Professional Appearance In American Business
Professional Appearance In American Business
Phyllis Davis (Business Etiquette Consultant) gives expert video advice on: What is appropriate business attire for women?; What is appropriate 'business casual' attire for women?; Is it appropriate for women in business to wear prints and bright colors? and more...
Why has the etiquette of business attire become less rigid in recent years?
The etiquette of business attire has become less rigid in recent years as the technology industry brought that on. Certainly in the early days of Microsoft and Apple they told their programmers they could wear anything they wanted to work. And they provided them cafeterias with free food, and gave them comfortable offices, and gave them full choices to be as elaborate or as comfortable as they wanted to be. Many of them even slept there at night, slept in their clothes, whatever they needed to do, because of the long hours and intense isolated concentration. Now, that leaked out into the mainstream business, and they offered it as a perk to their business associates, to wear business casual.
What is appropriate business attire for women?
Appropriate business attire for women seems so simple, but are sleeveless blouses appropriate in the workplace? Some people say no, and I don't know if they're wrong or not, it's not up to me to make that determination. In a conservative workplace, if you walk into a meeting you need to either put a sweater on or a jacket to be considered a serious businesswoman. Are strapless sandals and being hoseless in the workplace considered professional? Most people in American business today, in banks, insist that woman wear pantyhose and skirts. Pant-suits are not allowed in high levels of banking and insurance today. Now business-casual Friday is employed in most companies in America. I would say that the majority of companies in America today have fifty employees or less and thus the dress codes are very casual. You can wear sandals, you can wear sleeveless blouses, you don't have to wear pantyhose, you can wear pants, there are many things. But high mainstream business today is very conservative.
What is appropriate 'business casual' attire for women?
For women's business casual attire, either pants or a knee-length skirt is appropriate in the workplace. No cleavage is appropriate as companies are sending people home with too much cleavage. In the workplace it is considered inappropriate today. Sweater sets are great in the workplace because of air conditioning and a jacket is appropriate, but nothing too baggy. Big bulky knit sweaters in the workplace are considered unprofessional. I can describe a woman's look in the workplace in one word, whether it is conservative or business casual. The word is tailored. A tailored look that shows your waistline a little bit is appropriate in the workplace.
Is it appropriate for women in business to wear prints and bright colors?
Solid colours are best in the workplace, but if you want to add a jacket that's got some design to it, go ahead. It's easier to mix a wardrobe on three or four colours, especially if you're just starting in business. If you want to build your basic wardrobe in black and bone and taupe and maybe grey or loden green, it's great to build and mix and match your wardrobe. But if you buy things with prints, you can only wear that print with that one thing. In other words, if you've got something that had a flower design on it, you'd be very limited, but if you got that flower design in your wardrobe colours, you have a safer bet of mixing and extending the length of a wardrobe.
How can a woman structure and maintain a wardrobe that shows an understanding of business etiquette?
A woman can maintain and structure a wardrobe that shows understanding of business etiquette by, for example, if you own five pairs of pants and five skirts, you're going to wear those 10 outfits everyday; you're going to wear them a lot. So I insist that you invest in quality, not quantity. Invest in a good suit, invest in a well-tailored lined pair of pants – they'll last you much longer and then you don't have to send them to the dry cleaners all of the time – you just have them steam-cleaned just like you would a suit. It's a mistake people make. They think they have to have a suit dry-cleaned every time – they don't. If it's just wrinkled, then just have it steam-cleaned and it'll last longer in your wardrobe.
What are appropriate 'business' and 'business casual' choices for men's attire?
For men in business today, business casual Friday usually means some kind of polo shirt, and it means some kind of pants. If jeans are appropriate attire then they should be clean and pressed and not frayed at the edges. Business casual shoes are interesting as in most places of business today, with business casual Friday they want you to wear socks, but it doesn't always happen. Again, it depends on your industry. Advertising agencies will allow you to wear tennis shoes, and anywhere in the media business casual Friday is usually very casual, with tennis shoes and socks. But in business casual Friday in business, it's usually a tassel loafer for men, and socks. A pair of dress pants that are casual, or a good, well-tailored pair of khakis and a polo shirt that they can put a jacket on if they go into a meeting. Or it can be a short sleeved shirt with an undershirt underneath it. No neck jewellery, generally; its inappropriate for men in the workplace. One good piece of jewellery besides a watch, a wedding ring is a class ring. This is appropriate attire in the workplace for men. Tattoos should be covered in the workplace today, indeed many businesses are insisting on that in strict dress codes today.
When should men wear ties?
Men should wear ties in the workplace if that's part of your culture. But the ties that you wear are important. In other words, if you wear a sport coat, you can wear cotton ties and you can wear knit ties because they're more casual. But you'd never wear a knit tie or a cotton tie with a business suit. With a suit you always wear a silk tie. But you don't always have to wear a silk tie with a sport coat. Neck ties are part of a corporate culture, and it's a good idea to keep one or two of them at the office just in case you have a meeting that comes up.