Category Archives: Fashion Police

When is it too tight at work?

Dear Ms Corporate Manners,
My fellow employee could use a lesson in clothing size. The person isn’t small, but she’s not large either. She has a tendency to wear clothes that are skin tight (pants and shirts), and they show every curve on her body. In fact, this week she wore pants that looked like it could cut her in half around the waist and a top that showed just how tight the waist was. A few customers have brought this up as well. We’re not sure how to bring up the dress code without it being obviously directed toward this person. Please help!!!
Sincerely,
Next Size Up

Dear Next Size Up,
Your human resource manager should be able to discuss this delicate issue with the employee, especially since customers have commented on it. A too-tight look is never flattering and usually too revealing. There are very few legitimate jobs where wearing clingy clothing is a good career move, and your workplace is not one of them.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

Dear Ms. Manners,
My coworker sometimes wears clothes that are way too tight. This is especially noticeable when she wears an outfit with buttons on it. This person is very committed to her job and wants to advance in the company. I am trying to find a way to approach her without hurting her feelings. Please help!
Signed,
Sensitive Subject

Dear Sensitive,
It’s nice that you want to help, but if you aren’t a very close friend or her manager, please don’t. Since this is a sensitive subject, so it might be wise to keep your opinion to yourself this time.
Thanks,
Ms. Corporate Manners

P.S. It would be a kindness to compliment your coworker when she wears outfits that have a more flattering fit.

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

Tattoos and piercings in the workplace

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corporate Manners:
What is the etiquette on tattoos and facial, tongue and ear piercings? I thought tattoos should not be seen in the workplace, but I’m seeing more and more of them exposed. And I thought earrings were the only piercings allowed, and only for women. What do you think? 

Signed, 
Just Wondering 

Dear Wondering,
Although about one in five American adults sport at least one tattoo, opinions on its appropriateness in the workplace often vary according with age. A 2012 survey by Captivate, a digital media firm, found that participants over the age of 50 were far more likely to find tattoos distracting than those in the 35-49 age range. I HATE most tattoos and body piercings (except ears) and prefer body ink be concealed under clothing in the workplace. That said, I’m over 50 and come from a conservative office environment. Many companies don’t want to limit piercings and tattoos because it would impact their ability to recruit the current generation.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

Related articles

What to wear on casual Fridays?

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corporate Manners,
When is it appropriate to wear blue jeans to work? What does business casual mean? Also, when is it proper to wear sundresses to work?
Thanks.
Prim and Proper in Memphis

Dear Prim and Proper,
When dressing for work, don’t dress for who you are but for who you want to be. That means dressing like the people do at the top of the ladder.  Business casual is a more relaxed look, but we ALWAYS need to project a professional image for our customers and co-workers. On casual Fridays and other times, study what the company leaders wear and use common sense.   Ladies, no mini-skirts, and no bare midriffs; clothing that reveals too much cleavage, too much back, too much shoulder or too much leg is not right for work.  If you wear a sundress, make sure it’s modest, and wear a light jacket or sweater to cover up in the office. Casual pants are fine for men and women, but not blue jeans. Men, you can forgo the tie, and wear a nice button down shirt with a sports jacket. No blue jeans, sweatpants, exercise pants or t-shirts displaying your alma mater’s logo.  On casual days, wear conservative athletic or walking shoes, loafers, boots, flats and leather deck-type shoes.  Athletic shoes, thongs, flip-flops and slippers are no-no’s. Given climate and fashion trends, we’re open to open-toed shoes for women, but please – if you show it to us be sure we want to see it.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

Are stilettos appropriate for the office?

LogoMs. Manners put her foot AND her stilettos in her mouth when she wrote in this blog that high heels could dash high hopes when climbing the corporate ladder. Here are some comments from some unhappy readers with high heels and even higher career aspirations.

