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Casual Dress Codes: Relaxing Or A New Source Of Stress?

First Posted: 09/16/2011 1:02 pm Updated: 11/13/2011 4:12 am

Do you find relaxed dress codes at work actually relaxing -- or a new source of stress?

This week on AOL Jobs, Claire Gordon wrote about the way technology has speeded the shift towards casual dress codes at work from "business professional to business casual, silk blouses to cotton shirts, pantsuits to capris, ties to no ties."

The move to more casual attire at work has been a tricky issue for women especially. While men may simply opt out of wearing a tie, women have many more options -- which raise more questions about what's appropriate and what isn't.

As Sadie Stein wrote in Jezebel's "Dress Code,” “‘Business-casual,’ that alleged liberator from sartorial constraints, is in fact one of the most pernicious things of the modern era, with its vague guidelines and changing boundaries and unspoken rulebook."

Yet how do you know whats appropriate? Are flip-flops okay? What about t-shirts? Speaking to The Boston Globe, Jodi R.R. Smith, an office etiquette consultant, said it's best to not dress down too much: “We broadcast messages based on what we are wearing. So our work attire should say ‘I’m here and I’m ready to contribute,’’’ Smith said. Heather Kleins, a human resources adviser for ING, told a similar cautionary tale to Forbes Woman. Even if you don’t see outside clients, what you wear still “makes an impression on your boss [and] your potential future boss," she said.

So what are the guidelines for women navigating a newly-casual workplace? Stein recommends "staying neat" and "asking coworkers" for tips on what's appropriate. The Daily Muse, dispensing advice on the question of bare legs vs. pantyhose, hit on a tip that can be applied to all aspects of dressing at the office: "Look around at the other women in the office. Take your cues from those around you, and aim for the middle."

What are your casual workwear staples? Share yours by tweeting @HuffPostWomen with the hashtag "#MyOfficeStyle."


Quick Poll

How do you feel about casual dress codes at work?

I love dressing down -- I work best when I'm comfortable.

I miss the days when I could dress up for work. I enjoyed wearing suits and more formal attire, and it made me feel more professional.

They stress me out!

They don't affect me. I still dress formally, regardless of relaxed codes.


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Filed by Jessica Pearce Rotondi  |