(excerpted from an article in Forbes magazine, written by staff member Jaquelyn Smith)
Now that warmer weather has moved in, many employees are beginning to sport skimpier, more casual summertime garb. And as the temperatures rise, it’ll get even worse.
Nicole Williams, a LinkedIn career expert and best-selling author, notes, “When the weather is warmer we toss on our spring brights and sandals,” she says. “I’ve seen flip-flops, short shorts and tiny tank tops at professional workplaces.” But, these are all office attire no-nos.
Every workplace has different dress code expectations and policies–but if you’re working in the corporate world or an office environment, there are general rules of thumb all employees should follow.
It is always important to look professional and appropriate in the workplace. Important meetings and outings can happen at the drop of a hat, and if an employee is dressed inappropriately, it can reflect very poorly on their company.
“Dressing for your career is very important no matter what the temperature is outside,” Williams adds. “You want to be taken seriously at all costs. You don’t want to be dismissed because your skirt is too short. Remember that you are dressing for the job, raise, and promotion. You’ll be seen as more of a thought leader in a professional suit versus a halter top.”
Peter Handal, chief executive of Dale Carnegie Training, says high skirt hemlines, revealing blouses, sheer fabrics, and bare legs are just some common wardrobe mistakes women tend to make during warmer months at work. “In relaxed offices, women can push boundaries as well–too-casual shoes such as sandals and flip flops, too short of shorts, and revealing dresses all seem to be more prevalent as the weather warms up.”
Williams agrees. She cites flip flops, shorts, spaghetti straps, halter tops, tube tops, and miniskirts as the biggest attire “mishaps” among women. “These all belong at the beach, bar, gym, or privacy of your home–not at the office,” she says. “Lose the sunglasses once you’re indoors – that’s a huge summer attire offense. Your Ray Bans shouldn’t be used as a head band. And make sure your bra straps are safely tucked away. This is a major distraction and makes you come off as messy and scattered.”
Men are guilty, too. While their summer garments aren’t necessarily “inappropriate,” they can be very unprofessional, says Handal. “More casual blazers and pants frequent the office, as they are often made with lighter fabrics than some traditional suits, and can be looked at as not professional enough. In creative fields, men might push towards wearing shorts as opposed to pants, and even wear more casual shoes – perhaps loafers as opposed to dress shoes, and look unkempt.”
Williams says the biggest summer attire faux pas for men is untucked shirts, “or anything else that makes them look like they’re going to a bar.” Flip flops, shorts, and jerseys should be left for the weekend, too, she says.
To avoid any problems, Handal suggests that employers have a clear dress code in place.
“A good way of doing this is to include a list of examples of inappropriate garments within the policy,” he says. “While it may seem silly asking employees not to wear flip-flops or tank tops, it is not nearly as awkward as having to send someone home to change when he or she is dressed inappropriately. It may also be helpful for bosses to reiterate that ‘if you have to think about it, then it is probably not appropriate.”
When in doubt, don’t. “If you think a piece of clothing could be inappropriate for the office, it probably is,” he says.
Strike a Balance: A comfortable, happy employee is a more productive employee. However, employers must also remember that sloppy or skimpy summer dress can be distracting to co-workers and can also affect productivity and customer service, Handal explains. “Employers need to balance the needs of their clients and corporate culture when determining appropriate dress codes for warmer weather.”
Be polished: No matter what the time of year, it’s important to make a good impression and present a professional image, he says. “Just because your company has a relaxed dress code does not mean you can be a slob. Make sure your clothes are clean and presentable.”