Business Casual/Other dress codes

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KestrelLowing
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Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby KestrelLowing » Fri May 25, 2012 1:07 pm UTC

As I will be heading out into the 'real world' fairly soon and currently have an internship, I thought it would be nice to talk about what the frick business casual actually is. I've managed to fake though it all so far, basically because I'm an intern/co-op and the standards are pretty low.

So - what is business casual? Where do you find clothes? What's your go-to? What's not ok?

Selfishly, I'm particularly interested in female business casual - particularly when working in male dominated environments, or when limited in clothing (for example, if pants are required).

Oh, and this would probably be a good place for any other dress code issues - like "smart casual", or "executive casual", etc.

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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby JudeMorrigan » Fri May 25, 2012 1:17 pm UTC

In my experience, business casual boils down to "anything nicer than jeans and a t-shirt - and if they're nice jeans, they're probably ok too." I personally wear a button down shirt and slacks. I used to wear polo shirts fairly regularly, but I stopped out of personal preference a few years back. I think the most common thing I've seen ladies I've worked with wear is slacks and a blouse of some sort. The top can vary fairly widely. There's nothing wrong with skirts (well, outside of the work I've done in a chemistry lab where you had to keep covered up for safety reasons), it just seems like most female coworkers have preferred pants.

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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby Enuja » Fri May 25, 2012 1:48 pm UTC

Business casual is professional business clothing without requiring suit jackets and ties. Which is a really male-centric way to look at it, but that's the origin of the dress code, so that's the way it is. Because women's clothing doesn't really fit into this system, women usually have more leeway with what they can wear. Jeans and polo shirts are right out, if the business is actually serious about business casual, but many aren't, so you might very well be able to get away with those. Dresses are skirts are appropriate, as long as they aren't sun dresses or otherwise casual dresses or shirts. One big problem with business casual is that it's a huge catch-all category, and contains a lot of variation. It's only casual in comparison to business formal, not in comparison to what most people wear most of the time.

A quick google search netted Virginia Tech's Career Services page on Buisiness Casual. It's got a bunch of sex-specific stuff that really bothers me: telling women not to wear club-wear or velvet, but not bothering to tell men that and nattering on about slit length and position in skirts, telling women that a little bit of makeup is better than none, ect., but it's a fairly accurate, detailed list that does accurately reflect current business cultures. It also buys the general idea that dressing "appropriately" speaks to your "judgement," instead of speaking to your social class background and experience. Sure, information like this broadens the number of people who can pass as being of sufficient class quality to succeed in the business, but that doesn't make dress choices about "judgement."

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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby AvatarIII » Fri May 25, 2012 1:54 pm UTC

JudeMorrigan wrote:In my experience, business casual boils down to "anything nicer than jeans and a t-shirt - and if they're nice jeans, they're probably ok too." I personally wear a button down shirt and slacks. I used to wear polo shirts fairly regularly, but I stopped out of personal preference a few years back. I think the most common thing I've seen ladies I've worked with wear is slacks and a blouse of some sort. The top can vary fairly widely. There's nothing wrong with skirts (well, outside of the work I've done in a chemistry lab where you had to keep covered up for safety reasons), it just seems like most female coworkers have preferred pants.


It might be a cultural thing, although I'm not sure where you are from, (although I assume not the UK by the use of the term "pants"), I work in a lab, and most base level female scientist wear jeans, and above that level, when jeans are frowned upon, most female team leaders and managers wear skirts, off the top of my head I can only think of one manager level female scientist who wears trousers regularly.

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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby JudeMorrigan » Fri May 25, 2012 2:03 pm UTC

AvatarIII wrote:It might be a cultural thing, although I'm not sure where you are from, (although I assume not the UK by the use of the term "pants"), I work in a lab, and most base level female scientist wear jeans, and above that level, when jeans are frowned upon, most female team leaders and managers wear skirts, off the top of my head I can only think of one manager level female scientist who wears trousers regularly.

It's entirely possible that it's a cultural thing. I've spent my entire life in the U.S. deep South. (I was actually just using the term "pants" because KestrelLowing did in her original post though.) Locally, there are ladies who wear skirts regularly, but they're very much the exception. My experience does match yours as far as lab-wear goes though. I'm talking strictly about office (ok, cubical) wear.

