank top with the word "Bootylicious" across the front in glitter script
- Cargo shorts
A: All have been worn by people in our office under the auspices of "business casual."
The upside of a more casual dress code is that it can be democratizing and a morale booster for employees. Many companies have made efforts to create a less rigid and hierarchical workplace, and managers or executives in strict corporate wear can undermine that environment. I'll admit that I'm not missing the skirted suits and (bleah!) pantyhose that were once de rigeur in corporate offices. I sailed through from the mid-1990's until a few years ago in pantsuits and "sportswear" separates, and found the clear boundaries for workwear convenient, requiring a minimum of guesswork and planning. Getting dressed for work was easy when the uniform was clear and consistent, though I am enjoying being able to express a bit more personal style, mostly through accessories. In our current environment, even a pantsuit worn with a t-shirt feels a bit too stiff and formal, so I've been subbing a sweater for the jacket worn with trousers, or pairing my jackets with dark-wash jeans.
However, it's long been une femme's opinion that Business Casual, while worthy and welcome in concept, has Gone. Too. Far. Despite articles in various newspaper Business sections to the contrary, there seems to be no apparent reversal of the "anything goes" dress codes that seem to have taken over many companies. While I would never advocate a return to strict Corporate Drag*, it seems the "business" part of Business Casual is increasingly left out of the equation.
Why does it matter? After all, many people who work in offices do not have contact with the public as a part of their job, and in these tough economic times, expecting workers (especially those on the bottom to middle rungs of the corporate ladder) to spend a good chunk of change on clothing specifically for work seems a bit unfair. But une femme would argue that getting dressed in the morning with business in mind helps get one's head in the game, and helps change the mindset from one of leisure to productivity. It's been my observation that wearing the same thing to work that one would wear to a beach party keeps the brain partially in beach party mode. I believe there is a happy medium: dressing comfortably with allowances for personal expression, while still maintaining some professionalism and polish. (In my perfect world, the flip flops would be the first thing to go!)
What kind of dress code (if any) is enforced in your workplace? Does it seem appropriate for the work you do? If you wrote your company's dress code, what changes would you make?
*Thanks to Duchesse at Passage des Perles for this great expression.