Workplace fashion: What’s in and what’s out – Part 1

    By Maureen Aylward

Our Zintro experts love to talk fashion – and fashion in the workplace is changing. We turned to our experts to learn about new trends and to find out if casual Fridays are a thing of the past.

Supriya Ghurye, a freelance fashion designer, tells us that casual Fridays or Friday dressing started as a trend way back in the 1950s when businessmen and office-goers went to the office tie-less on Fridays. She says that the trend was reportedly first spotted in the Hawaiian city of Honolulu where employers let staff wear Aloha shirts on Fridays instead of the regular office attire. Aloha shirts became famous in the 1960s and the trend of Friday dressing spread further afield. Many companies saw this as a way to increase productivity and raise the satisfaction level of employees at no extra cost, and the practice quickly became a norm.

Ghurye says that the definitions of Friday dressing have taken on a much more relaxed form than previous years, with business casual increasingly becoming the norm on all days of the week. “However, surveys show that in the last few years, companies have cut back on casual dress codes, with a stronger insistence on formal attire. This is mainly due to the workplace now being diversely occupied by employees ranging in age from 20 to 60,” Ghurye explains. “There are conflicting viewpoints, and employers are seeking to reduce them. For example, at the height of the dot-com boom, flip-flops and shorts were seen in companies related to the internet sector. Today, many of these companies have adopted a more staid approach. Companies realize that what their employees wear ultimately reflects on the company, and in some cases, customer-facing staff have strict norms to follow every day of the week.”

Just like the weekly formal dress code, Friday dressing has its own set of norms and expected behavior, Ghurye says. “Some companies see casual Fridays as a great motivator; others believe it detracts from the professionalism of the firm. The work culture of the firm determines how employees are allowed to dress, and what the norms are regarding dress codes.”

Ghurye has created a personal guide to dressing for Spring Friday dressing at the office that takes a slightly conservative view, but one that allows for a margin of creativity:

  • Colors play important role while dressing up or down for Casual Friday. “If you decide to wear bright colors, make sure you use them for the shirt or blouse and balance colors with neutral colored skirts or trousers. This holds true for both men and women,” Ghurye says.
  • Select a centre piece and build up the rest around it. “Wearing cotton or linen pants with a nice shirt and elegant jacket adds a glamour element. A pair of semi-formal slip-ons or casual boots is perfect to set off any Friday ensemble,” she says.
  • For Women:
    • Wear a sweater set and knit pants or a knee-length dress or skirt in linen/cotton paired with a cotton t-shirt.
    • Remember to check the neckline of tops and hemline of any dress or skirt.
    • Formal woolen suit jackets can be swapped with a more relaxed and comfortable cardigan, v-neck jumper, or a trench coat.
    • Formal wear stockings can be replaced by opaque footless leggings.
    • Occasionally, heels can be replaced by ballet flats, flat sandals, loafers, and flat boots depending on the weather conditions.
    • No sneakers or denims, and mini-skirts are definitely to be avoided.
  • For Men:
    • Wear a pair of neutral or khaki pants paired with a tucked in basic white t-shirt or decent polo shirts in colors and patterns suitable for business casual.
    • Both button down and short sleeved shirts are considered appropriate for Casual Friday.
    • A recent trend in business casual is the use of light weight plain pants made in nylon or similar fabrics.
    • No muscle tees, sneakers, or open footwear.

Manoj Verma, a manager of sourcing premium apparel and lifestyle products, thinks that casual Friday is a term that is fast losing relevance in today’s digital age. “Now it is Friday all week. The trend is towards smart casual dressing; however, this depends on the industry one works in,” he says. “For example, in finance or consulting, formal attire is still the norm. After the economic meltdown, there was a time when dressing up became more of a necessity. People were looking for new jobs and understood the importance of creating a good first impression.”

What do you think?

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