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Some Casual Advice...

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Some Casual Advice....

by Timothy M. Clancy

Businesses nation-wide are adopting "Friday casual" as the daily dress code. Even IBM Corporation, the bastion of button-down conservatism when it comes to office attire, announced in February that its employees will be allowed to adopt a more casual look. According to Thomas Beermann, a spokesperson at IBM's Armonk, N.Y., headquarters, while the Big Blue never had a "formal dress code," the unwritten policy was that very conservative business attire is what was expected.

"Over the past few years, at IBM locations around the country, employees have been moving toward a more casual style," says Beermann. This trend was accepted by the corporate office, so the company that had an informal policy about formal business wear, now has a formal policy about informal business wear.

IBM's new policy does require proper dress for a given situation, though. "If an IBM employee had a meeting with a bank employer, it would be appropriate for our employee to wear a suit and tie," says Beermann.

The "workday casual" trend is sweeping across the country, says Margot Brunelle, fashion coordinator for the Chicago-based department store chain, Marshall Field's. In January, Field's began offering free seminars to companies that are interested in implementing a workday casual dress code. These 40-minute presentations are custom-designed for each situation and are conducted by a fashion representative from the store.

One of the biggest concerns for employees in offices that have gone casual is the added expense of the new dress code. Many workers have two distinct wardrobes--traditional business wear and weekend casual. And face it, "play clothes" are not really appropriate for most business situations. Brunelle says that a main goal of the workday casual seminars is to teach people how to reach a happy medium between these two ways of...