It’s A Dress Code Minefield!

I’m sure I’m not the only one pleased to see the sun has finally appeared (although who knows when it might be replaced by blizzards, based on recent events). But there’s one thing about the warmer weather that definitely doesn’t please me:

Dressing for the heat but also for business.

Just this week I was packing for a trip to London, where temperatures were predicted to be 27°C. (Which, compared to the weather in Yorkshire, is positively tropical.) Recalling a previous trip where I’d been crammed sardine-like on a Tube train, sweat running down my back, feet swollen in my high heels and dishevelment growing by the minute, I was at a loss what to wear.

My temptation – and I’m guessing your temptation too in hot weather – was to go the casual route, so I began eyeing up my linen skirt, loose top and sandals. But then I asked myself, as I suggest you do if you’re serious about your personal brand:

Is that appropriate?

It’s a simple question and one that I recently read has been put at the heart of US company GM’s dress code. Well, I say at the heart of it, but in reality the dress code now comprises only two words: dress appropriately.

That’s it.

The idea is if you’re big enough and ugly enough to work for GM, you’re also big enough and ugly enough to know how to dress yourself in a way that won’t need management’s intervention.

It’s reflected in conversations I’ve had recently with a couple of clients about their own dress codes. One of them states ‘Dress for the day you have’ and another has ‘Dress your way every day’. They’re definitely putting the ball into their employees’ court, which is great, but back to my initial point, you still need to keep your personal brand at its best – whatever the weather:

Three things to consider

Consideration 1: Your image – of which your clothing and accessories are a big part – is conveying clues about your personal brand at all times. Don’t think that, just because the sun’s out, people suddenly stop judging you on how you dress.

Consideration 2: You never know who you’re going to run into (I speak from experience here, having bumped into clients in all manner of unexpected places). So even if you’re ‘dressing for the day you have’ ie one without any external meetings, ask yourself, “What’s the most casual I’d be willing for an important contact to see me?” Even if it’s not as casual or comfortable as you could be, you’ll cover yourself for every eventuality.

Consideration 3: Don’t vary your look too much. Consistency plays a big part in people understanding and trusting your brand. So if your image swings wildly from one day to the next – from a three piece pinstripe suit with a silk tie and polished brogues, to a Hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts and socks with sandals – it can make them question where the real ‘you’ lies. (It’ll also make them question if you’ve lost your sense of taste.)

I want to finish by stressing I’m talking about a dress code for when you’re on work time, not off duty. Heavens…if anyone saw me dressed for the weekly shop at Morrisons, they’d be startled at how far away from my usual polished state I can be!

How do you cope with dressing for business as well as the hot weather? What tips can you offer? You’d put a big smile on my face if you’d share them with a comment below!

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5 responses to “It’s A Dress Code Minefield!”

  1. Deb Ratcliffe says:

    Thank you Jennifer. Your blogs are always so topical and full of wise words.

    • Jennifer Holloway says:

      Thanks Debbie – I’m glad you think the blog offer wise words. All of it is just common sense, that’s not as common as it should be.

  2. Helen Wormald says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    My dilemma when the weather warms up is tights or no tights. I tend to go with the lighter tights, but it would be great to be able to have legs that could cope without.
    Thank you for your blogs they always make me smile 🙂

    • Jennifer Holloway says:

      I’d always go with tights – though light ones if possible. But that’s because my legs are whiter than white and I can’t be bothered to get a fake tan if the sunshine is short lived.

  3. Tony O says:

    Fascinating read, as usual and good to see some simple pragmatism.

    I have recently had the experience of a manager trying to position me to ban staff wearing flip-flips on the grounds of health and safety (we have not other similar rules in place), when what he really meant was that he did not think that flip-flops were appropriate work attire for an international company’s head office environment. My response was: “If you are going to the beach, then dress for the beach. If you are going to the office, then dress for the office.” In other words, decide what you think is appropriate, but do not hide behind health and safety as an excuse.

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