Etiquette Series: What to Wear, What to Wear…
By Cara Beth Lewis
With the extreme summer heat quickly approaching, many struggle with what to wear to maintain a professional image while being comfortable. Many people judge a person’s character based on the way they present themselves, so it’s important to carry yourself in such a way that is respectable – especially in a professional setting.
When it comes to dressing for work, the first thing you should think of is the workplace’s dress code. Familiarize yourself with it to ensure you do not accidentally break the rules. Dressing in a way that is aligned with the company’s standards shows that you respect your job.
Dressing ergonomically is also very important. You want to wear clothing that does not interfere with your work. It is hard to accomplish much when you are having wardrobe malfunctions. To help you focus, dress in something that you feel comfortable and confident in. If you feel self-conscious about your outfit, it is likely that it will interfere with your work and ability to focus.
5 Guidelines for What Not to Wear to the Office in the Summer from the Emily Post Institute:
If your company has a dress code, follow it. Not only will you show respect for your company and its culture, you’ll also be showing respect for your co-workers. It’s when the dress code is vague or incomplete that difficulties can arise. This summer, be careful of the following:
Shorts: While some workplaces might be shorts-appropriate, in the majority of offices nothing says “I don’t take my job seriously” more than wearing shorts. Most offices are kept extra-cool in the summer months, making shorts a poor option anyway.
Footwear: Wearing sandals can be hit or miss. If sandals are allowed in your office, they must look appropriate for business. Bare feet can be off-putting, and both men and women should be sure that their feet and toes are clean and the toenails are groomed when wearing sandals. Flip flops are rarely acceptable and the sound they make can also be distracting. Unless it’s clearly appropriate, flip flops should be avoided. Also, men should be sure to not go sock-less when wearing loafers.
Fabrics and cuts: Women should avoid short skirts, bare midriffs, and anything made with sheer fabric. Fortunately, unless your office specifically calls for them, pantyhose and stockings can be left in your drawer. Linen suits may be acceptable in less formal offices, but their susceptibility to wrinkles can leave the wearer looking rumpled before lunch. Men should also keep casual professional with polo shirts instead of tee shirts.
Tank sleeves: Tank tops are still up for debate in many offices, so be sure to use caution there—the thicker the straps, the better. The fabric and cut should say “professional” not “beach day.” Bra straps should never show, and strapless dresses and spaghetti-strap tops should also be avoided. Wide tank sleeve dresses are the safest bet for going sleeveless in the office.
Sunglasses: Summer sun means sunglasses. Just be sure to take them off and put them away when indoors. Sunglasses perched on top of the head look unsettled and too casual, like you’re about to dash back out the door.
Now what about at other places outside of the office? Casual, semi-formal, formal – What do they all mean?
Casual dress code refers to clothing that is informal and comfortable, yet clean and professional. It’s best to go with nicer casual wear and avoid the baggier items you wear around the house. (emilypost.com). Appropriate options may include khakis, nice jeans, a plain t-shirt, or a sundress.
A dressy casual dress code is a versatile balance between formal and casual. This is the ideal choice for networking (or socializing) after work, fundraisers, or dinner at a nice restaurant. (emilypost.com). Appropriate options may include a casual button-down shirt, a simple dress, nice jeans, and dressy tops.
A semi-formal dress code is best described as being more formal than what you would wear to an office, but slightly less formal than what you would wear to a formal event. Do keep in mind that if the event is later than 6 in the evening, you’ll want to err on the side of formality. (emilypost.com). Appropriate options may include “a little black dress,” a dress shirt and tie, a long skirt and top, and leather shoes with dress socks.
A business formal dress code is characterized by a suit jacket with matching pants or a skirt. The darker the suit, the more formal. There are seasonal variations as well as matching accessories to personalize your look, but they should not be a distraction in any way. (emilypost.com). Appropriate options may include a dark business suit, a dress with heels, and a conservative tie.
Casual business attire is pretty ambiguous, but generally means slacks, khakis, or a skirt with a dress shirt, blouse or polo. Dresses and seasonal sport coats fall into this dress code as well. (emilypost.com). Appropriate options may include a seasonal sport coat, khakis, a dress, or a sweater.
No matter where you are going, strive to carry yourself in a way that conveys consideration and respect for both the setting and those around you.
“You can have anything you want if you dress for it.” -Edith Head.