How do we address this very subjective issue of appropriate dress in the work place? Fortunately companies today tend to have a dress code in the company handbook. Regardless, people, mostly women, like to play in the gray area. Is this shirt too low cut? Is this skirt too short? Are these pants too tight? Is this outfit too sexy?
Where my bar is won’t necessarily line up to yours or to coworker’s bars are. I remember wearing a pair of leather pants to the office. They happened to be caramel colored. Apparently, this looked too much like skin to a coworker who commented to my manager about my pants. I had these pants for several years and never had any issues. It didn’t occur to me even once that these pants could be found offensive or enticing to a male coworker. Needless to say, they sit in the closet now, and I wear them with great caution.
Another time, I went to a companywide event. It was in Texas in July and it was HOT. I decided to wear some jean shorts. I feel completely casual and comfortable in these shorts and wear them often. They come above mid thigh and definitely below my rear end. I even wore heels to make the outfit a bit more dressy, but I think slutty was the perception I gave. Both men and women stared at me. My boss saw me. He said, “I told you it was casual, but I didn’t say to wear shorts!” Yikes. On a later date, after the event was over and everyone had returned home, I was on a call with another female from the Kansas City office. She was trying to place me from the event and said, “Oh, you’re the girl wearing the shorts!” I don’t think that’s how I wanted to be remembered, and that was a huge lesson learned. I crossed the edge just enough to cause some damage. That’s a place I never want to return to in regards to corporate dress.
I, on the other hand took great offense to a coworker who wore a top so low cut that the tattoo on her breast was displayed for all to admire. This tattoo was too much for me. Tattoos are simply not my personal choice, and in my not so humble opinion, I will say that breast tattoos and “tramp stamps” are completely inappropriate for display in a corporate office setting. Here are some other tips for both tattoo bearers and observers in business.
The best rule of thumb to use is, if you have to ask yourself in the first place if something is appropriate or not, it’s probably not. When it comes to dress in the workplace, better safe than talked about. For more tips on dressing at work this summer, check out what Trent Armstrong, the Modern Manners Guy has to say.