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Appropriate (female) business dress

A question for those of you who work in a professional environment:

A (younger, female) colleague and friend of mine expressed her views on business dress to me as we were coming back from a business trip to Berlin. Now this colleage (whom we shall call 'bestfootballerintheoffice' as she's a better player than any of the blokes - captain of the blues team when she was at Oxford in fact) has what appear to me to be somewhat unusual views on what dress is appropriate for professional women.

I would accept that wearing very short skirts or showing too much cleavage would generally be considered to be unprofessional. However, bestfootballerintheoffice thinks that any skirt that does not extend below the knees is unprofessional. She also thinks that the only professional footwear would be shoes - never boots.

It occurred to me tonight watching The Apprentice, that despite the female contestants on that programme all trying desperately to look professional, they would all fail bestfootballerintheoffice's professional dress test. In our office, while the fashion does seem to be for slightly longer skirts at the moment, boots are certainly pretty common, from secretaries to managers.

Your views?



( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 2nd, 2008 07:02 am (UTC)
I've temped in a good range of places and seen plenty of boots. Ankle boots with a trouser suit are beyond reproach I would have thought. Are you referring to high boots with a short skirt? I've seen that look on secretaries where it can look appropriately smart, but not on senior women, now I think about it. High boots with a longer skirt would be fine I think.
May. 2nd, 2008 08:53 am (UTC)
No, I was specifically referring to boots that come to just below the knee (heels of various heights) combined with skirts of between just-below-knee and just-above-knee.

Accountancy tends to be a very young profession (at least working in professional practice) and there aren't very many women in my office who are both older and managerial. We have a few managers who are in their early 30s (all of whom wear boots at least occasionally), and one manager and one senior manager in their mid or late 30s (who don't). We also have a couple of women who are rather older, but of a more junior grade (both of whom wear boots).
(Deleted comment)
May. 2nd, 2008 07:47 am (UTC)
What he said.
May. 2nd, 2008 08:59 am (UTC)
I think that's pretty much my view too. In fact if anything, because bestfootballerintheoffice tends to dress very plainly, while she's certainly smart, she somehow (to my eyes) tends to look less professional than a colleage wearing, say a suit with a slightly shorter skirt and / or boots.
May. 2nd, 2008 08:55 am (UTC)
"...colour of the clothes (and footwear) will be important."

Ahh - the old mantra: "Red shoes, no knickers."
May. 2nd, 2008 02:03 pm (UTC)
And of course:

"her red shoes suggest that she is lively".
May. 2nd, 2008 12:21 pm (UTC)
I disagree with her. Short skirts and/or boots can look very professional.

It may, perhaps, be a different sort of professional. I know the general look in our London offices is different from Southampton - more and shorter skirts, I think, where people down here tend to wear black trousers, and more scarves and other obvious accessories. For the men, there's more in the way of pinstripes and fancy shirts.

The London look is I think a high-powered, modern, cutting-edge sort of professional, whereas in Southampton it's more the solid, reliable, trustworthy professional. With lots of overlap, of course.

On an unprofessional note, I would be very much against discouraging short skirts in the office :-) Except when I'm trying to concentrate, of course ;-)
May. 2nd, 2008 12:28 pm (UTC)
Short skirts and/or boots can look very professional

Yes they can, but it might rather depend what type of profession you are in as to whether they are appropriate... ;-)
May. 2nd, 2008 12:40 pm (UTC)
I think she's being a bit strict with her rules. Boots, provided they aren't over the knee ones are perfectly fine in an office environment and so are skirts that come just above the knee. Personally I never wear skirts at work anyway, and with my build at the moment even if I did, they wouldn't be short ones. But if I did have the figure to wear short skirts I would think it was unprofessional to wear ones that were too short. Having said that, it's possible to be covered up from neck to ankle and still look provocative and unprofessional if the cut of the clothes and the material are right ;-)

May. 2nd, 2008 02:03 pm (UTC)
I was once reprimanded when temping for 'not wearing enough'. I was wearing a long sleeved jumper, skirt to the knee and thick black tights, and as I had no inclinations to spend the pittance I was earning as a temp on buying voluminous skirts and respectable trousers, I basically told them to sod off.

I mean, if you are temping, you are not doing it because you've already got a generous surplus clothes budget, the skirt was what I'd managed to find at Oxfam!
May. 2nd, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC)
I totally agree and besides what you were wearing sounds fine anyway. I think thick black tights make shorter skirts far more acceptable at work, and besides a skirt to the knee is hardly short. One of the temps we had, earned the nickname 'Teeth & tits' because of her cheery smile and barely covered, extremely large bust :-) Her manner of dress was bitched about by the women in the office, but she still ended up being taken on permanently, I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact her line manager was male...

May. 2nd, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC)
I've never seen anyone dressed like that at JOLF. Bare shoulders (from vest tops or strapless tops worn under a jacket that is then removed) occasionally cause a raised eyebrow as do combinations of jumpers that go down to the waist and trousers that come up to the waist, but which don't overlap, thus exposing a small amount of bare midriff if the lady in question stretches.

Boots are perfectly allowable according to the firm's dress code, although rather amusingly the fashion last summer for wearing flip-flops was cracked down upon. Why amusingly? Because for some reason, the dress code used the American term and told employees not to wear 'thongs' in the office!
May. 2nd, 2008 04:14 pm (UTC)
When I started work at my old firm (Kidsons Impey, which I will use without pseudonym as it no longer exists), women had to wear skirts - trousers were not allowed.
May. 2nd, 2008 06:25 pm (UTC)
Interesting. Our sixth-formers are told to wear "office-wear" and have some quite creative interpretations of that. (I suspect it depends on the office...)

I observe without further comment that heel-height, hem-height and amount of perfume in the air all increase noticeably when leaving the science block. (The guidelines for girls state that skirts should be 'neither too short nor too long' which isn't particularly helpful.)
May. 4th, 2008 12:24 am (UTC)
My observation of doing voluntary work at schools in Plymouth is that skirts are significantly shorter at girls' schools. Less threatening environment perhaps?
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )