A powerful defense of the corporate dress code

Last year I wrote an essay about the corporate dress code and how it made no sense to me. It’s possible I was a tiny bit sarcastic and a smidgeon non-supportive.

I’m not sure what happened to make me more compliant, but this year when we had our dress code review I took a different stance on it. While others were grumbling about how foolish it was to ban leggings and challenging the injunction against sneakers, I was quietly accepting these regulations.

Photo by pixabay, edits by author using Picmonkey

Submission fueled by omission

I’m thrilled that the only mention of a bra is that one should avoid wearing a shirt that reveals it. And they don’t mean a top made from see through fabric, but an actual shirt that doesn’t completely cover the bra. You’ve seen women wearing shreds they call blouses that loop over their shoulders but don’t even pretend to obscure any part of the hot pink bra they are touting, right?

At any rate, there was no mention of requiring bras. When you live in a cold climate and sport multiple layers topped with a puffy LL Bean vest, this makes for an easy-going, fabulous workday. This garb is appropriate for summer months, too, because of uncontrolled air-conditioning. Note: Do not wear pantyhose or tights with this ensemble or it will cancel the bra-free bliss.

Keeping leisurewear home where it belongs

Casual clothing is kept home where it belongs with the prohibition of stretch pants and t-shirts. If my work clothes were as comfortable as my after work outfit of sweats and an oversized Foreigner t-shirt, what would I have to look forward to when I come home?

My version of Mr. Roger’s ritual of removing his sports jacket and loafers, and donning his sweater and sneakers would be gone forever. Would I even go home?

Banning sweats and t-shirts keeps families together

Focus on footwear

I have a couple of pairs of cute sneakers that cost more than my dress shoes, so I felt a twinge of irritation when the dress code labeled them unacceptable. I suppose there is a risk people would reach for the ones they wore to slop the pigs in the wee hours of the morning before they’ve had their fifth cup of coffee. And since a whopping 0.2% of Maine residents live on pig farms I decided to stand up for this rule. Wearing my obedient Mary Jane’s.

I wore these to work one day. In my defense, I’d only had one cup of coffee.

Any shoe that makes a flip flop sound when one walks is forbidden. Not sure why this is a problem since most of us don’t walk much. But for those times when we amble to the bathroom or lunch, I can understand how this sound could distract co-workers.

This rhythmic resonance could elicit memories of carefree days when we were kids enjoying summer vacation, frolicking in a new pair of flip-flops purchased at J. C. Penney. These treasures ferried us through warm, unstructured days, protecting our soles from rocks and hot sand.

Yes, flip-flops are dangerous, and we must boycott them before we’ve turned into dallying daydreamers who flip-flop our way out the door with painted faces screaming ‘Freedom!”

I have one addition to taboo footwear, and I believe these lazy shoes have escaped scrutiny for too long. I think you’ll agree with me when I say nothing productive can come from employees wearing loafers. (Sorry Mr. Rogers).

What do you love about your company dress code? Are you compliant like me? 


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24 thoughts on “A powerful defense of the corporate dress code

  1. Apparently I’m a yoga instructor because lycra/spandex is pretty much all I wear (when not actually teaching in the classroom!)…oh yeah, I’m a Californian. I own 20 pairs of flipflops and some that actually support my old feet. Plus it can get really hot here so the lightest clothing and flip flops, (also works well for weight watchers weigh-in day). I pretty much just shop at Chicos and REI.

    • Love your wardrobe, Terri. It would be perfect for me one month of the year, then I need to don long johns and LL Bean boots, which is not a good combination for a successful WW weigh in. But I like the idea of flip-flopping my spandex clad self to a yoga class even in the winter months, so I’ll try to adopt some California lifestyle on the opposite coastline in honor of you, my fit friend.

  2. Another doozy, Molly! I think you should wear mismatched MaryJane’s everyday until September! 😉

  3. Like Roxanne, I work from home and have no rules or dress code! I do find it productive to get dressed, however just the other day you would have found me in bed in my Jammie’s eating leftover Pad Thai for breakfast while I worked on my laptop. I confess that I felt a bit giddy, as if I were getting away with something.

    • Great idea about the animal sequenced t-shirts, Anita. Foreigner is great. I actually got the t-shirt for free when my singing group sang back up for them a few years ago to “I Want to Know What Love Is.” It was at an event in Camden, Maine, called “Pop the Cork.” They usually use high school choruses but there was alcohol so they needed a more adulty group. It is questionable whether they got one, but we tried to fill the bill!

  4. All I can say is: I’m glad I work at home. My dress code is whatever I feel like wearing that day. And some days I feel like staying in my jammies or, if I’m slightly more motivated, I’ll upgrade to sweats. I’m also glad I don’t have to video chat, because some days, it’s (I’m) not pretty. But your post reflects your ability to adapt and look at things from a different perspective, Molly. Kinda like the glass isn’t half empty or half full–it’s simply refillable, right?

  5. I hate to sound like an old fogy, but a dress code is necessary for those who don’t have the good sense to dress appropriately in the workplace. I honestly don’t even like seeing “buns of steel” outlined in stretchy leggings, let alone any that come even close to resembling my own wobbly, chunky butt! Cover those buns up, girlfriends! Those stretchy things are not trousers and not meant to be worn as such. And droopy shoulders and bra straps? Just looks messy, in my opinion. Save it for the beach cover-up. Flip flops aren’t good for anyone’s feet and can be dangerous, to boot. Yeah. I’m an old fogy. Now where did I leave my bonnet . . . ? 🙂

    • Haha, Kate. I’m with you on the leggings. I admit I like to wear them but always under a dress or a top that’s almost as long as a dress. I love flip flops but put them in the same category as my sweats and t-shirt. A treat to wear at home and relish the sound of freedom outside the workplace. Bra straps are not anything I’ll be showing off since I’m avoiding a bra whenever possible. 😉

  6. My workplace has nurses, social workers, office personnel, etc. Each group tends to dress differently. Nurses wear scrubs, SW dress casually as they are in and out of homes all day, office staff dress more business casual. We are all bound to the same dress code, which is rather nutty. I think each group needs their own. Although, to be honest– most of the higher ups don’t follow the dress code which means that not many others feel bound to it, either.

    I did have a job once that had a dress code that mandated that women wear make up and that rather pissed me off. I generally do wear it, but all women don’t. It seemed quite sexist.

    • Interesting rule to make women wear makeup, Mandi. I would say if women have to wear makeup, men should have to wear it too. I’ve seen men whose looks could be enhanced with some industrial strength concealer, haven’t you? And what about prohibiting bushy mustaches in men? But I suppose men could come back and say there should be some silly rule about women keeping their whiskers trimmed, too. It all gets so complicated.

  7. No longer being in the corporate world plus being out of it for 20 years now, I have no idea what is or isn’t acceptable. What I will say about flip-flops though is, it scares me when I see someone wearing them to drive. I picture them getting caught or come off causing a distraction to the driver and well, what do you say to the officer at the scene of the accident, I couldn’t help it, I lost my shoe/flip-flop? Always a pleasure to read your posts.

    • How lucky are you, Irwin, to be out of the corporate world for 20 years. I agree about flip flops and driving. I am cautious to wear something sure footed when I drive, and I’ve even seen people wearing them riding/driving motorcycles too. Not exactly practical or protective, would you say? Always nice to have you stop by.

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