- The Washington Times - Monday, January 10, 2005

Most companies designate one work day as casual day. It is thought that if we loosen our ties we will tighten our productivity. Clearly, dressing down was a factor in the very successful dotcom culture that created forward-thinking and innovative businesses. But, outside of the web-based world, a too casual appearance can be confused with a too casual attitude. Don’t let this happen because appearance messaging can be the defining dynamic that will influence the climb to the top.

We know it is inappropriate to wear a suit and tie to the company picnic but is it inappropriate to wear long shorts and a T-shirt to the office? Different climates will determine different rules but the rule of thumb is to dress casual but look serious. Pull on pants and logo sweatshirts are out. Khakis with a vintage tee or a polo shirt are in. Mini skirts and midriffs are a no-go but a lacy short sleeve top with a great pair of jeans will always be welcome. Just remember, you are still dressing for the office not for a day in the park!

Over-dressing on Casual Day isn’t square it just isn’t wise. You need to fit into the company culture or you won’t last very long. The inability to get with the program will leave a negative impression on your bosses mind. Keep your shoes polished, always wear fresh and ironed shirts with a great pair of jeans, khaki’s or flat front trousers. In cooler weather, adding a corduroy blazer to jeans will set the casual tone while still presenting a focused image. Remember, a casual atmosphere whether every day or once a week, is a gift that should be respected and embraced - and will become another notation in your file as you continue your climb to the top.

Dear Jen:

What is the scoop on loafers with designer suits? I work very long days and the soft leather makes a difference. I see them worn in ads but not by guys in the office.

David - Georgetown

Dear David:

Yes, loafers are in and can be worn with anything as long as you choose the right pair since they are offered in trendy to sporty to classic versions. If you spice it up a bit and go for a more fashionable loafer you can be comfortable and still look good with the suit. Save the classic loafer for Fridays or weekends.

Dear Jen:

Over the years I have put on weight and feel much more confident in a three-piece suit. Sometimes I feel like I might be about 20 years behind the times. Are they still in?

Ben - Reston

Dear Ben:

Unfortunately your instincts are correct that 3-piece suits are kind of a fashion DON’T these days. But if the vest acts as your “tummy tucker” and gives you that confidence boost for deal-making then sport a collar shirt and tie with just the vest. Loose the jacket and replace it with a button up vest, a sweater vest or even a nice cashmere sweater. These variations look amazing and not only will they help you become stylish but you will still cover up a little too. I bet you’ll notice everyone will be paying attention to your style instead of your few extra pounds.

Dear Jen:

My secretary wears an heirloom charm bracelet that is beautiful but distracting. It clings and clangs during meetings and constantly bangs against her desk disrupting my concentration. What can I do to remedy this without being rude? Rhonda - Chantilly

Dear Rhonda:

Approach it delicately but with honesty. Explain that this is difficult for you to mention because her bracelet is lovely to look at but very noisy to hear. Suggest she wear it only on special occasions to the office or showcase it on her desk to fulfill the sentimental purpose of having it with her. Apologize if your request is inconvenient but she hopes she understands.

Dear Jen:

I supervise about 20 very fashionable women. How can I ask about their attire (purses, shoes, belts) to learn more about buying for my wife and daughter without going over the line? Elliott - Gaithersburg

Dear Elliott:

Asking about fashion is different than commenting directly on their clothing or bodies. Saying, “You seem to have a knack for colors and styles, where could I buy the perfect items for my wife/daughter?” This approach will not offend and most likely flatter your subordinate. Be prepared to receive shopping and buying tips to last through several birthdays, anniversaries and many holidays!

Ms. Silano Foy is President of eFashion Solutions, LLC (www.efashionsolutions.com) and has been a consultant in the fashion industry for more than 10 years. Send workplace or corporate fashion questions to [email protected]

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