Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Searching for Appropriateness in Dress

Appropriate Choices

Closet Content Analysis: 
Blending Personal Style into Corporate Culture 
NICE             NO THANKS         NOTE-WORTHY           NEED             NEW

When I study the popularity of particular posts, the notion of appropriate dress is one of the top five categories. Employees are mandated to wear uniforms, students are sent home for wearing skirts too short or t-shirts expounding counterculture perspectives, and many decisions are made to wear or not wear something based on previous societal reactions. We recognize that there are standards, but we also recognize that they are arbitrary and we appear to want advice on appropriateness.

Very often there is a defensive response to any allegation that one's dress is inappropriate. "Who is she or he to tell me what to wear? or Nobody's going to tell me what to wear; I'll wear what I want!", are the typical knee-jerk responses. Culturally, there exists a collection of beliefs around what is appropriate or inappropriate dress in every social/cultural group. Arbitrary or not, it exists and as long as there are key decision makers (your supervisor, boss, owner of the company, mother, grandfather, teacher, principal, judge), who observe these cultural points of view, you will always be under scrutiny insofar as dress goes.Valid, fair or arbitrary, those who hold economic or political power over you are able to impose their "dress code" values on you.

What we choose to wear does not "hurt" anyone. It may be offensive or distasteful but it will not cause physical harm and I imagine, we don't want to impose physical discomfort upon anyone. There must be an underlying understanding of what will cause another discomfort since so many are looking to define appropriateness. The question is asked but if you have lived in a particular social/cultural milieu, you know the answer and perhaps are probably just looking for rationalization and confirmation. All the hits asking what is comfortable casual and is it appropriate, particularly for work in a North American context, are simply searches to rationalize what he or she already inherently believes. I attempted to define casual clothing in a previous post and so, if my definition fits the questioner, he or she will follow the "advice" given but if not, then the quest will continue until the person is satisfied with a newfound answer. Online, that will not be hard to do.

The best advice is: be observant. Determine what looks "professional" in your mind's eye and then choose dress that blends your sense of style within the corporate context. If you consider the culture of the workplace, since it establishes the criteria, all will be well.

What a strange power there is in clothing.
- Isaac Bashevis Singer 

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