What to Wear to Work
Office Casual fades away: The distressing return to formal work clothes
Sartorial alert! The Wall Street Journal reports that even the interns are out-dressing us at work these days. At law firms, the long-term holdouts of the corporate world who finally bowed to business casual wear just a few years ago, the old sartorial standards are reasserting themselves. People are pulling out all the stops to snag a job or to keep one, and nobody’s willing to risk a black mark in the appearance column. Gone, the WSJ reports, are the Ugg boots, jeans and tight tees that young associates once wore on days when they weren’t having client meetings or taking depositions.
Just last week the New York Times weighed in, too, devoting a column to what to wear to an interview (think pantyhose) and on the job (forget Ally McBeal; ix-nay on short skirts and tight shirts).
A longtime believer in comfort over ceremony, I wonder where we’re all going wrong. Shouldn’t our worth be measured by the list of our accomplishments, not length of our skirts? In these cash-strapped times, do we have to break the bank, outfitting ourselves in unflattering, uncomfortable clothes?
I’ve dressed down for every job I’ve ever had, and gotten away with it – for the most part, anyway – because I work in a field (magazines) where Oshkosh B’Gosh can be a fashion statement. And I’ve been around long enough to remember when casual dressing hit the big time, back in the Seventies. As a result of the energy crisis, the AC was dialed down in offices across the country and sweaty execs starting shucking their jackets. It took Apple, Google and their techie brethren to make make casual dressing hip. With the stampede toward the web, many traditional industries, hoping to emulate the crazy growth of their internet counterparts, loosened their collars and threw away their ties.
A Gallup poll two years ago confirmed that casual dress had become the law of the land. More than two thirds of all workers who were not self-employed (in other words, part of the yoga pants and T-shirt crowd) wore casual clothes to the office most days. A mere nine percent wore formal business attire. Now, fear is driving us back to scratchy suits and drab colors.
Can’t we find some middle-ground between flip-flops and pinchy pumps? What do you think? What are you wearing to work these days – and, more important, what do you want to wear?