Dear Ms Corporate Manners,
We have a manager in our region that is fond of fancy footwear. The problem is that her footwear would be more appropriate for an, um, street corner business than a professional business. On Monday we were treated to the bright fuchsia satin heels with the black satin rosettes, and on Tuesday it was 4 ½ inch high candy apple red patent leather. Actually, I would not call these shoes high heels, they are straight up stilettos. In the event of an emergency I’m pretty sure they could be used as a deadly weapon. Sometimes her shoes are in stark contrast to her other attire, sometimes she pairs them with black satin mini-skirts. Surely this can’t be considered appropriate attire for a professional woman, right? And because she travels around from office to office, I am not sure who would address this dress code issue. What to do?
Sincerely,
Pumped in Pittsburg

Dear Pumped,
The shoes you choose to wear to work should be coordinated to your clothing, and they also should be comfortable. Extremely high heels are never recommended. We all need to be able to focus on our customers and not on how uncomfortable our feet are. Maybe your toe-tapping manager thinks her high-heeled shoes are perfectly appropriate, but sooner or later she’ll find out that she’ll never be taken seriously in those shoes. If you are really concerned, maybe a discreet word to her would bring results.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

mannersDear Ms Corporate Manners,
I was highly offended by your advice for “Pumped.” I have never had a problem being taken seriously in my high heeled shoes, and I would even dare to say that the vast majority of women who work for our company would feel the same way. I have found that feeling good about one’s appearance brings about a better attitude, and attitude is what people take seriously. Fashion has changed greatly since the 1950’s. In fact, I find it more frustrating that because I am a woman, I am not taken as seriously as a man would be, since men do not have to worry about the height of their heels. I was not aware that the color of our shoes was limited; we are not told that we can only wear brown, black, or gray shirts to the office, why should we do the same for our shoes? Shoes are meant to compliment an outfit. Fashion is an expression of the self, and if someone wishes to wear colorful clothing that is no different than someone who chooses to only wear black. In fact, I am more comfortable in heels than I am in flats. I would also like to point out that not everyone who wears heels looks like they are on “um, street corner business.” Maybe we should focus more on our work instead of what other people are wearing. 
Stiletto-ly yours,
Taken Seriously in My Sling Back Leopard Print Pumps

Dear Ms Corporate Manners: 
I feel that if the person is comfortable in wearing high heels, then why does it matter? If it does not affect her job performance, who are we to judge what a person wears? I didn’t feel your response was fair. Where I work, we have managers who wear high heels and are taken seriously.
Sincerely,
Mad in Heels

Dear Ms. Corporate Manners:
I just read your response to “Pumped,” and I find it a little ridiculous that you would broadcast to your readers that someone wouldn’t/shouldn’t be taken seriously because of their shoes; not to mention, assuming someone’s “comfort level” is a little ridiculous. A response that included the company’s dress code policy regarding shoes would have been much more appropriate, especially since heel height is specifically addressed with a specific height number listed. 

Signed, 
Taken Seriously in Stilettos 

Ms. Corporate Corporate Manners, 
Let me start off by saying I normally agree with you 100 percent, but when I read high heels could dash high hopes when climbing the career ladder, I strongly disagreed with your reply.  First, I think it is very inappropriate of someone to talk about a co-worker like “Pumped” did. To stereotype a person as someone who would work a street corner just because of the shoes she is wearing if very appalling and rude. I think it is great that people can express themselves through fashion and if it is not offending their customers, I don’t see the problem. We all have different styles and cultures. Isn’t that part of what makes our workforce so great – having “diverse” people? Also, who is to say that the heels are uncomfortable for the person wearing them? I own several pairs of heels and enjoy wearing them and never have any trouble from them. It actually helps my posture to wear them. I agree we should all look professional when servicing our customers, but the lady wearing them probably does think she looks professional. If employees are going to concentrate so much on what the other employee is wearing instead of concentrating on assisting our customers, then I say let’s pass out uniforms so that everyone can wear khaki pants, plain brown shoes, and a blue polo shirt. That sounds much better right?? I don’t think so. I also hate to think that your readers would focus so much on how a person looks instead of how well the employee actually did his/her job. Why can’t we just embrace that everyone is different and dresses differently? I think the world would be a pretty boring place if we all looked the same. Sign me,
Anonymous 

Ms. Corporate Manners, 
After reading the story about the high heels…. I see that the person in question is a manager. Why is her associates so worried about some shoe? We are all here for our clients, and with a better and nonjudgmental attitude, we all look better! 
Signed,
Team means more than shoes!

Denise wrote on Facebook: “If she can squat down while filing and get back up in them without falling over – sure, go for it!”

Wendy wrote on Facebook: “I see why you wrote what you did but I feel in todays society that if a woman is dressed professionally and acts professionally the size of her heels should not matter. Women are judged too harshly in the corporate world as it is. I think men should be criticized then for dressing too casually these days. I would rather see and engage with a smart woman in heels then a woman dressing what someone might think is corporate attire and not expressing herself in a minor creative way or “outside of the box”.”

