Posted by: RoddyJones | September 18, 2008

Decoding the Office Dress Codes

In the age of corporate branding, image is the key for almost all organizations. Corporate brands distinguish organizations from their competitors, orient the organization in the minds of customers and employees, and create a perception of what an organization stands for. A large part of corporate branding involves how employees conduct themselves, as such, dress codes have always been integrated into organizational corporate strategy.

Your company’s objective in establishing dress codes is primarily to enable employees to project the professional image. There are companies for instance that serve clients face-to-face and hence, require a formal dress code to bring a message of trustworthiness, quality, and knowledge.

Different industries have their own way of defining dress codes. These days, the urban professional woman is confounded by a handful of vague terms to refer to dress codes for certain occasions or days of the week. Depending on the organization, the work dress code may be written in great detail, whereas, most offices simply circulate terms as “business casual”, “casual”, “formal”, “dress down days”, etc.¬† Whether you’re just starting out in the working world, starting a new job, or simply moving to another department, figuring out what a dress code means can be quite confusing.

So what is exactly the deal in these dress codes then? Generally, there are three fundamental terms that are used in organizations these days, namely, formal business attire, corporate casual looks, and casual Fridays.

Formal Business Attire means business suits (a matched skirt and jacket) and sometimes, pantsuits (matched pants and blazer). A made to order suit always gives you the most polished look for this so-called boardroom look. Some women even up the ante by wearing ties. The urban professional woman knows that this type of dress code imposes that she wears closed-toe shoes, tailored blouses made of silk or cotton, conservative hairstyle, minimal jewelry, and toned-down make-up.

Corporate Casual Looks is also oftentimes referred to as “smart business”. This offers a certain level of flexibility than traditional business attire. Dressy pants and a matching blouse, sleek tops and tailored skirts are examples of this look. You can also add some sweaters or cardigans instead of a formal blazer. For accessories, flat leather shoes are considered corporate casual.

Casual Fridays is the most relaxed of all dress codes, if not the most popular as well. Sadly, the urban professional has obviously only one day for this attire. Also known as dress down days, this does not mean that women can come as they please. Your clothes has still to be tasteful, which includes a printed blouse, khaki pants, open-toed sandals, and a bit of edgy jewelry.

Dress codes are not meant to constrain you from expressing your individual style. However, your appearance on the job can still be used a mirror that reflects your personal taste in the context of the office culture and the nature of your job. The rule of thumb is, what you wear says a lot about your work. Keep this rule in mind when reaching into your closet at the start of every workday, and you will always come out as a winner.


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