Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Dress Codes for Professional Women

A female manager, new to her job, is having a problem. No, it’s not a sexual harassment problem. It’s not a problem with women employees feeling diminished and demeaned by their male counterparts.

No, it’s about the way young female interns dress for work. America’s female college students do not have a clue about how to dress professionally. One would suspect that fashion magazines address this question in significant detail… all the time. Perhaps today’s enlightened coeds are too sophisticated to read fashion magazines. Perhaps they are too sophisticated to follow a company dress code. Perhaps they think that life is one big party.

To the dismay of their female manager, the female interns do not have a clue about what is or is not professional attire. Perhaps they are expressing their individuality. Perhaps they are making a statement in defiance of dress codes. Aside from the fact that many of them are sent home to change clothing— a bit of humiliation, that—they ought, by the time they have reached the age of adult reason to understand what it means to dress professionally. As it happens, they do not.

If you did not think that today's millennial generation is in trouble, revise your opinion.

In a letter to New York Magazine’s Alison Green the manager describes her perplexity:

I understand most interns don’t have a large, functional work wardrobe yet, but some of the clothing I have seen is atrocious and definitely unprofessional. Some examples are skirts that are well above mid-thigh, visible thongs, sheer blouses or tank tops under jackets instead of button-down shirts, full smoky eye shadow with false lashes, and non-natural lip or hair colors. One of the interns we have this year wore a jacket and tank top that had pieces missing and showed the skin of her lower back and under her arms.

This is my first year as a manager and I have had to send several interns home for not following the code. I feel bad doing this because they are here to learn, but not dressing professionally could lead to them not being taken seriously once they start working after college. I figure it is better for them to find out now rather than once they’re in post-college jobs.

The dress code does state clearly that suits must be worn and employees must look professional, but I’m thinking that these interns are new to the working world and might not know what professional means, or they might have a different idea of it.

Since we all strongly oppose sexual harassment on the job and since we all oppose any hint that a woman is being seen for her sexuality and not her mind, we do not understand why these young women would dress for work as though they were going to a club or a pick-up bar. Why do they not know where they are and what their function is? Apparently, they did not teach it in Women’s Studies 103.

Anyway, Green responds, delicately, because telling a woman that she is dressed inappropriately is like telling her that there is something wrong with her body.

Sagely, Green suggests that these interns need to receive an entry level lesson from their manager. Since they have no idea of what professional dress is, they need to be told, specifically and in detail. 

Back in the day, when I was in college, women (and even men) went to class dressed professionally. Nowadays, while men seem mostly capable of adapting to a company dress code, women are not.

Green wrote:

But for people who are brand new to the work world, broad categories can leave a ton of room for misinterpretation, which is why your interns may genuinely not know that cutout tops and visible underwear are issues….

So at the start of their internships, get really specific — as in, “In the past, some of the things we’ve seen interns wear that aren’t work-appropriate are sheer shirts, anything that exposes your underwear, clothes with cutouts, and exposed shoulders.” You can even find some photos online and use those to illustrate your points! People aren’t born knowing what “professional” means, and ideally an internship is the time when they’ll learn it. And yes, you might feel like you’re being really remedial — but it’s so much kinder to give them this guidance at the start than to wait for them to mess up before you clue them in.

On the off chance that you need guidance in this area, here's a thoroughly professional look from Nora Gardner

Have you tried our new Zahara Dress? Light and breezy - made from our custom cooling performance fabric - this dress takes you from day to night in effortless fashion. #noragardner #WorkHardDressSmart #sheworenora


trigger warning said...

Personally speaking, I'm only sorry I'm too old to have experienced slutwalk at work.

Anonymous said...

One thing to remember, in addition to the above points, is that women have an incentive to dress inappropriately at work. Or, rather, incentives. First, the alpha males, especially in management, appreciate it and will reward it with more work and pay, within a certain level of reasonableness. Second, men are barred from saying anything, so women feel they can do as they wish.

Wootah said...

Have a casual dress day and then use that to show the minimum standard.

Linda Fox said...

Visible bras or boobage - that's my hot button. I'm not just talking the straps showing at the edges, but completely different colors (like a red bra with a white shirt. Or a regular bra with cut-in shoulders, that leave the underlying foundation completely on display.

Or, the boobage overhang. A lot of it comes from improperly fitting bras in - shall we say - well-endowed girls. A right of passage for all girls BEFORE they hit the workplace should be to organize a spree to a department store with a properly trained bra fitter (it's a true specialty). The first time I went, I balked at the size (a G cup!) and the price.

When I saw how much better my clothes fit, I shut up. And paid. Best money I ever put out.

As weight creeps up on women, so does the boob size. Not only does it lead to discomfort, but also overhang at the top, and a flabby appearance at the sides and back. I hate to say it, but Black women are the worst. Often have the size, but not a properly fitting bra.

Sam L. said...

LF, could it be that Black women can't afford buying bras at stores with bra-fitters?

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Provocative display is the feminine form of aggression... toward men and women. It is competitive. The female form is beautiful, magnetic. It is raw power. The confident, curvaceous lady in red says to all "Look at me, I own you."

There's nothing wrong with clothes that fit and look beautiful (thank you, Nora Gardner). But provacative feminine display does not belong in the workplace. It is threatening to other women and distracting to men. Not to mention tasteless.

America's female college students do not have a clue about a lot of things. Wardrobe is just scraping the surface. And I'm with Linda on the bras.