Thursday, July 12, 2007

Casual Dress Gone Wrong

My colleague, Stephanie Armour at USA Today, recently wrote about business casual dress at work (

After reading the story, I remembered an interview I once had about the same subject with an employer who was clearly frustrated with the situation.

One day, the manager said, an employee showed up for work in his pajamas – flannel pants and a worn T-shirt. On his feet: black dress shoes.

The boss took the employee aside to tell him his attire was not appropriate for the workplace, even if the attire was casual.

“Why not?” he questioned. “You said no flip-flops, right?”

Gives new meaning to the word “clueless,” doesn’t it?

For the record, here are a few standards for casual wear that apply to most workplaces:
• No faded or torn denim. In fact, it’s just as well to avoid denim, and stick with khaki pants or skirt.
• Nothing tight, see-through, glow-in-the-dark or revealing in any way. If you can go clubbing in it, forget it.
• No T-shirts with sayings on them. One employer told me of a pregnant employee who wore a “sleeps well with others” shirt to work. When men wear “saying” shirts they look like they should be at the frat house, and the women wearing them look like they should be visiting that frat house for a Jello shooter contest.
• No VPL (visible panty lines.) Work is also not the place for bared midriffs, mini skirts, shorts or camisole tops.
• Neatness counts. Sweatshirts always look sloppy, so leave them for the weekend. Same with tennis shoes, flip flops, frayed pants or shirts, any kind of flannel and any piece of clothing comfortable enough to sleep in. Make sure even your casual clothes are clean and neatly pressed (yes, you have to iron the front and back).

The thing to remember about casual work wear is that you don’t want what you wear to undo all the hard work you’ve put in to establish yourself as a professional, mature and valued member of the team.

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