This article is from the Ottawa Citizen 2013.
When the summer temperatures begin to soar, it doesn’t mean skirt lengths in the office should rise, too, according to an Ottawa etiquette expert. The same goes for plunging necklines, short shorts and flip-flops.
Julie Blais-Comeau’s rule of thumb for appropriate attire during the summer season is to avoid the “four Bs”: bar-wear, boudoir attire, barbell outfits and beachwear.
“The four Bs should never be worn at the office and they are beachwear, including flip-flops and sunglasses, or the trend toward bathing suit tops. And a sundress is for when you’re out in the sun,” she says.
Whatever you would wear to the gym or a nightclub is not acceptable.
“Victoria’s Secret should remain a secret.”
While summer is often associated with a more casual, laid-back feeling, you still have to dress in a professional manner at work.
“A big indicator that you’re wearing one of the four Bs is shoes. We don’t wear the same shoes to work that we do at the beach or the gym. Shoes generally dictate the occasion,” she says.
“There is nothing more unseemly than getting a glimpse of your boss’ big feet and ugly toes in flip-flops.”
Your clothing is a reflection of who you are and your co-workers will form an impression and can’t help but judge what we’re wearing.
“If a man wears shorts, for example, people look at his legs, bruises, hair and shoes. Shorts on a UPS guy or a postal worker are acceptable, but not for the office worker.”
Women’s skirt lengths should not be too short nor should necklines be too revealing. Showing your bra straps are also a definite no-no. If you are unsure of what is appropriate, seek guidance from someone in your human resources department.
Jackie King, senior vice-president and general manager for Hill + Knowlton Ottawa, has never sent anyone home for dressing inappropriately in her 14 years with the company.
“We ensure that each employee who joins our firm is made aware of our dress code policy during the onboarding process,” King says.
Blais-Comeau has a test she calls the “hand high and hand low” to determine lengths.
“For necklines, place your thumb in that little hole under your neck and let your hand drop. And where your pinky drops is the guideline for a woman for appropriate cleavage, about three to four inches (down).
“For skirt lengths, put your pinky above your knee and let your hand drop on your leg and where the thumb ends is as short as the skirt should be. Usually that is about one to two inches above the knee,” Blais-Comeau says.
Cristelle Basmaji, director of marketing for Jacob stores, says professional decorum is always the best rule of thumb for office wear.
“The office environment can be slightly more casual in summer. As an employer, we tend to be more lenient with the dress code at this time of year. But at the same time, depending on where you work, you still want to maintain your reputation,” says Basmaji.
“It’s still very important to remain classic in the way you dress and maybe add that twist with a fun print or a new colour of the season. That would be the best way to incorporate summer aspects into your wardrobe.”
Of course, there are some basic do’s and don’ts for office wear that employees should follow, she says.
“My do would be classic (wear) with some twist pieces. For example, a beige pencil skirt fits into any office environment and you can pair it with a sleeveless shirt with big polka dots, which is summery and more casual. You can easily add a cardigan or blazer to complete the look.”
Basmaji says summer is a good time to incorporate floral prints and black-and-white colour combinations into your wardrobe.
Includes commentary from: Jackie King