Summer Business Dress – Is Skin In?

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young businesswoman in white dressIt’s summer time and temperatures are rising, but is that any excuse for dressing down to the bare flesh in the office? Walk into most any workplace these days and you will see more skin in fifteen minutes than a dermatologist does in a week. Everywhere you turn there is sleeveless, strapless, halter tops, crop tops, mini-skirts, sandals, thongs, flip flops and not a hint of pantyhose anywhere.

What’s this all about–this lack of professionalism in office attire? I happen to believe that it all has to do with the now infamous “Casual Friday.” I wish I knew the person whose misguided idea that was. Who decided that an organization which sells the same products, provides the same services and interacts with same customers Monday through Thursday should change its entire demeanor on Friday?  From my perspective, presenting one image four days a week and another on the fifth says, “Hey, we have a new business model for today.” The other message is that this is an organization that does not value business etiquette and does not respect its clients.

Was this some supervisor’s way of tricking employees into thinking that there actually is a four-day work week? On the other hand, was it a way of handling disgruntled employees and giving into their complaints about not being able to wear their favorite comfy clothes to work?

There are a number of issues that come into play here. The first is that business etiquette and professionalism go hand in hand. The way you dress in the workplace says as much about you as your handshake, your voice mail greeting and your e-mail messages. There are rules to follow for all of these if you want to build positive relationships with your clients and if you want a productive and profitable business.

It seems that employers have let business dress get way out of hand and that some employees have never been exposed (pardon the pun) to the concept of “dress for success.” So how do we fix this and whose job is it? The responsibility lies with both employers and employees.

For the employer:

  • If there is no dress code, create one.
  • If there is a dress code, enforce it. That means sending employees home to change clothes if need be.
  • Model the dress code yourself and set an example. After all, the rule is “Dress for the job you want; not the job you have.”

For the employee:

  • Know the dress policy and follow it.
  • When in doubt, dress up, not down.
  • If you stand before your closet asking yourself, “Should I wear this to work,” the answer is “no.”
  • If you don’t have to change your clothes when you get home from work, you obviously wore the wrong thing to the office.

Keep in mind that trendy is not necessarily professional. Fashion designers do not create wardrobes for the office. Make your fashion statement after five and your professional one between nine and five. The office dress code has a direct effect on whether you and your organization are viewed as polished and professional, consistent and credible.

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Photo from Savannah magazine

Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website,

2 thoughts on “Summer Business Dress – Is Skin In?

  1. Selene McGraw

    I disagree with you about your views on casual
    Friday. It’s there to break the rudiments of the normal work days, but I agree that “casual” gets out of hand. Employees should remember to wear their clothes FOR the company and to keep them well-pressed and clean.

  2. kratom

    I am following your blog regularly and got great information. I really like the tips you have given. Thanks a lot for sharing. Will be referring a lot of friends about this. Keep blogging


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