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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby Angua » Fri May 25, 2012 2:14 pm UTC

I generally go with dress trousers and a nice blouse. Trousers are great because then you have pockets, which are always helpful if you just want to pop down to the break room to buy something from the vending machine, so don't want to carry a handbag around with you (or pretty much whenever you have to walk anywhere and take things with you like money, keycard, phone). Hair is either a ponytail or a bun. No makeup (though I don't wear it generally, so I associate wearing makeup with being really dressed up).
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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby Enuja » Fri May 25, 2012 2:20 pm UTC

I've seen some advice about business clothing, especially for formal business interviews, for women to wear skirts instead of pants. But that advice always looks seriously out of date: in any business situation I can imagine, a fantastic suit with dress trousers is as good as a skirt.* Maybe the women AvatarIII knows who are "manager level" scientists are older, and/or like to wear skirts because of their own personal history. I don't think that the one woman AvatarIII who wears trousers is dressing inappropriately, and I doubt AvatarIII or anyone around her thinks that person is dressing inappropriately.

*I noticed while being called for jury duty (I was dismissed) that the female lawyers were all wearing high heels and knee-length skirts. It pissed me off. But that's literally the only career I've seen where women are expected wear skirts or dresses instead of trousers.

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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby Angua » Fri May 25, 2012 2:22 pm UTC

Most of the women in the lab I was in wore trousers. I think quite a lot of the female lecturers I've had have worn trousers as well.
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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby KestrelLowing » Fri May 25, 2012 2:37 pm UTC

At least for me, it's required you wear pants (I'm sorry, but the word trousers is just weird for me to use) as I'm in engineering. If you go into the lab/manufacturing areas, you have to wear pants (not so much for the leg-baring issue as polyester pants are probably just as bad as having bare legs, but the extra fabric that could get caught in something issue).

But I guess, what consists a 'blouse' opposed to a shirt? I know blouses are fancier, but how do you tell if it's fancy enough?

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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby Angua » Fri May 25, 2012 2:38 pm UTC

A blouse is a shirt worn by women.
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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby Jesse » Fri May 25, 2012 3:06 pm UTC

Angua wrote:A blouse is a shirt worn by women.


Also the buttons are backwards

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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby AvatarIII » Fri May 25, 2012 3:11 pm UTC

Angua wrote:A blouse is a shirt worn by women.


When saying the word blouse my immediate thought is puffy sleeves and frills. but I think any shirt designed specifically for fitting a woman is a blouse.

Angua wrote:Most of the women in the lab I was in wore trousers. I think quite a lot of the female lecturers I've had have worn trousers as well.


the difference in this case may be that I assume you are talking about an academic lab, whereas I am talking about a corporate lab.

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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby gorcee » Fri May 25, 2012 4:15 pm UTC

Enuja wrote:I've seen some advice about business clothing, especially for formal business interviews, for women to wear skirts instead of pants. But that advice always looks seriously out of date: in any business situation I can imagine, a fantastic suit with dress trousers is as good as a skirt.* Maybe the women AvatarIII knows who are "manager level" scientists are older, and/or like to wear skirts because of their own personal history. I don't think that the one woman AvatarIII who wears trousers is dressing inappropriately, and I doubt AvatarIII or anyone around her thinks that person is dressing inappropriately.

*I noticed while being called for jury duty (I was dismissed) that the female lawyers were all wearing high heels and knee-length skirts. It pissed me off. But that's literally the only career I've seen where women are expected wear skirts or dresses instead of trousers.



Really? Because I know plenty of female lawyers that don't have to wear skirts. You're indicting an entire profession on a single experience.

As it stands, pencil skirts are coming back into trend. It may simply be that the female lawyers during your one day of experience all happened to wear skirts. Or maybe they're trend-conscious. Or maybe they have experience where wearing a skirt + heels gives them an advantage (voir dire lawyers are often specialists, and can be unscrupulous in getting their way).

As far as business-casual engineering for women (minus skirt outfits): a pair of slacks, a nice shirt/blouse (honestly, they're really the same thing, stay away from prints typically), and a blazer or cardigan. Heels are not really expected. Flats are still in trend, so wear what's comfortable (and if you find yourself needing to go out to the production floor often, make sure you have a decent pair of boots).

