I always get really scared at this time of year when I see women bring out their
toeless and heelless sandals or flip flops and start wearing them to work. The
ones who haven’t bothered to get a pedicure are the worst when you are walking
up the stairs behind them as you exit the subway. Please ladies, use discretion
and objective judgment when getting dressed during the dog days of summer. The
workplace is not the beach or the back yard. We have clothes for work and we
have clothes for play.

The IT world heralded a new style of dress for the workplace when young,
bright, but unstylish professionals hit the market in the late nineties. To the
chagrin of many companies, the relaxed manner of attire filtered down beyond the
IT world, even attacking some high profile business environments.

Revealing tops, jeans, sleeveless shirts, flashy Tees, flip flops and running
shoes sprung up all across North America because many companies didn’t have a
dress code policy that dictated company dress regulations. Up till this point in
time there had always been a distinct demarcation between work and play wear. It
would be prudent to find out exactly what constitutes business casual in your

Fortunately for people who love an excuse to shop and for businesses who take
pride in their professional image, the workplace is starting to make a comeback
to a more professional demeanour.

Cathy DeSerranno, professional wardrobe consultant, offers some do’s and
don’ts to my usual list for corporate environments:


  • Consider your daily schedule, what will carry you through the day.
  • Ladies, wear walking shoes to and from work and dress shoes at work.
  • Dress for your size. Consider the messages you will send with what you wear.
    Check out the cut of your neckline ladies. If someone is standing while you are
    sitting how far down your top can they see.
  • Invest in a well made suit, if appropriate, and build a wardrobe from this
    suit. Buy complimentary shirts, skirts, ties, slacks, and shoes. Wear up to date
    ties and accessories.
  • Know if your workplace is a scent free environment.
  • Dress to fit the environment and ensure the clothing fits you properly.
    Follow your boss’s lead – though this can be misleading at times.
  • Use an iron and make sure your clothing is spot free and clean.


  • Extreme fashions are short lived and end up costing a lot more money.
  • Don’t show inappropriate skin.
  • No flip flops please.
  • No noisy jewellery.
  • No heavy make-up.
  • No T shirts with writing on the front.
  • Don’t replace quality with quantity – shop consignment, Goodwill or Value
    Village to dress well for less.

When getting dressed in the morning, ask yourself if your clients or
customers will see you as the expert you are if dressed this way. Would you want
to do business with you? If you could wear what you have on to a sporting event,
change it.

It is now up to corporations to write and implement their own dress code that
is congruent with their work environment. While you are waiting to be told what
you can and can’t wear, start tomorrow by dressing one step up from your present
position. It is hard for management to promote someone who doesn’t look like
they could handle the promotion or to invite you out on a client lunch or
meeting if you don’t look the part.

Colleen Clarke

Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer


Author of Networking How to Build
Relationships That Count
and How To Get a Job and Keep It