A year ago MPs stated that the government must enforce a law to ban sexist dress rules at work, in particular that discriminate against women. I was of course like many women delighted to hear about this, surely to have a rule for one person, but not another because of their gender is both unfair and sexist?
What interests me as an Image Consultant and someone who works in the corporate world, is how different people will ultimately interpret dress codes in different ways. It’s all down to our style personality you see; so whilst one woman may be horrified at the thought of having to wear 2-4 inch heels on a daily basis, another wouldn’t dream of stepping out in anything less. The key thing is that we should all have a choice as to what we wear in the workplace.
In my mind it is all about being dressed appropriately for the environment you’re working in; so you are well groomed and comfortable but still given the freedom to express your unique sense of style too. After all, its takes seven seconds to make a first impression, so for an employer the goal must be to have employees who are appropriately dressed and also comfortable in what they are wearing. An employee who feels comfortable and confident will certainly perform better in their role and represent their employer in the best possible light. These days it’s not just your CV people look at, we live in a social media crazy world, everyone and everything is about image. As sad as it is, it’s true so we all need to be very aware of the image we portray particularly when it comes to the workplace.
In a smart-casual office environment for example, a dramatic style personality would most certainly be donning her 3 inch heels on a daily basis, she simply couldn’t concentrate in flats (as a famous dramatic once said). These heels may also be in a vivid colour and you can be sure that her footwear will compliment her on-trend office outfit. Her natural style personality colleague on the other hand, will look at those glorious heels and cringe. They’re just not for her. Instead she slips on a comfortable pair of flats worn with trousers and fixes her hair in a simple, no-fuss style to ensure it doesn’t bother her throughout the day. Both are dressed appropriately for the work environment that they’re in, just in very different ways.
Next take a romantic style personality, she may opt for some elegant Chanel-inspired court shoes with a mid-height heel. Her office look will be more detailed, perhaps a floral printed blouse or some delicate jewellery to off-set her smart work look. A classic style personality will opt for a more understated, slightly traditional look – a jacket and dress, skirt or trousers, comfortable yet smart shoes. Her whole outfit will be co-ordinated beautifully in tonal colours and with very little make-up or jewellery.
Ultimately, what you wear at work should be appropriate for the industry you work in, and for your role within the organisation. The key to dress codes is flexibility. Trust your employees to dress in an appropriate way, to present a well-groomed, professional exterior in their workplace and allow them to show some of the personal qualities that make the world the diverse and colourful place that it is!
I work with many companies advising them on dress code, being part of the induction process so that staff have a very clear picture of what is expected. I also run corporate style workshops on Image & Personal Brand, these are a great way to help your staff understand the importance of image and just how important it is to dress well. To find out more about my workshops visit my website on www.appearanceandattitude.com