Edit:


Enuja wrote:Business casual is professional business clothing without requiring suit jackets and ties. Which is a really male-centric way to look at it, but that's the origin of the dress code, so that's the way it is. Because women's clothing doesn't really fit into this system, women usually have more leeway with what they can wear. Jeans and polo shirts are right out, if the business is actually serious about business casual, but many aren't, so you might very well be able to get away with those. Dresses are skirts are appropriate, as long as they aren't sun dresses or otherwise casual dresses or shirts. One big problem with business casual is that it's a huge catch-all category, and contains a lot of variation. It's only casual in comparison to business formal, not in comparison to what most people wear most of the time.

A quick google search netted Virginia Tech's Career Services page on Buisiness Casual. It's got a bunch of sex-specific stuff that really bothers me: telling women not to wear club-wear or velvet, but not bothering to tell men that and nattering on about slit length and position in skirts, telling women that a little bit of makeup is better than none, ect., but it's a fairly accurate, detailed list that does accurately reflect current business cultures. It also buys the general idea that dressing "appropriately" speaks to your "judgement," instead of speaking to your social class background and experience. Sure, information like this broadens the number of people who can pass as being of sufficient class quality to succeed in the business, but that doesn't make dress choices about "judgement."


That page has guidelines for men and women, guidelines for men, and guidelines for women. Furthermore, as someone who lives in Virginia and has been to the (few) clubs around here, a good majority of the men go to clubs in what would be considered business, or maybe fancy business, attire. Often times, guys dress up like stock brokers for a night on the club. So, contextually, the specifics of that advice is actually quite relevant. So, a guy could dress like he's going to a club (depending on the type of club), and be fine.

Regarding the skirt thing... there's a lot of bad advice out there from magazines like Cosmo, etc. regardinging appropriateness for interview attire. For many students, this will be the only reference point they have as to what's appropriate. It's not bad to provide an alternative viewpoint.

Not everything is a misogynist plot. But then again, it's these forums...

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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby Enuja » Fri May 25, 2012 9:24 pm UTC

I did link to the page, as good advice, didn't I? I complained about it, yes, but because I, personally, always like to highlight gender assumptions and expectations that people have. This doesn't have anything to do with this forum in particular: I do the same thing in person, and whenever I write, whatever the venue. Yes, I'm obsessed with gender. No, I don't feel the need to apologize about it.

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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby Endless Mike » Mon May 28, 2012 1:44 am UTC

From what I've seen, dress code levels are a bit more vague for women than for men. Business casual for men typically means a dress shirt and pants but no tie. Jeans are usually reserved for casual. Around my office, women wear skirts, pants, blouses, whatever. There doesn't seem to be much of a common theme other than that the older women tend towards pants and the younger towards skirts, but even that's not always the case. I will say that our lawyers (both male and female) tend to wear suits (both pant and skirt suits on the women).

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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby Panonadin » Mon May 28, 2012 2:03 am UTC

Most of the time any place you work even if it's listed as business casual, they have a list of guidelines for both men and women.

I would say when you first go in interviews/first days, dress business and then tone it down as you see fit.

Enuja wrote:*I noticed while being called for jury duty (I was dismissed) that the female lawyers were all wearing high heels and knee-length skirts. It pissed me off. But that's literally the only career I've seen where women are expected wear skirts or dresses instead of trousers.


Out of curiosity, why did this piss you off? Because they chose to dress a certain way?
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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby Noc » Mon May 28, 2012 3:01 am UTC

Uniformity where there might otherwise be variety implies restriction; if you see a number of people dressed the same way, it suggests that their clothing options are being restricted. This is not a problem in and of itself: for instance, if you go to a party and note that everyone is wearing a costume, you could reasonably conclude that costumed dress is mandatory without passing any kind of judgment about it.

However, conclusions like "It is apparently considered professionally unacceptable for female lawyers to wear trousers" may very well be kind of irksome, for reasons that...oh I'm sorry, we're not in this thread anymore, are we? You seem to have gotten lost, why don't you head back over there instead of spawning identical arguments in adjacent threads. Thanks!
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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby Panonadin » Mon May 28, 2012 3:13 am UTC

Noc wrote:However, conclusions like "It is apparently considered professionally unacceptable for female lawyers to wear trousers" may very well be kind of irksome, for reasons that...


