Monday, April 12, 2010

Business Casual

Whatever happened to business casual?

I believe it was invented in the 1990's, permitting pressed cotton trousers with a button-down shirt, or any outfit with a similar balance of comfort and presentability. In my opinion, it's the only sensible dress code outside of industry uniforms like scrubs.

The unwritten dress code of my office is business casual. There's a lot of scope for choice and personal expression. Blue jeans are not allowed, but jean-style pants of other colours are permitted, if they're in good condition.

If you could go straight to a beach party from work without changing and not look out of place, you're too casual. Ix-nay on flip-flops in the office. (I have had that conversation with an employee.) Similarly, you should feel compelled to change before heading out to a nightclub. F***-me heels with a short skirt and 4 inches of bare cleavage is inappropriate. (I have had that conversation too.) Other than that, the sky's the limit.

However, try to buy some decent business casual clothing. Go on, I dare you. Seriously. Because this is what malls are selling these days:
  • Prom dresses
  • Grey or black suits
  • Sports clothes (running-wear, yoga-wear, skater-dude-wear, etc.)
  • Teen Super-Casual
The Teen Super-Casual look is now embraced by people of all ages. It seems that everyone wants in on skinny jeans; pre-faded and ripped jeans; skimpy T-shirts with funky decals or logos; and hoodies. I don't have a problem with that. I was walking around in hipster skinny jeans all weekend. But my point is: it was the weekend.

It used to be that cheap stores carried Teen Casual and pricier stores carried dressier items. Now it's casual across the board. You can pay $10 for a skimpy T-shirt, or $110. It's egalitarianism via the lowest common denominator of clothing.

There are a few other types of stores in the mall. There are stores specializing in clothing for octogenarians. There are stores specializing in get-ups for extra-slutty girls. And there are even a few stores carrying the look that I want, but designed for a different body type. I can't fill out either the boob area or the hip area in anything that they carry. No help there.

I am down to two, count'em TWO, stores where I can find decent work clothes. In this whole big city, where most of the non-residential space is devoted to retail sales rather than art, culture, or nature, that's what I'm left with. I can spend all day walking through a giant mall containing hundreds of stores, and in the end I always fall back on the same two chains. Here and there I might luck out with a random item from another store, but it's rare.

Is anyone else getting tired of endless jeans and T-shirts? Or is it just me?


Warped Mind of Ron said...

Hmmm... I hadn't noticed the change in business casual myself. I personally am wearing office casual short shorts with a hot pink halter top and I seem to mix in pretty well. As far as the F-me heels go, nobody is complaining about them ;-)

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

Yeah, I don't think my office is business casual. It's downright casual. And while shorts and mini skirts aren't allowed... jeans most definitely are. I've even snuck into work wearing fleece pants that are usually left for wearing at home only. Oh and everyone wears running shoes. Yeah, we are most definitely casual. And I know exactly what you mean about the challenges to trying to find true business casual clothing.

DarcsFalcon said...

Have you considered trying catalog shopping? They all have size charts to help you determine the right size, and with your seamstress master, you could take care of any alterations just as when you buy things at a mall. It might be worth the effort to look into it at least. Do you have Penneys, up there? Macy's Sears? Those places would probably have some things in the styles you're looking for.

Sparkling Red said...

Ron: So you're ready for a beach party AND a night out at the clubs. Double-naughty you! ;-)

Nilsa: Fleece pants at work! Oh, how comfy that would be. I used to wear scrubs. Those were pretty comfy. I called them my Day Pyjamas.

DarcsFalcon: We have Sears up here, and I like their Jessica line of clothing quite a lot. In fact, a few of my best business casual pieces are from Sears. As for the other two, no ma'am. Anyway, I'm so picky, I much prefer to try things on before making a purchase.

whatigotsofar said...

I want to see more suits in the business world. There is not enough. And nice suits too. Consarnit dot-com hippies had to ruin the office for people.

Karen said...

My last office was business casual - unless I had to go to court or to depositions I would wear black pants and twin sets. That is my business casual standard. Of course, I wear some skirts or some other blouses, but I have at least 20 pairs of black slacks and probably 20 twin sets.

I order a lot from J.Jill online. Check them out.

G said...

Hmmm...I don't think I would fit in your office very well.

My speed since late '06 has been jeans with a casual button/pull-over business shirt with a t-shirt every Friday.

However, being in state government, I do know what I can wear for a t-shirt and what I can't.

And since spring is here and summer is fast approaching, the bi-monthly memo from HR will make its appearance because someone will be wearing something much like you'd just described....

darcknyt said...

I did notice this shift in mentality of which you speak. I've noted several articles on job sites with HR managers expressing dismay over the ineptitude of the younger generation of employees to understand a dress code and follow it. They want business to bend to them rather than the other way around. Strange and distasteful.

I need to spend more time at that store for slutty chicks. What's the name of that one?

Business casual is by far, and has always been in my estimation, the hardest thing to wear. Business attire is simple and straightforward, if expensive. Casual is my preference, but I've only worked in a casual environment twice in my life. But business casual? It's tough, and in these parts, even tougher. Long story there.

LL Cool Joe said...

As I always dress casually, even when I shouldn't, I can't say I've noticed.

I think clothes shops here in the UK cover almost every clothing option.

Sparkling Red said...

wigsf: I agree. I have a lot of respect for a good suit. And I mean a GOOD suit, not some ill-fitting, cheap, suit facsimile. Bad suits are the bane of the business world.

Karen: I wouldn't want to wear black pants every day (or even almost every day). I like a lot of variety in my work wardrobe. When life's routine seems to merge one day into the next, I find that being creative with clothing helps to reduce the monotony. On the other hand, I could really get into twin sets.

G: Anyone can fit into my office. You just throw a white lab coat on over whatever you're wearing, and people instantly assume that you're a doctor. Then if you're wearing running shoes or jeans they'll forgive you.

Darcknyt: The slutty store I was referring to is called "Ya Ya Co.". Bebe is also pretty slutty.

LL Cool Joe: I miss Marks'n'Sparks. They used to have stores in Canada, but they closed the last one around ten years ago. They used to sell the best Jelly Babies!

Jenski said...

My friend had a hard time getting pants that would fit but not be too tight to wear in front of a bunch of middle schoolers. You can just imagine what those boys could say, right? I like shopping at Ann Taylor Loft...when they have sales and I have a coupon. :-)

Ily said...

I dress business casual, which in Miami can mean just anything (including mini dresses and 7-inch heels). I do not wear flats or dresses to work (by choice)...and I'm a big fan of jeans and blouses (not t-shirts), so I'm happy with the selection at the stores. I just have trouble affording what I like.