Business Casual Is Over: Back to Dress for Success

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Business casual, made a cult by Silicon Valley, didn't survive The Great Recession.

That's why the bible of professional life, Bloomberg Business Week, tells you. About 66 percent of employers demand a return to professional attire -- so goodbye to jeans, flip flops, and no underwear. There's more. Organizations are hiring image coaches to guide employees on how to get a competitive edge through how they dress. That "how" ranges from a well-tailored suit to a quality attache case. Will those phrases like "Dress for Success" and "Power Dressing" return too?

So, what are the rules for job searchers and those attempting to develop new business?

As with lawyers pitching to juries, you can't dress better than those you want to influence. That could trigger their dislike and resentment. It's smart to research what they invest in looking good. Then go down one notch, but no lower.

The big trick is to adapt to the new formality and still appear comfortable in your own skin. Yes, break in outfits and accessories before the day of the interview. That will also prevent being perceived as trying too hard to please -- for example, by rushing around purchasing special clothes. Coming across as confident is everything.

With the demise of business casual also went the communications excesses of the age of affluence and Oprah. They include the assumption of instant intimacy, disclosure of too much information, and a focus on self.

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Lynne

I agree with the submitter on here that said they are tired of flip flops and jeans with holes. That's the problem! Casual has translated to sloppy. Many folks want see how far they can push the matter on every issue. Some medical facilities have gone away from scrubbs to casual attire. Professionalism is what sets those in charge apart from John Q. Public. Going into a business where the employees are dressed appropriately sort of sets the stage for who's in charge.

October 14 2010 at 5:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
RICH

Jane Genova doesn't get around much outside wherever she lives. Business casual is in here on the East Coast from DC to FL at least. I travel there and see it daily from MON to FRI. in banks, jewelry stores, pet stotes, clothing centers, real estate offices, insuranance agencies, even Ethan Allen stores. No jacket for men or jacket & no tie. Hard to describe the great variety I see in women: skirt line from an 3 inches above knee to the floor. Long sleeve, short sleeve, neckline all up and down. I do see older women seeming to wear "classier" outfits though but usually.The thing I hate most is all the piercings by women in the face, tongue, and mutiple earrings just are such a turn off.

October 14 2010 at 5:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris

Thanks for the article, Jane. Now we Americans can cast off this facade of "forward-thinking" and let everyone know that we're still the shallow, materialistic and judgmental people we've always been.

October 14 2010 at 4:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
skip

I'm 65yrs old. Born oct 31 1945. been in the army for 20yrs.
grew up in calif and picked vegtables and fruit, bailed hay and took care of horses an cattle. a has been
there are things buisness can demand/
there are things they get/ there are things they don't get
they can demand all they want and they won't get them. The worl is static an changing so it seems but stays the same.
look back at the productive years of creativity.
the creative people call the shots. skip

October 14 2010 at 3:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Solus

When are we going to get past OTHER people's appearances? The manner in which I dress and groom myself has absolutely no effect on anyone else. You may think it does, but you're wrong. Some people prefer to present themselves in a suit. Some people present themselves with a mohawk haircut. Some people adopt a style from decades past, while some are years ahead of the rest. We do this to attract people of similar interests, lifestyles, etc. It's a tribal thing, not a measurement of one's intelligence or integrity. Dress codes are nothing but enforced conformity, which was as dumb in high school as it is in the office. Remember the Martin Luther King line about people being judged by the "content of their character"? Think about it.

October 14 2010 at 2:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Solus's comment
Raven

Finally someone with more than half a brain! This whole obsession with appearances but not character is completely disheartening. These people must have forgotten that it was men in suits who got us into this financial mess and caused this high unemployment. Its the year 2010, we shouldn't even care about petty things such as appearance.

October 14 2010 at 2:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Justin Tyme

In this economy?! Are you kidding me?! Who really gives two shakes from a rats rectum about casual business dress?! If employers are soooo damn worried about dress, then these tailored executive suits with overpriced ties and shoes and dry cleaning of said items, should be paid by an employer requiring such dress! There's no reason to look like a slob or be sloppy, however, let's be real folks, who in their right mind is going to justify spending that kind of money, just to satiate their employer in this economy??? This "trend" should be really be re-examined.

October 14 2010 at 2:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Vicster

Hmm me thinks an idiot who has no clue about the workplace

October 14 2010 at 2:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chuck

I remember back in the 60s when kids were allowed to dress like slobs and soon
after the teachers followed suit and also dressed like slobs thank God that
ended quickly.

October 14 2010 at 1:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mike

I have a friend who works at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Everyday she MUST wear closed heels, stockings, nothing sleeveless, preferably a skirted business suit and if you dare to wear a pantsuit, the slacks and top better be the same color and fabric. Now the real kicker is her office NEVER has a customer come to it.

October 14 2010 at 1:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joe

Raven, Raven, such hostility. My, my, my.

October 14 2010 at 1:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Joe's comment
Raven

No need to be condescending. What you consider hostile, I consider factual. The fact of the matter is, a whole slew of people from an entirely new generation with an entirely different attitude on what the workforce is and what it could/should be are either entering the workforce or will be very soon (including myself). Things are either going to change to suit our generation's attitudes and skills, or sadly there is going to be a huge conflict of interest between the young and the old.

As for your statement on your attire while teaching, quite a few of the teachers I respected the most dressed quite casually while teaching when I was in high school. I respected them because they were competent at their job, could teach, and knew what they were talking about when I had questions on my assignments. From what I observed in my classes, students my age generally don't care what their teacher wears as long as it isn't excessively revealing.

October 14 2010 at 2:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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