A formal dress policy has many positive benefits. It communicates a business focus and employees are perceived as intelligent by customers. However, the disadvantages are that employees may be perceived as too superior to customers (if they’re wearing a suit and the customer is in jeans) and such a formal policy may be inappropriate in several business settings. Whereas a casual policy can be perceived as a perk by employees, your business image may suffer. Moreover, research found that when a casual policy was the norm there was greater tardiness and absenteeism among employees, as well as increased use of foul language in the workplace. In developing a dress policy follow these tips:
- When putting together a team to formulate the company dress policy include employees at all levels. This will aid in developing one that is comprehensive in scope.
- Understand all aspects of your business operations, is safety an issue? For example, if on a construction site, are steel tip shoes necessary to ensure that feet are protected? As well, are earring or hair length requirements necessary to avoid getting caught in the equipment?
- Understand what has been a problem regarding dress at your business and address it in the dress policy. If an employee’s hygiene has been a problem spell out what is acceptable for your business.
- Know clearly what your business stands for and your competitive advantage. Be able to identify the different contact/touch points that employees have with customers, suppliers and the public.
- Be clear on what is acceptable and unacceptable regarding clothing, accessories and hygiene. Give examples of clothing items that are appropriate and those that are not.
- Understand federal rulings on what is allowed by law. In the US the courts have ruled that employers may enforce “reasonable appearance rules even if they prohibit the expression of cultural or ethnic values if the rules are job related and applied consistently.” For example, banning ponytails for men but allowing it for women is discriminatory as is banning facial hair or headwear that is irrespective of religious beliefs. As well, banning facial hair is discriminatory against African American males due to problems related to shaving that is not commonly found with other races or ethnic groups. Moreover, it is prohibited to require an employee to wear a sexually provocative uniform or for women to dress in a feminine way such as wearing make-up or skirts. Be sensitive to implied or explicit policies that show favoritism to one group over another by race, gender, ethnicity or disability.
- Delineate the steps to be taken when the dress policy is not followed. Know what can and cannot be done and what you are willing to do to enforce it. Usually, the first infraction is a written warning given to the employee on the day that the item is worn. Each additional infraction should be of greater consequence to the employee. However it is enforced each infraction should be documented in the employee file.
- Consider implementing the new dress policy on a three month trial basis.
- Once the dress policy is finalized communicate it to all employees and make sure that it is part of the company handbook. New employees should be knowledgeable with the policy once they are hired. Consider having employees sign off on the dress policy that they will follow it.
In just the past five years the world of work has changed as well as the clothing we wear for it! Of particular importance is how the tech industry changed the course of business wear as we know it. What was once considered “Business Casual” is simply business as usual. Inasmuch as we want to dress down, it’s still important to look good and communicate instantly our expertise and professionalism. Although suits are definitely not a requirement with tech firms, options might include a jacket and maybe jeans; but there is a right and a wrong way to approach these.
Here are some basic tips for communicating your expertise and position instantly to others:
- Focus on classic styles that have endured such as tailored notch collar shirts and blouses, blazers, A-line skirts, cardigans, trench coats, and shirtwaist dresses.
- Keep the look simple and clean accessorizing for impact with gold, silver, pearls or jewel tones to add sparkle and affluence to your best asset – your face.
- Incorporate fabrics that have body such as cotton/poly blends and heavier knits that are opaque.
- Create a slimmer appearance by wearing darker colors such as navy, burgundy, charcoal and black.
- If in the field, realize that you are communicating the brand image so dress professionally yet comfortably, if the environments vary widely. If jeans are permitted they should be a dark wash, fit at the natural waist, and be hemmed not dragging.
- Build your wardrobe around the neutrals such as black, taupe, navy, camel, gray and olive and add color in tops, scarves and belts.
- When meeting with a prospective client, consider a jacket with a fitted shirt and trousers. Also consider tunic tops with pants and a short jacket for interest. If you want to go sleeveless do so but wear a jacket or cardigan.
- When dining with clients consider simple pants or skirts with interesting tops and jackets. Consider a dark colored dress with a shawl around the shoulders. As well consider a fitted shirt worn out with black pants and a blazer or a mid calf skirt and an over blouse or tunic belted.
- Consider unstructured jackets such as jean jackets and cargo pants with limited detailing but avoid “hoodies,” hats and sweats. Pants and skirts need to land at the natural waist or a little below but avoid hip-hugger styles.
- To create a slim line and add height, incorporate vertical lines either decoratively in the fabric pattern or structurally as in vertical darts, princess seams, or a placket down the front. Also consider incorporating long chains or scarves around the neck, as well, as three quarter length sleeves. When wearing a jacket put the collar up.
- Avoid tight clothing rather introduce simple angular lines such as A-line skirts, tailor-notched collar shirts and blouses and tailored jackets to offset the roundness of the body and bring it into balance. Plain front pants and skirts are recommended over pleated varieties.
Bottom line – realize that your appearance counts at work no matter what you do!
As we come up on the fall season for fashion are you still spending your clothing budget on keeping up with trends? As a marketer that would make me very happy to have you buying every time a new season is introduced – which by the way is five times a year for women’s apparel.
But as a person that has other payments to make besides keeping my professional wardrobe in shape, trying to keep up with fashion trends is a ball and chain around my ankle that I don’t need. When I was in the fashion business it was my job to be in fashion. Now that I am not I’ve found an alternative – classics. And you might consider them too.
Why? Classics are always in fashion, year in and year out. Designers always introduce some form of classic styles on the runway each year. Those that are affluent and influential see the value and prestige of staying with the classics. What constitutes a classic? Let me give you some examples and some tips for staying in fashion without busting the bank with classics.
- If you just love fashion find the one key piece that is common among the new styles being introduced that will update it and get that.
- Without killing your pay check you can update your wardrobe with key accessories, such as scarves, jewelry, belts and hosiery.
- Pick classic styles like navy blazers, camel sportcoats, pinstriped suits, button-down collared shirts, shirtwaist dresses, trench coats and coat dresses.
- The suit will never go out of style so choose either double or single breasted suits.
- Shoes such as pumps and loafers for women and oxfords, wingtips and slip-ons for men are here forever.
- There are classics in colors such as navy, black, and charcoal grey that are worn around the world all year long.
- Keep with classic patterns such as houndstooth, tweed, herringbone, regimental stripes, and chalk stripes.
- Try classic plaids such as tartan, windowpane, scotch and glen plaids. Glen plaids are also known as bankers’ plaids.
- For women’s jewelry keep to gold, silver or pearls. Heck, they don’t have to be real but they do create the aire of affluence that women need to make an impact in a competitive work environment.
Staying up with fashion is work – that is why it is called a business. Be in fashion all year long with investing in the classics!
When Jackets are optional and you need to communicate a professional image consider a white long sleeve shirt with charcoal trousers and a tie. Even when its hot, its better to roll up the sleeves rather than wear short sleeve shirt (except in the case of polo styles). Look your best and keep cool during the dog days of summer.
Usually when it comes to a job interview a suit is the order of the day. But what if you are going for a job in the tech industry, as a fashion coordinator with a retailer or perhaps a fryer cook at Wendy’s? No matter what, make sure you look your best and that your clothes are clean and pressed without lost buttons and holes. Dressing sexy and revealing skin or tattoos doesn’t work for any job position you’re aiming for.
- If you don’t know what is normally worn, find out from the administrative assistant or wander incognito at the firm and observe what employees and supervisors wear. Depending on the corporate culture, the type of job, where you live and what you do, you may be wearing a suit, either pant or skirted variety or a less formal ensemble such as trousers and a sweater set or blazer but whatever you wear dress up a step from what is normally worn. Avoid jeans and sequins.
- If jackets are optional or jeans are permitted consider a fitted shit over pressed trousers with a blazer.
- Be coordinated. Not everything goes with everything but consider starting with a neutral such as camel, dark brown or black, in your trousers, skirt or blazer and go from there.
- Accessorize for impact but don’t overwhelm. Avoid flip-flops and sandals and opt for loafers or pumps with a moderate heel, that are cleaned and polished.
- Practice personal hygiene from head to toe and make sure your nails are manicured but not in the spot light.