Fashion in the Workplace

Fashion in the workplace

Are relaxed dress codes becoming the norm?

So what’s going on with fashion in the workplace? Some are saying that the traditional office wardrobe is changing, and we are losing our love for the suit and workplace formality in general. Sales of the office suit are apparently falling, and there is a increasing trend in relaxed office environments, according the The Guardian. There is even a new, if small trend in some offices adopting slippers in the workplace!

If we listened to Piers Morgan though – he’d have heels all the way, famously adding his penny’s worth to the ongoing workplace dress code debate recently on Good Morning Britain.  Declaring he, “expects” receptionists to wear lipstick and heels. “She was a receptionist for an accountancy firm,” he said of guest Nicola Thorp, who made headlines last year for being sent home from work for not wearing heels. “She wanted the right to wear flat shoes and not to wear lipstick. That to me is not what a receptionist should be.”

So, this raises the question ‘does what we wear actually affect the role that we do?’ Our choice of workplace attire should not affect our ability to do our jobs – whatever that job might be. I think we can all agree that PM is of a certain generation and mindset that hopefully is becoming the minority.

There have been so many theories and studies on how we dress impacts us psychologically, and if it affects productivity in the workplace, or at school. Much of these studies, however, seem to have contradictory conclusions. Most recently, Recruitment International did a study that shows: ‘61% of employees more productive when dress code is relaxed’

·         61% of people looking for a new job in 2017 say they’d have a negative perception of any company that enforced a dress code.
·         Meanwhile, the majority of UK workers say they would feel more productive and put more effort into their appearance if there wasn’t a dress code, according to a study by Stormline.
·         78% of respondents said that even without a dress code, they’d still make an effort to dress well and would make a clear distinction between ‘work clothes’ and ‘non-work clothes’.
·         Of those, 91% said they felt the quality and condition of what they wore was more important than whether it complied with a dress code and they would be more likely to spend more on clothes if they had more choice in what they wore.
·         68% said they were more likely to trust a well-dressed colleague to do a good job than someone in the same position who ‘didn’t make an effort’, but clothing style and formality didn’t have a significant influence on perceptions of competence. This suggests that we want to dress to impress, but resent being told what to wear.
·         Of those who are required to observe a dress code which is sometimes relaxed (for example on ‘dress down Friday’), 61% say they feel more productive when the dress code is relaxed.Source: Recruitment International

To quote a cliché, It sounds like we want to have our cake and eat it!

The good news is that two commons committees have called for a review of current equality legislation after evidence revealed hundreds of female employees were issued with sexist dress code demands – high heels, make-up or revealing outfits – but their male colleagues weren’t. The Petitions Committee and Women and Equalities Committee said Wednesday that it became clear during the course of the inquiry that this wasn’t an isolated incident.
The committee says that it heard from hundreds of women “who told us about the pain and long-term damage caused by wearing high heels for long periods.” The committee noted that discriminatory dress codes remain widespread. So watch this space!

So, what should we be wearing now?

We’ve just had London Fashion Week showcasing trends for Autumn/Winter 17/18, but what of the key trends for Spring Summer 2017? What should we be wearing now and how do we translate these into our office wardrobe?
Thankfully Vogue  have nicely pulled together the key trends for Spring/Summer, which I’ve summarised below:

  • Pink – Candy pink, baby pink, deep cherry and raspberry
  • Yellow – Lemon to fluorescent
  • Oversized Shoulders – Exaggerated Squares, Puffball or rounded gentle curves
  • Sports Parkas – Big volume, dynamic lines in nylon parkas and parachute pleats.
  • Flower Power – With a seventies style, and even a little bit Kitsch
  • Origami World – Pleats to be worn at front and centre, drapes, volume at the shoulder and statement sleeves
  • Arty Pop – Criss cross stripes, vibrant colours and geometric prints
  • Jumpsuits – Uptown girl for the office
  • Leggings – Re-invented sportswear basic, now ready to wear…
  • 1970s Sleeveless Sweater – Patterntastic – need we say more. Easy to pair with a slight flared trouser or culottes.
  • The Trench Coat 2.0 – This forever wardrobe staple was reinvented across four fashion capitals
  • Seventies Prints– Geometric checks, florals, curves – all big on colour!
  • Babydoll Girl – Candy colours and doll faces, lace, delicate bows and ribbons
  • Men’s Shirts – Pinstripes, pale blues and deconstructed dresses
  • After Hours Robes – Add a touch of elegance with wrap jackets and gowns with a twist
  • Polka Dots – Softer, more rounded, but black and white a must
  • Patchwork – Mix and match, clash, vintage fabrics
  • Space Style – Head to toe white, minimal and futuristic

Visit to see these trends in pictures and bring them to life! A must to start planning that new wardrobe!

