Lee Miller from the New Jersey Star Ledger wrote an article about summer dress codes, and quoted me. Below is the article.
Joshua Weiss, CEO of Edison-based mobile application developer TeliApp, has been interviewing candidates for summer internships for the past several weeks. When they ask, applicants are told dress is “business casual.”
Recently, a young woman seeking a graphic design position wore, in Weiss’ words, “well, practically nothing” — flip-flops and a low-cut, thigh-length, “practically see-through” summer dress. Although the firm is pretty lackadaisical about what people wear to work, Weiss said he draws the line at “lingerie-looking outfits.” Needless to say, she didn’t get an offer.
What one wears to work can affect their career prospects, and you need not go as far as the prospective TeliApp intern in order to damage your career. While people make mistakes year-round, relaxed summer dress codes seem to bring out the worst in individuals lacking a sense of proper work attire. Here are some tips from career and fashion experts that may help.
According to human resources consultant Debby Carreau of Inspired HR, employees should “always bear in mind that they are at work representing their employer and a professional image is critical.” She points out that “it is unrealistic to expect to be taken seriously at the office the day after being seen at a company picnic in too-short jean cutoffs, a sundress that leaves little to the imagination or an off-color humor T-shirt.”
Callista Gould, an etiquette instructor at the Culture and Manners Institute, offers the following general guideline: “Dress so people respect you, not inspect you.”
Nicole Lapin, founder of the women’s financial advice website Recessionista.com, highlights two fashion trends this spring that should be avoided at the office: “clear shoes” and “summer suits.” Clear shoes, she says, “not only are they slightly, well, ‘red-light-esque,’ but you’ll also find that the plastic materials they are made with get pretty hot and sticky.”
As for summer suits, she recognizes the argument that “if you can wear a skirt suit (blazer plus skirt), you should be able to wear a summer suit (blazer plus shorts).” Her response is that the current style of summer suits includes shorts that are “well, too short.” She suggests that unless “you want to rock Bermuda shorts with a blazer (something difficult to pull off if you’re under 5-foot-10) forget the shorts/blazer combo.”
Amanda Augustine, a career expert for TheLadders, offers the following tips for not letting the rising temperatures ruin your professional brand.
• The biggest risk of a summer wardrobe is over-exposure. Avoid clothing that reveals too much skin, such as halter tops, tank tops, plunging necklines, and short or curve-hugging skirts and dresses.
• Stick to structured, sleeveless dresses or belted shirt dresses with knee-length hemlines, and trade your high heels for leather sandals, wedges or ballet flats.
• Stay away from tank tops, swimming trunks and board shorts, flip-flops, baseball hats, graphic T-shirts and other un-collared shirts.
• Opt for light-weight chinos or linen pants with a leather belt and boat shoes. Fitted polo shirts or golf shirts keep you cool while still looking professional.
Oakhurst stylist Christie Maruka reminds us of an obvious, though common, work attire faux pas: Flip-flops should be saved for the beach and sneakers for the gym. Neither is appropriate office attire, even in the summer.
As for summer work events, Marc DeBoer, president of A Better Interview, says people dress inappropriately when they take the word “picnic” seriously and actually dress for a picnic. Whether you’re attending a baseball game with your colleagues or playing volleyball at the company picnic, this is just another opportunity to wow you employer, not embarrass them.
Communication and leadership coach Leslie Ungar points out that you don’t decide whether or not your dress is appropriate — your bosses decide.
Be careful about your image. If you have to ask yourself if something works, the answer is probably no. Take your cue from those in the positions you aspire to. “The standard is always to be one step above: one step above your client, your co-worker, your boss.”
Dick Lerner, author of “Dress like the Big Fish,” sums up the rules for summer casual with a good rule of thumb: Whether at the office or outdoors for a company event, what you would wear at the beach, in the yard or at the gym is not a good choice.
A veteran human resources executive, Lee E. Miller is a career coach and the author of “UP: Influence Power and the U Perspective — The Art of Getting What You Want. “Mail questions to Lee@employability-expert.com