not your parents' workplace anymore - nor their dress code. Gone
are the stuffy three-piece suits and conservative skirt sets of
times past, replaced with a canvas of khaki on which a world of
individuality is expressed, as if to say, "Trust me: I'm casual."
In some corporations and industries, it's Casual Friday every day
of the week. Yet even with today's relaxed standards, it's still
not a good idea to show up for work in torn shorts and a baggy tee
shirt. Especially if you deal directly with customers, the way you
express yourself to the world is far more important than the true
you - at least while you're on the job. With a little thought and
creativity, you can bring the two into harmony with positive professional
Whatever shall you wear to work? Before you can answer, look around
you in the office - as early as the interview stage. What's the
company style? How does dress relate to the nature of the work?
What are people wearing these days to make design presentations?
automobiles? closing arguments? pizzas? Get ready to dress the part
- in this year's style.
to your coworkers for direction, and take your lead from the top,
as the catch phrase "dress for the job you want" still applies.
a gray area," said human resources professional Lena Bottos
of Salary.com. "If your boss breaks a few dress code rules,
then it's okay to adjust your wardrobe choices. Just don't be the
first one in the office to break the style barrier."
think about who visits your office when deciding how to dress. Is
your space open to visitors, or is it strictly down-and-dirty? Are
the visitors from inside the company or outside? What impression
do you want to leave on them? And don't forget company executives
- top brass might not appreciate the deep cultural symbolism of
your latest music concert acquisition.
people keep a business suit or the equivalent in their office or
workspace in case guests arrive on short notice. Are you ready for
a television crew to arrive and film you for the news?
do's and don'ts are changing
Etiquette books tend to take a conservative approach to the office.
Emily Post, for example, swears that "business casual" doesn't exist,
while Amy Vanderbilt prefers women not to wear pants to the office.
Workplace style in the 1990s was liberated from the structured 1980s,
and improvements in synthetic fabrics have given designers new materials
from which to create casual clothing that appears professional.
During the Internet boom, the startup culture of the West Coast
brought business casual to an art form.
is it "anything goes" today? As in the past, your appearance on
the job is a mirror that reflects your personal style in the context
of the office culture and the nature of your job. What you wear
continues to say a lot about your work. So think about your company,
your teammates, clients, management, and your position when reaching
into your closet, and you'll always come out a winner.
Regina M. Robo, News Editor
and related reading
Letitia Baldridge - Amy
Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette
Clinton T. Greenleaf III - Attention
to Detail: A Gentleman's Guide to Professional Appearance and Conduct
Judith Martin - Miss
Manners Guide for the Turn of the Millennium
Peggy Post - Emily
Peggy Post and Peter Post - The
Etiquette Advantage in Business