The world of workplace fashion is constantly evolving. I never thought I would be working someplace where I had to counsel employees on what to wear to work, but I have spent a lot of time doing so. Some people, it seems, believe that what is acceptable attire in their personal life is also acceptable at work, but when it comes to interpreting an employer’s dress code, there are many fashions that are not suitable for the workplace. Because Magnus has employed many young people who have recently graduated from college, we are often their first professional employer (being a server or a bartender is not even remotely close to our work environment). What these employees wore to class in college may be the latest fashion, however, the latest styles often have no place in our office. When short shirts/blouses and low rise pants/shorts became fashionable, some of our female employees thought it would be nice to wear these clothes to work, even though wearing these clothes exposed their abdomen and pelvis for everyone to see. A few of these women are of average weight, such that their choice of clothes would have been acceptable to wear out of the office, however, others of them are “full figured,” meaning their exposed mid section became squeezed by their clothes, creating what some people refer to as a “muffin top” (on a very big muffin, I might add!). Muffin tops are nice only on actual muffins, in my opinion. The last thing I want to see is one of my employee’s muffin top, exposed abdomen, or exposed pelvis. Even if the employee is going to the beach (a mere few blocks from our office) during lunch or after work, I want him/her to cover the mid section during work hours. When getting ready for work every day, ask yourself, “does my boss really want to see my belly today?” and if the answer is yes, I wish you well in your career as a swimsuit model or lifeguard!
Fortunately, today we can laugh about some of these topics related to dress code. When the problems arose, however, we had some moments of distress trying to reconcile the notion that we were going to have to discuss such things as underwear, exposed bellys, etc. The manly part of me admits such sights were sometimes far from unpleasant (though sometimes they were), and this discussion was had with one or two male employees in trying to determine how to handle these fashion issues. But, at least in our world, there was no question that the issue had to be addressed and quickly. And, like with the underwear conundrum, the belly issue was handled discretely to ensure that the employee was not unnecessarily embarrassed while at the same time stopping the problem before it created others. Our work setting up for mock jury research, etc., has quite a physical component setting up the audio and visual aspects of the project. This means our employees have to crawl on the floor and reach high to set up the gear. Such movements exacerbate the problem. Thus, stopping it in the office prevented a more revealing situation in the field. Again, while some of our male clients might enjoy the show, for many reasons it had to be avoided. The key for employees is to think about the image they are portraying. And, to realize that while everything may be covered under normal walking or sitting situations, the workplace often demands more than just walking or sitting; a reality that must be taken into consideration when deciding what to wear. This is especially problematic in workplaces that allow discretion in dress and use terms which prove problematic in their vagaries such as “business casual.”