I’ve mentioned before that when I entered the workforce, my idea of the difference between professional dress and professional dress was the difference between where you plied your trade. That is, my skirts were short, my heels were high, and I caused some ruckus for the HR group. In fact, I was so oblivious about the hazards of my hemline, that when I was offered a little lap covering in church, I just thought it was sweet that they were giving me a blanket. When I figured out that it wasn’t about my comfort, but the pastor’s line of vision, well, I was horrified, and my skirts haven’t been that short since.
I also learned a great lesson in kindness from the way those church ladies treated me. No one tried to make me feel bad about my skirt. No one even mentioned that it was an issue. They simply offered me a solution that was comfortable to them, and comforting to me.
You can’t really do that in a business setting–if your employee is flashing your clients, and your clients aren’t paying specifically for that privilege, you have to nip that in the proverbial bud. But, you can do it in such a way that your employee walks away with his/her dignity*.
As far as dressing for the office goes, my personal preference is a 2″ Neck to Knees rule. Nothing that is more than 2″ below the place where your neck meets your torso, and nothing higher than 2″ above the knee. Nothing so tight that you can’t easily pull it out at least an inch from either side of your body. See? No dresses that are longer than 2″ above the ankles, and no trousers that are shorter than that (but DO NOT take my advice regarding trouser length. That will just get you in trouble! Ask Amy.)
An old friend of mine had a theory about buying dresses. “If you wear a size 6/8, then Work-Cute is a size 8. Date-Cute is a size 6. Always go to the larger for work, and tight-tight-tight for the date!” She had two, identical polka-dot dresses, one in her Work-Cute size 6, and her Date-Cute size 4. My then-work-cute-size 10 would just sigh and keep puffing alongside her as we jogged through River Legacy park.
It is fortunate that I don’t have any ego attached to how I look when I am working out because when Carrieanne worked out, she just got prettier. She had this amazing, thick ponytail that swung like a pendulum, and she was a gorgeous tan that just flushed rosy when she was overheating. This opposed to how I sweat like a swamp rat with my thin hair matting down to my scalp, and how when I get hot my skin turns red enough that observers frequently find it alarming.
You know, when I was a baby, my skin would turn so red when I cried, my mother actually took me to the pediatrician. I’m telling you, when I get hot/angry/upset/laugh really hard, my skin is… If it weren’t my own, I would find it fascinating to watch it turn colors. As it stands, I just know I can’t play poker and that aggravates me.
*Ideally, dress code is something that should be covered during the interview process. That allows a potential employee insight into the work environment, and gives him/her the opportunity to determine whether or not he/she is going to have to completely overhaul the wardrobe to adjust.