The invitation for an evening event says ‘casual’. OK, so what do you wear to a casual business event? It doesn’t say ‘business casual’, just ‘casual’. Casual can take more thought and effort than formal.
Early in my career, I had the honour of working with Harry Rosen at the time he was introducing ‘Casual Friday’ to his clients. The primary demographic were well-dressed men who 20 years ago had the funds to drop $200 on a silk tie and $1,200 on a sports jacket. This was a crowd who knew how to dress up. However, introducing the concept of dressing down for business required some explanation. It was the beginning of the term ‘Dress Down Fridays’.
To this day I loved how Mr. Rosen employed a series of fashion events to explain the concept to his clientele. In explaining the idea, he said, “You know your attire is too casual for business if you can come home from a day’s work and hop directly onto your ride-on lawnmower.”
In the last two decades, workplace culture and attire have changed to reflect how the world has changed.
Working from home all these years has afforded me the luxury of shopping less. I often say just the incremental savings on nylons alone – at $15 a pair! – has afforded me a good SUV. While we are on the subject of nylons, I am going to step lightly into the evolution of the corporate ‘dress code’.
We can all agree we know when someone hasn’t used good judgment in their choice of attire for business; however, what should the ‘rules’ be, especially for different genders? As little as two years ago I had a conversation with a male hospitality manager about their corporate dress code for women which required wearing nylons at all times. On that particular day, the mercury was upwards of 30C.
I didn’t realize until deep into the conversation that I held what can only be politely described as ‘a very strong opinion’ on this matter. It only seems ‘fair and logical’ that the option of choice should come into play. And, if wearing nylons in such heat is a personal choice then all’s good.
There is a line between appearing professional and too casual. That said, defining that line is often difficult to articulate. Instead, we rely on instinct, life experience and how we wish to express our personal brand. We know it when we see it. Social and business etiquette provides some guidance for what we consider ‘appropriate’. My only hope is to attend such functions without becoming an example of ‘what was she thinking?’ In my life, I promise there is at least one outfit change between work and hopping on to my trusty John Deere.