Staying Fashionable While Staying on Task

03 August 17

Hello, Hello!

 Fashion! From top hats to jumpsuits, I’m obsessed with it all. If I were to make a list of my five favorite things in life, “fashion” would make the cut.

Hello again, Jaime Marie here, thrilled to be writing to you all about one of my biggest passions: Fashion in the work place.

Trends Are Meant to Change:

How Did We Get Here?

 Americans began the 20th century in bustles and bowler hats, and ended it in velour sweat suits and flannel shirts. This was the most radical shift in dress standards in human history. With this shift came major changes in working-world fashion as well.

“The slippery slope may have started as a gentle incline way back in the 1970s… But today we are speeding down it at breakneck pace.” Says the New York Times.

In 1966, on the islands of Hawaii, the garment industry began a trend known as “Aloha Fridays”, which encouraged businesses to allow their employees to wear Hawaiian shirts to the office on the last day of the work week to get them excited for the weekend ahead.

In 1970, Nicola Thorp held a petition in Europe to make it illegal for companies to require women to wear heels to work. Following this dramatic change came the 1980s, which consisted of women’s increasing power in the work place reflecting in their wardrobe. This is what is now known as the “power dress movement”. What does that mean, exactly? Shoulder pads. The 80s were all about suits and ties. Shoulder pads were big and ties were wide. For women, these masculine lines were paired with costume jewelry, big hairdos and bold makeup to add some glitz and glam to these stiff skirt sets.  Hawaii’s “Aloha Fridays” eventually transitioned into “Casual Fridays”, and spread throughout the states by the late 80s.

But this changed during the 90s. The ol’ “Casual Friday” look became acceptable attire all week long, made official by an eight-page brochure sent to tens of thousands of human resource managers across the US called “A Guide to Casual Business wear”. This trend quickly caught on by offices, where employees were excited to shed their pricey week-wear clothes.

So, in the end, what does this mean for the business world? The beginning of business casual.


According to a survey released last year by Office Team, “Dressing up for work continues to go out of style.” How come? Why are daily work attires decreasing in formality? Why are businesses and offices allowing for this to happen? What is the point of encouraging a formal dress code, when we could easily accept this trendy transition into jeans and sneakers?

  • Employees dislike dress codes
    • This, more than any other formal guideline, sends a message to the employee that they aren’t being trusted to use their common sense.
  • It can be a challenge to avoid charges of discrimination, since businesses can’t restrict clothing worn for religious purposes
    • Also, even if they’re written in a gender-neutral format, most items in a typical dress code policy are aimed at things women wear (skirt length, sleeveless tops, etc.)
  • Casual clothing tends to be less expensive and thus, less of a cost burden on employees.
    • They can wear their “normal” clothes to the office and not, essentially, purchase two wardrobes.
  • You risk losing out on good hires who don’t want to conform to a restrictive dress code.
    • In general, Millennials tend to oppose strict dress codes and are drawn to more casual workplaces (79% think they should be allowed to wear jeans to work at least sometimes).

With that being said, there should always being SOME guidelines for your employees to follow. Here are a few questions to ask yourself if you plan on updating or revising your company dress code:

  • How should customer-facing employees dress?
  • What’s really necessary?
  • What to do about tattoos and piercings?
  • How will people react?
  • How can we best communicate and enforce the dress code?

How Casual is TOO Casual?

 Most offices today are walking a fine line between casual and “too casual”. What once was a pair of black dress pants and a shirt with no tie is now becoming a pair of casual khakis with a polo t-shirt and broken skater shoes. Make it clear to your office that workout clothes and mini-skirts are never allowed in the workplace. As Coco Chanel once said, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”

What are the CONS of Casual Dress in the Work World?

 According to statistics, 43.2% of sales decreased more than 5% each year in businesses who use a more casual dress code. Jensen of the Sozo Firm in Pennsylvania notes, “Supervisors say that business-casual can easily be abused and lead to sloppiness, laziness and a decrease in professionalism” while interviewing with the Miami Herald. It’s been observed that with formal dress, workers feel more powerful and ready to tackle higher levels of abstract thinking. Dressing formally will increase productivity when workers need to think creatively about the bigger picture. If your employees dress formally, they give off an impression to your clients that your company is serious and successful, as well as communicating your companies structure and togetherness. Having a more casual dress code lacks all of these things, and in fact, gives off several negative impressions to your current and potential clients.


Business Professional, Business Casual and Casual Work Attire…

All three of these labels are terribly similar, and someone who doesn’t read up on fashion do’s and don’ts regularly may not have a clue which is which. Here’s a little “cheat-sheet” to help you get a grasp on when to wear what.


Business Professional Business Casual Casual Work Attire
It IS possible to be fashion-forward when your office is ultra-formal, as long as you play by the rules! Business casual is a tough dress code to crack…However, following a few steps, you’ll get it right every time. This style is becoming increasingly popular, but should only be worn if specified by your employer.

Wear colors based on a neutral color palette

(Neon’s are a NO-NO)


-on’t let your outfit outshine your work

(No need to be adventurous)

-Avoid gaudy accessories -Keep your clothes clean, pressed and wrinkle free -Stay away from slogans or logos

Think tailored pieces…

Neat shirts, blouses, sweaters, slacks, or skirts

Footwear should be closed toe

NO ripped, sloppy, or worn clothing


Scuff-free shoes (neutral color)

Think classy…

Everything should fit you well, and be in good clean condition

NEVER wear casual work attire to an interview.
Keep hair and makeup groomed, neat and simple Avoid anything shiny or sparkling


Question: What’s your dress code?

Do you like it the way it is? Do you want to switch things up, maybe make it more casual or more formal? Many sources say it depends on the work place- every group of employees is going to function differently than the next. However, while making these decisions, take into account how you want your business to appear to clients.


For more information about Dress Codes at work, call HR Strategy Group at 410-505-8723 or find us on the web at

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