What a dilemma – several major organizations have recently declared a less formal dress code than even business casual. Some of these policies are called dressed down, flex dressing, business casual, or relaxed depending on how the dress code is written and what is expected and respected. It’s still the consensus that flip flops are rarely appropriate. In my professional opinion, flip flops in the workplace are never appropriate.
As you can imagine, these new policies can be confusing! So let’s read these articles—then I’ll weigh in with what my experience tells me are ways to “Do It Right!”
Let me start answering by using the guidelines from my book Business Casual – Clarify Please!
This book was written to answer the question “What does it mean when our dress code says BC?….or “how should I dress when an invitation to a social event says “dress business casual?”
At one point, the Federated Stores were seeking ways to become experts in helping customers who came in wanting to know what to buy that was BC. So I developed a training module, video and booklet for their sales associates with guidelines and questions to ask customers as they determined together what would best suit that company’s requirements.
That led to writing my own book….. now used by human resource departments to give to all employees as a guideline.
So let me get back to an easy way of explaining what business casual looks like.
I divided BC into 3 categories called High Level, Mid-Level and Base Level BC. Here’s a brief explanation of each one:
High-Level: This is a more relaxed version of the traditional business professional.
Choose this level when giving a presentation or working with a client. A jacket or blazer is the key piece of this wardrobe. With the new flexible dress codes, if it’s not necessary to wear a jacket or blazer, make it a habit to keep one handy in your office just in case you need to “up” the level when a situation calls for more power dressing.
Mid-Level: This level is most widely accepted for business casual as seen in the majority of companies.
Jackets can be replaced with a sweater. Most training programs, conventions, brainstorming meetings, or planning sessions would be fine if you choose Mid-Level Business Casual. The range of options is widest at mid-level using layering pieces to add variety.
Base Level: This level is for employees in industries whose dress code is always informal, where there is no customer contact.
Wear this style in an atmosphere where flexibility and comfort are conducive to productivity. Dress at this level for company off-site meetings, working retreats, or a more physical day at the office.
Ok – so what if your company now says you can dress even below BC…and wear items like shoes without socks for men…or sandals for women…or shirts not tucked in….or whatever. My suggestion is to play it safe and “dress for where you want to BE, not where you ARE.” In other words, always consider the message your clothing makes about your brand and show your brand by what you wear.
That’s My Voice: What’s yours? Let me hear your wisdom and I’ll send you a free article I wrote for SW Spirit Magazine.
“Do it right in the presence you exude. Do it right in how you communicate. Do it right in how you demonstrate a strong personal brand. Do it right in how you look, act, walk, talk and ARE from the inside out. Valerie’s tips will build your self-confidence knowing you can Do It Right.”
“Business leaders refer to communications, teamwork, and etiquette as “the soft skills.” They are not the softskills if they can get you fired. They are the foundation of business relationships, and nothing happens in business until there is a relationship. This book fills an important gap in the education of new and seasoned professionals.”
~Tom Trotter-IBM Executive & Community Leader