Other key trends that might be more tricky to get into your working wardrobe are:  Metallic , cut-outs, hoods, Saturday night fever – shimmer and sequins, underwear as outerwear, All things shiny, Punk Spirit, Leather Fringing.

What about Key colours for SS 17

Spring’s key colours are: pinks, rose, periwinkle, canary and khaki. Go for muted and subtle; or loud and chirpy like a canary!? Choose to adorn yourself head to toe in the colours of nature, or go for just a pop of colour…both will keep you on trend with your work wardrobe.

Instant wardrobe update

For the Women, if you need to give your workwear a bit of a revamp now –  here are a few quick tips courtesy of the Telegraph, to inject some 2017 trend into you work wardrobe without breaking the bank.

  • Shirts – Lost the white cotton, go tunic, tie-waist and embellished collars.
  • Bright Knits – in a soft shade of purple, blue, pink or yellow.
  • Handbag – easy way to update your outfit and it goes with everything! Go mid-size bucket or tote with a jazzy handle if you need to be more ‘donkey’:0)
  • Trousers – try a slight flare or tailored culottes for an update.
  • Accessories – Add a brooch to your lapel, or ribbon to your collar shirt. Belts…give an instant new look, great for adding a bit of zing.

Now for some shopping inspiration to put these ideas into practice!

For the Men – GQ do a fantastic weekly update – ‘The 10 best dressed men of the week‘, a great way to keep up with what’s on trend in and out of the workplace.


So what does Business Casual actually mean?

There is a confusing array of work wear definitions:  ‘Smart casual’ ‘office attire’ ‘relaxed corporate’ ‘creative-smart’ ‘business casual’ ‘formal’ ‘conservative’ – a company can choose to have any of these as their dress code policy  – so what do they all mean?
I will now attempt to define them, or at least some of them. provide a great overview for Men’s dress codes which I’ve summarised below.
For the men
Smart casual – Global men’s fashion magazine GQ in the United Kingdom attempts defining smart casual for a job interview. Wearing chinos, a blazer and white shirt to make an impression is suggested. Carrying a necktie is advisable; the author comments, “it is far more embarrassing to be under-dressed than over”.

Business Dress
– Notch lapel suit, shirt, tie and shoes. Patterned suits, with the exception of pinstripes are more casual.
Double breasted suit? – See The Guardian’s ‘Five ways to wear…a double breasted suit in pictures‘.

Business casual – Suit not needed. Jacket or blazer,with button up shirt & ideally a button down collar. Shoes: brogues or loafers (not trainers). Tie is optional.

For the Women

Smart Casual – The Guardian attempted to clarify smart casual from a recruitment perspective by questioning various recruitment consultants. They responded:
(a) stand out but blend in by understanding the workplace’s environment;
(b) achieve a business-professional look by clarifying the attire in advance because “it’s easier to be overdressed than underdressed”
(c) wear a smart coat if avoiding a suit to give the impression of a “good entrance because it has an air of formality: e.g., a well-cut trench, worn with open shirt and neat slacks”
(d) wear accessories to “show creativity and attention to detail”, but keep them to a minimum
(e) smart, plain and straight jeans are acceptable;
(f) shoes should be clean and un-scruffy.

Business Dress – Broadly speaking, business casual for men means wearing a pair of smart trousers, a collared shirt, a jumper or blazer, and relaxed but elegant shoes.

Business Casual – This is an ambiguously-defined dress code that has been adopted by many professional and white-collar workplaces in Western countries. It entails neat yet casual attire and is generally more casual than informal attire but more formal than casual or smart casual attire. Casual Fridays preceded widespread acceptance of business casual attire in many offices.

That clears that up then! ?Perhaps more helpfully,  it  is defined as trousers or knee-length skirt or dress; and a blouse or shirt with a collar. ‘Relaxed corporate’ , ‘Creative-smart’ , formal and conservative are other terms I’ve come across – but I’m not going to attempt to define these I’m afraid.

So, conclusion – If in doubt what your workwear policy is, I’d ask your employer or prospective employer.:0)


Related Dovetail articles:
How to dress in the workplace
What to wear to an interview


Images – courtesy of  and


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