They say common sense isn't very common, and when it comes to office clothing and what some people consider casual business attire, it's obvious that the dress code for the office could use a little more common sense.
Those of us who have been around since the days when women office workers wore nylon stockings and men wore hats to work have seen standards of dress at work relaxed, beginning with casual Fridays, and now business casual is an everyday style for many companies.
Some traditional offices still dress business formal every day, some startups wouldn't care if their employees came to work in their pajamas and slippers, and fashion companies may have thrown all the rules out the window.
But I believe most companies fall in a middle ground – they just want to maintain a professional and comfortable work environment for their employees and their customers, and to avoid any problems about how people dress.
If people would just exercise some of that not-so-common sense, there shouldn't be problems.
Here's my idea of common sense when it comes to casual business attire:
REMEMBER YOU ARE STILL AT WORK.
Just because you might dress more casually doesn't mean it's your day off and anything goes. Casual dressing is to let you feel more comfortable, but you still need to create a professional impression.
WEAR CLEAN, TIDY JEANS.
If jeans are allowed, they make the easiest foundation for business casual. A pair of quality dark jeans fits most modern casual business situations. Leave the ragged, bleached and threadbare pair for home. For men and women, the right pair of jeans will look polished and confident, and the wrong pair will make you look old and tired.
AVOID SWEATS AND WORKOUT CLOTHES.
Tempting as it may be, never wear sweats, yoga pants, muscle Ts or sports bra tops to the office. Even if it's not against the rules, you'll look messy and workout mode and work mode are two different things.
NO HOT PANTS AND MINISKIRTS.
I don't care how great your legs are, your thighs shouldn't be showing at work. Yes, they wear super-short minis to the office on TV, but in the real world, a too-short skirt will detract and distract from your credibility. If you would wear to a nightclub, it's inappropriate for a place of business. Modesty rules when you work in the business world.
LEAVE THE FLIP FLOPS AT HOME.
Unless your office is at the beach, flip-flops are a definite no-no. They're not only far too casual, but they offer no protection to your feet. If you must wear sandals, wear a more structured choices like Fisherman sandals.
SAVE TIGHT OR REVEALING CLOTHES FOR YOUR PERSONAL LIFE.
I've seen office workers wearing skin-tight clothes that would have done a stripper proud. Clothes can be flattering without fitting like a second skin, and looking like a hoochie mama is not a good career move in the business world.
NO HALTER, STRAPLESS OR SKIMPY TOPS.
Too much bare skin is very distracting to coworkers, so avoid revealing halters, spaghetti straps or belly-baring tops. Again, modesty rules, and a top that covers you up will make you be taken more seriously.
RETIRE YOUR FAVORITE OLD T-SHIRTS.
I know, you love that shirt you got at your company IPO party back in 1998, but well-loved T-shirts are not business attire. Once a shirt is even a bit threadbare, stained or misshapen, it's no longer appropriate for work. Shirts with graphics or pictures are usually tacky, though no one wants to tell you, so unless it's your company logo, go with a clean, pressed solid shirt.
DON'T IGNORE YOUR GROOMING.
Casual dress doesn't mean casual grooming. It's not your day off, so shave, shampoo, put on makeup and do your usual grooming rituals, even if you'll be wearing jeans. Throwing that baseball cap over unwashed hair doesn't fool anyone.
Far be it for me to try to squash anyone's self-expression through fashion, but when it comes to office clothing and casual business attire, how you dress can affect how your career goes. So even if your company has no dress code for the office, you can use your common sense and create your own.
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