A rack of women's clothing is photographed

A Conversation on Professional Dress in the Workplace

A Conversation on Professional Dress in the Workplace

One of the biggest challenges I fear about graduating and entering the workforce is having to acquire a new wardrobe of “professional” clothing. My current style does not seem to fit in with business formal or business professional. On the website Indeed, it defines what business professional typically means for women, “Business professional for women typically means tidy dresses, skirts or slacks. Tops should include neat button-down shirts or blouses with a blazer. Business professional shoes include classic heels no higher than three inches, loafers or tidy flats. Women can accessorize with minimal jewelry and belts.”. This standardized dress code for women working in business, to me, feels incredibly constraining. My style is very colorful, maximalist and adventurous. I love the way I dress, the pieces I have curated over the years make me feel ecstatic and confident. The few times in my life that I have had to wear business type of clothing I do not feel like myself. Not to mention the scramble the night before to go to the mall and purchase an overpriced business dress that is ill fitting. As I am closer to graduation this fear has only become more real. However, with more consideration I have started to challenge the idea of dressing a certain way for a job. I am questioning what dressing business formal actually means and why it is necessary. A job should be about performance and efficiency, not having physical attributes, such as dress. Clothing has nothing to do with how well someone can do their job. Dressing more freely and to my own personal style does not take away my ability to perform well at a job or do my work efficiently. If anything, dressing in clothing that makes me feel confident might actually encourage me to work more confidently! Allowing employees to dress in their preferred attire promotes comfortability and higher morale. 

The societal norm of enforcing dressing business formal or professional excludes people. Being able to afford two different wardrobes, one entirely for work and one for the other hours in the day is expensive and a privileged point of view. Especially because in order to get a job to make money you first have to have the clothing, which in many situations can be difficult. This excludes people who cannot afford to have two sets of clothes, therefore widening the economic gap in society. Also, consuming more clothes than necessary is harmful to the environment. Fast fashion is devastating and clothing waste is extremely prevalent in our society. This excess clothing leads to harmful chemicals cycling into the environment as well as creates more trash in landfills. Progressing past these unnecessary societal norms of dressing business formal or professional supports personal style and confidence as well as produces more inclusive workplaces and helps reduce the overconsumption of clothing which is damaging to the environment. Allowing individuals to wear their personal style to work can ultimately increase productivity and efficiency.

Works Cited:

“Guide to Business Attire (with Examples).” Indeed Career Guide, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/starting-new-job/guide-to-business-attire.