Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Dressing According to Dress Codes

What is it about the topic of dress codes that brings out the cat claws in people?


There is a saying that you should avoid topics like religion and politics but I think that dress codes is another. No one likes to have their personal style questioned and vague phrases like "professional attire" can be interpreted different ways especially in our present-day culture of disposable, fast-fashion and relaxed attire.

Sadly, instead of discretely questioning policies with the folks who make the dress code policies, some people prefer to compare themselves to others. At a recent gathering of colleagues one comment emerged that people who wear make-up and [colour] their hair but dress casually are more "professional" than someone who doesn't dress casually and doesn't wear make-up.


I would fall under the category of someone who doesn't typically wears make-up to work. Typically, my make-up routine consists of sunscreen and lip balm. Clear coloured mascara if it's picture day. I didn't take offence, heck, I've made more than my fair share of fashion faux pas over the last half century. I actually found it to be a comical comment that made me laugh. And it is not that I feel that any of my colleagues dress in a non-professional manner because I don't care what others wear. I have enough trouble picking out my own look for a day of recess duties, paint brush washing, swing pushing, and kneeling on the floor trying to unjam the photocopier. My day is filled with enough to do to care what others are wearing. As far as my own look, I like getting dressed up. I wear dresses and skirts and pants and most of my wardrobe is me-made so you have an idea of how I dress for work. Just minus the make-up and dyed hair-do.

That said, I felt sorry for the RTW buying folks that have to figure out this enigma. Trying to solve the true meaning of "professional attire" is a riddle when you are bombarded with conflicting cultural messages in the retail landscape. 

Never mind that there will always be conflicting views of appropriate attire between generations. Now-a-days casual dress is epidemic and evident at the theatre, opera, places of worship. Is it any wonder that it has found its way into our workplaces?

And don't get me started on the fibre content in the ready-to-wear clothing. Oh, too late... Not only are clothing manufacturers cutting cost by passing off simplified unimaginative styles as the "new look" (try to find a dress with sleeves now-a-days) they are using cheap man-made fabrics that will pill the moment you walk out of the store. Oh, who am I kidding? I've seen pilled clothing hanging in the stores.

This is where I feel blessed that I learned how to sew.

I can sew things like this Issey Miyake dress (if I ever find the time to sew for myself again!).

Or this Butterick pleated peplum shirt is a favourite piece for work. These are items that I would never come across in the RTW selection at the mall. And I'm not hostage to the acrylic, rayon and polyester pilling, youth-obsessed, options that seem to dominate the RTW landscape. But not everyone has this option. And that contributes to finding "professional attire" so tough.

I really think that cutting home economic programs in schools was a huge mistake. We lost the skills to be astute shoppers demanding quality workmanship, styles and fabrics. We've opened a pandora's box in the quest for cheap and fast-fashion and the question has to be asked can we realistically expect dress standards of by-gone days in today's present culture? Have we gone too far?  

Well, that was my two cents. What do you think about dress codes? Do you sew or shop for your work wardrobe?

Happy Sewing!


  1. I often think about appropriate work clothes. The two things, IMHO, that make for professional attire, are ease (as in looseness/tightness) and how much skin shows. I think this goes for men and women so hopefully not sexist but let's be honest, there's just more controversy over the parts that women can show. I hire people to work for me in a conservative field. I counsel people on how to appear in front of people who make big decisions about their fates. So, clothes that are not too tight or not too sloppy are important. Also, I think too high of heels are inappropriate for my work environment and one's cleavage should never show. I know people disagree with me but this is how my profession goes!

  2. I don't wear make up during the day and only at night if it's a special occasion. I have the same daily beauty routine. I think it depends on the type of work you do but also I think, for the younger ones (and ones who don't sew) the RTW stuff that is affordable is so revolting... how many skirts are just too short - fashion or manufacturing savings? If you have no choice you have to buy what's there and most of it isn't just poor quality synthetic fabric but really badly made pieces that are made to fit all badly but fit no one well.


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