How the shit do you leap from "I saw all the woman lawyers wearing skirts and high heels" to "It is apparently considered professionally unacceptable for female lawyers to wear trousers"

Would be the question I would pose if that's what the quoted person said.

Since she/he didn't hint at WHY that pissed them off, would be why I asked. I don't assume that people go around, making assumptions about other people or their professions based on what they wore to work.
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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby Noc » Mon May 28, 2012 4:09 am UTC

Panonadin wrote:Since she/he didn't hint at WHY that pissed them off, would be why I asked.

Okay, let's do some Critical Reading!
Enuja wrote:I noticed while being called for jury duty (I was dismissed) that the female lawyers were all wearing high heels and knee-length skirts. It pissed me off.
Hmm. I wonder why this bothers her? Lets keep reading!
Enuja wrote:That's literally the only career I've seen where women are expected wear skirts or dresses instead of trousers.
Oh hey, that clears that up. There's the answer to your question, right there in the thing you quoted! She is pissed off because law is apparently a profession where women are expected to wear skirts or dresses instead of trousers, a phenomenon which this anecdote serves to illustrate. The implication is that their mode of dress was compulsory, as opposed to their uniformity simply being a coincidence of personal choice.

If you truly have difficulty with reading comprehension, then . . . well, then I've been a bit of a jerk, and I genuinely and wholeheartedly apologize for my lack of patience. I understand that that's a thing! Which would also explain why we both read your last post differently: see, a common structure for accusatory queries is to ask a question and then rhetorically propose an answer. (Such as, "Why won't you tell us where you were on the night of the 22nd? Is it because you're the murderer?") Thus, your post reads as an accusation, where you accuse Enuja of being angered by the choice of these people to dress a certain way -- which in this context is an accusation of hypocrisy. Additionally, the "accusation" reading has particular weight because - as mentioned above - the answer to your question was clearly inferrable from her post; barring genuine misunderstanding, the only reason to ask such a question would be to imply that she was misrepresenting her motives.

Now, if you are genuinely curious about the veracity of Enuja's generalization about the law profession -- about whether this is something she has further experience with, or if she's just extrapolating from That One Time She Had Jury Duty -- you could ask about that! "I'm curious about your experience in this matter and how you came to this conclusion," etc. But accusing someone of hypocrisy and disenginuity is not a good way to go about gathering information. If this truly is a misunderstanding, of a simple words-flub on your part, then I apologize . . . but if not, if you are attempting to be both combative and evasive, than stop it. Please.
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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby Panonadin » Mon May 28, 2012 5:10 am UTC

Enuja wrote:*I noticed while being called for jury duty (I was dismissed) that the female lawyers were all wearing high heels and knee-length skirts. It pissed me off. But that's literally the only career I've seen where women are expected wear skirts or dresses instead of trousers.


To clarify, hey Enuja,

What gives you the impression that being a lawyer is a career in which woman are expected to wear skirts instead of trousers? Just your personal observation?
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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby Enuja » Mon May 28, 2012 2:44 pm UTC

Here's the full post I put in the woman thread after the jury duty. I think I explain myself quite well there: here I was just referencing that impression. Noc doesn't have the complete story: it was not just the uniformity of dress, but the sexualization of one subset (female lawyers in front of juries) of an intellectual/social career. I was mad at the juries who apparently require such conformity, femininity and sexualization out of women presenting to them. I get that the legal system expects conformity out of its professionals: it was the difference in the conformity of men and women that pissed me off.

After my post in the women thread, we discussed how good my sample probably was. I haven't done a controlled study about it, but I am nonetheless quite convinced that female lawyers before juries show a lot more leg, and wear much higher heels, than male lawyers do! Yes, male lawyers try to look good, too, but that looking good is much easier: buy an expensive suit and polish your shoes.

Thinking about it now, and trying to return this thread to its topic, I suspect that public-contact jobs where you're trying to make a good impression with "professional dress" probably all lean in the direction of conforming to gendered expectations (and current fashion, too), unlike the business casual of engineers, scientists, writers, and vast armies of other white collar workers. So my post above was probably inaccurate: TV reporter, professional speaker, and I'm sure a bunch of other public-contact professional jobs have extremely gender-specific functional dress codes.

