How to follow corporate dress code when it makes no sense

I’ve started a new job and as part of my orientation, I had to review the corporate dress code. It’s pretty standard compared to others I’ve been subjected to in the work place. But since I’m nearing the end of my career, I seem to have less patience for the ‘rules.’ Especially rules that make no sense.

  1. No open toed shoes.
 In Maine we have a small window of time, during which we can wear sandals. Would big business stop spinning on its assets if we declared July ‘toe freedom month?’ This would allow our little piggies, confined to LL Bean boots for 11 months of the year, to get some fresh air and display their annual pedicure.
  2. Open backed shoes allowed. This is the arch of discrimination. Why is it wrong to expose toes but acceptable to bare the Achilles? Besides, my heels aren’t half as cute as my toes, and they look ridiculous with polish.
  3. No sleeveless dresses/blouses.
 Even Leviticus, the ultimate rule book, didn’t rail against arms, as long as they weren’t shoved into clothing of mixed fibers. I see similarities between upper arms and loose skin on necks, and there isn’t a ban on open necked blouses or shirts. Why is it acceptable to look at neck wattles, while enslaving arms in sleeves?
  4. Short-sleeved shirts/blouses allowed. Do we look more business-like when we squish arm flab into a short sleeve, making it resemble a triceps muffin top?
  5. No T-Shirts.
 I can see why they should prohibit offensive t-shirts because I don’t want to read “How to catch an illegal immigrant’ emblazoned on a coworker’s chest. I do think it would be fun to wear t-shirts that advertise our interests outside of work, however, and could lead to team building. What if I want to connect with people who play pickle ball? How will I know who they are if they can’t wear their t-shirts?
  6. Polo shirts and golf shirts allowed.
 Can you envision men, AKA old boys, sitting at a long table drafting the first guidelines, when some observant guy interjects, ‘What about days we play golf? Do we need to pack a bag, or can we make allowances for golf/polo shirts?” And that, my friends, is how t-shirts impersonating business attire slithered into the dress code.
  7. No shorts but skorts allowed. What exactly are we hiding when we wrap shorts with a handkerchief? Panty lines?
  8. Casual Friday.
 This makes as much sense as giving Miss America free plastic surgery instead of a scholarship. Let’s face it. Friday has a lot going for it already, and we are mentally wearing jeans, even if we don a ball gown on the last day of the workweek. The workday that needs help is Monday. Would the person at Department of Motor Vehicles be a little gentler and forgiving on Monday morning, if beneath the counter he or she was wearing a pair of relaxed fit Levis?

You may wonder how I’m going to make it through the last few years of my employment without getting into trouble. The thing that motivates me to cover my arms, leave my t-shirts, shorts and jeans crumpled in the bottom drawer, and smother my toes in sensible shoes, is one crucial omission.

There is no rule that forces me to wear a bra.

What motivates you to follow your company’s dress code?



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19 thoughts on “How to follow corporate dress code when it makes no sense

  1. So glad I don’t have to follow dress codes, at least full time! When I worked in parks and rec I had a lot of freedom..I especially loved teaching swim lessons and new instructors in my bathing suit and flip flops 🙂 I loved how you broke down each item and snarked about them!

  2. Ahahahahaha!! The last sentence about the bra, Molly – genius!! I can’t even handle how much I love your blogs. You are hysterical!
    Ohhhh, how I miss working with you. 🙁

    Danette told me she saw you and you said ‘hello’ to Tory and I. It made me so happy to hear from you!

    I find it hard to follow the ‘rules’ that don’t make sense, and I’m in the beginning of my career!
    By the time I’m 60, I’ll be walkin’ into the office with no bra, no underwear, and God only knows what else. ? I may even have a polo shirt with my favorite hobby written on it. It’s not w t-shirt!

    Pffftt, ::corporate dumbasses:: (who said that)

  3. Love this… especially about the strange shoe discrimination. Toe cleavage is not allowed but the behind of the foot is? Ah, the corporate world. One more reason to shake our heads in bewilderment. Great post.

  4. My last job was working as a music playleader – I had a bright pink baggy polo shirt, short sleeves and the choice of bottom wear was left to me – but anything other than black jeans/trousers and trainers was frowned upon – so I quickly discarded my blue jeans! ?

    • I’m intrigued by your dress code, Linda. There is something very appealing about wearing a uniform. Did it make life easier when you had fewer decisions to make? Also I would love to know more about what a music playleader is. It sounds very interesting.

  5. OMG I couldn’t agree more! The sleeveless blouse thing irks me to no end. Also, one of my old companies had a thing about no bare legs (and I DESPISE hose). So silly.

    • The last time I wriggled into panty hose, Faye, I thought I was going to have to apply for family medical leave from the physical effort and emotional trauma. Where did the old boys come up with these crazy ideas?

  6. Yes there is……the universal rule of gravitational forces on a object with fluidity!
    I solved this delima…..created my own business……those Customers who don’t like whatever I decide to wear are promptly fired!

  7. My motivation is needing a job! LOL… We almost got the shoe nonsense until my boss pointed out that all the upper levels females in the meeting were in violation……. Old Guys need a clue. I find most of those to be sexist. You may delete this link if it violates your policy, It’s from my old blog and is on ridiculous double-standards like the golf shirt thing.

    • Yes, that job thing motivates me, too, Lisa. I just read you post – very funny. I HATE pleated pants and think they should be banned! Just because they look bad on most guys – thin or chubby.

  8. There is no real dress code for my office, so the temptation to wear jeans and a t-shirt are all too real some days. However, I did quickly learn that when I go out and teach at different community organizations, they all like to take pictures. And put them in the newspaper. And on Facebook. And in their annual reports. That is what keeps me wearing nice skirts and blouses most days 🙂

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