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

What clothing is appropriate for the trading floor?

LogoDear Mr. Corporate Manners, 

I work at a conservative Wall Street firm. Most men at our company wear plain white shirts and dark suits to work. A co-worker of mine on the trading floor wore a nice blue-and-white checkered dress shirt, which was a gift from his fiancé. I told him it was a great shirt, but when the rest of the crowd arrived, many people starting poking fun at it with one person even saying, “Who shot the tablecloth?”. I could tell the repeated taunts bugged him. Is there anyway to promote a more accepting work atmosphere? 
Thank you for your advice, 
Scared in a White Shirt with Tablecloth Blues

Dear Scared,
The trading floor is demanding, but you shouldn’t have to give the shirt off your back to work there. Traditional business attire is fine, but we’ve moved beyond the Mad Men era of white-shirt conformity. So roll up your checkered or pinstriped or pale pink sleeves and get to work. If your friend can handle the trading floor environment, he’s tough enough to take a little ribbing about his shirt.
Sincerely,
Ms. (not Mr.!) Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

How do you feel about perfume and after-shave at work?

LogoDear Ms. Corporate Manners, 
I am amazed by the people in my office who consistently wear strong fragrances. I am very sensitive to fragrances. They cause my eyes to water and give me headaches. I have to use paper towels to open doors so that I won’t get cologne on my hands. Many times I am not able to concentrate on my work. Are there any corporate policies against wearing strong fragrances? There have been times when I have to find another work station or request to work the rest of the day at home due to a co-worker’s insensitivity. I have brought the issue directly to my co-worker, and it caused a strain with our relationship. I told my manager and our human resource representative with no resolution. Please help!
Signed, 
Waiting to Exhale

Dear Waiting,
In a business setting, it’s appropriate to wear little or no fragrance. A woman who wears perfume or a man who wears aftershave should choose a light, fresh scent and apply it in moderation. If you haven’t had success talking to your co-worker directly, you could try going back to your human resource representative to let him or her know that this is a health issue that is affecting your work, or you could just show the strong-smelling co-worker this column.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

Are cowboy boots appropriate at the office?

Logo

Dear Ms. Corporate Manners, 
I wear cowboy boots most of the time when I am not working, and I have a pair of really nice dress boots that I would like to wear. I wasn’t sure if I am allowed to wear them to work. Would I be allowed? If not, what kind of boots would be appropriate to wear to the office? 
Thanks, 
Confused

Dear Confused,
It’s not a question of what’s allowed but what’s appropriate. What do your customers expect? Conservative, mid-rise, non-Western dress boots, sure. But hand-tooled, ostrich-hide, pointy-toed Tony Lamas? Save them for your after-hours life, pardner.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

How important are men’s undershirts at work?

LogoDear Ms. Corporate Manners
Can you please talk about how men should wear undershirts under their button up collars, especially when you can see through their shirts? The same guy everyday wears a shirt I can see right through and never wears a undershirt. I mean, he might as well be walking around with no shirt on. It makes me uncomfortable and a little sick at my stomach. We ladies wear our undergarments and so should the men. I am uncomfortable saying something to my manager, and I wonder why she hasn’t done something about it herself, because everyone talks about it. Please tell the men to wear a shirt under their business attire.
Thank you,
Uncomfortable in Nashville

Dear Uncomfortable:
Whether it’s fair or not, we are all judged on what we look like. While there is no requirement to wear an undershirt, it just looks more professional if you do. If you don’t take the time to maintain a professional appearance, you may give the impression of not being able to do the job. Many things contribute to image, but wearing appropriate clothing plays a big part. Both men and women need to err on the side of modesty and a conservative dress code.

So men, wear an undershirt under your dress shirt to control perspiration and avoid see-through shock. White, 100 percent cotton, classically a crewneck, although a V-neck or tank is okay. And we mean a real undershirt, not your souvenir T-shirt from the beach. In a famous scene in “It Happened One Night,” Clark Gable took off his shirt to reveal a bare chest. Undershirt sales plummeted. Nevertheless we still say, undershirts under dress shirts at the office – unless you look like Clark Gable and maybe we’ll make an exception.

If you want more information on professional dress, there’s a great book by Susan Bixler and Nancy Nix-Rice called “The New Professional Image” that you can read. She gives great advice!
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

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