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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby Panonadin » Mon May 28, 2012 6:41 pm UTC

I think I would consider where I work mostly business casual.

It's all polo's and wash'n'wear type slacks for the men unless you are managment or director level and then it's suit up.

Woman wear anything but jeans. Skirts/Slacks with anythig but a tshirt on top is considered a blouse around here.
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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby apricity » Mon May 28, 2012 6:57 pm UTC

In my totally biased and unfounded observational experience, mainly from working with (and being one of) younger people, business casual for women seems to be anything you like as long as it's not jeans, sweatpants, printed t-shirts, ripped stuff, sneakers, hoodies, etc. For bottoms, some women wear casual dresses or skirts, and some wear pants. I tend to wear non-jean pants (corduroys, khakis, or trouser-style pants) when I want to be business casual, and I've always fit in well. For shirts, most sleeved shirts that aren't printed t-shirts work fine. Button-downs are the easiest, but can be hard to find the right size if you have big boobs. Non-button downs include polos, shells (yes I know those don't have sleeves but as long as they're nice satiny fabric and worn with skirts or nice pants, they're nice enough to wear on their own), and generally any plain sleeved shirt that isn't see-through and doesn't have an overwhelming pattern (such as animal print). Jackets and cardigans are great for when it's cooler out. As for shoes, you can wear heels or flats. I never wear heels, and it can be harder to find flats, but it's totally doable. Try to wear only closed-toe or peep-toe shoes. Personally, I like my shoes to be the exciting part of my business-casual outfits, so I tend to get bright colored shoes. You can also always accessorize as you want. I like wearing long necklaces with my otherwise plain shirts so my outfits aren't so boring. Belts are fun, and bracelets.

Business casual for men seems to mean a button-down shirt and khakis or black pants. I don't know if I've ever seen anything else, but then I don't pay as close attention to men's clothing.
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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby modularblues » Thu Jun 07, 2012 9:34 am UTC

Partially depends on the industry and region of U.S. I'm in engineering and a liberal part of U.S. where people mostly go in jeans. In my internship or research group presentations, I tend to go for something like this.

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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby gorcee » Thu Jun 07, 2012 9:36 pm UTC

Enuja wrote:I did link to the page, as good advice, didn't I? I complained about it, yes, but because I, personally, always like to highlight gender assumptions and expectations that people have. This doesn't have anything to do with this forum in particular: I do the same thing in person, and whenever I write, whatever the venue. Yes, I'm obsessed with gender. No, I don't feel the need to apologize about it.


You should, when you go out of your way to nitpick something and misrepresent it (specifically, one gets the impression from your post that the page includes only sex-specific advice, and no general advice whatsoever). Your praise of the site is begrudging at best, and you purposefully avoid context, shading your ignorance in that regard with highbrow notions designed to evoke guilt, not discussion.

I, too, am keenly interested in gender politics and concepts, but I don't look for every possible opportunity to attack the status quo and project guilt on anyone and everyone who might be listening.

Edit: I submitted before I finished what I was going to say.

The Virginia Tech site is great, comprehensive advice, and obviously your mileage will vary, depending on your field, job, company, and region. There's nothing sexist on that site at all in any practical context.

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Re: Business Casual/Other dress codes

Postby Adacore » Fri Jun 08, 2012 2:43 am UTC

I would reiterate the advice of starting out wearing full-business when you start then scaling it down to fit in with wherever you're working.

My office in Korea is definitely business casual: suit trousers (or similar) with a shirt (short sleeved in summer), no tie, no suit jacket for men; blouse or other 'nice' top, and either a skirt or trousers for women. This being Korea, skirt level can be anything from knee-length up to crotch-length. Most women here wear high heels, but some (especially the female engineers and managers, not that those are at all numerous) wear flats. Of course, again, Korea, so most people slip out of their shoes as soon as they get to their desk and spend the day in comfy sandal/slipper things.

Addendum: on lawyers, my sister is a lawyer in London and almost always wears trousers to work, with relatively 'sensible' shoes (since she walks half an hour to the office every day).


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