Dress Standards at Work: You Are What You Wear, Really?

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  • Topic: Gender, Trousers, Modesty
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  • Published : February 24, 2013
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Dress Standards At Work: You Are What You Wear, Really?

Clothing is a powerful tool for identity construction and can be recognized as a stamp of self-expression. Simply put, clothes make the man (Mark Twain, 1927). In modern day situations, women are gradually engaging in manipulation of work attire to construct identities and manage impressions as the emphasis on clothes and appearance increases (Guy & Banim, 2000). While there appears to be evidence for the argument that female employees engage with clothing as a means of how they construct their image in the workplace, their attire decisions are often restricted by strict regulatory regime on clothing (Peluchette, Karl & Rust, 2006). Before delving further into the various types of strict regulatory clothing regime involved, it is critical to have a well-defined understanding about the relationship between a woman’s dressing and her identity in corporate work settings (Peluchette, Karl & Rust, 2006). The style in which women dress reflects deeply the gist of who and what they truly are in terms of their identity (Findley, Fretwell, Wheatley & Ingram, 2006). It is believed that women use clothing to define as well as communicate her identity to others. According to Davis and Lennon (as cited in Peluchette, Karl & Rust, 2006), women strategically select clothing according to the image they wish to project to others. If this is the case, observers in workplaces should be able to make sense of and show consensus with regards to the information the woman is bringing across in her clothing cues at work, as well as substantially agree between the perceived meaning of clothing cues and the her actual identity. However, that is only valid if the work attire women don on is specifically determined by them to represent themselves in their respective workplaces. Put differently, the ability of women in managing their identities in workplaces through effective dressing depends on the extent of their freedom of choice when it comes to clothing decisions. Therefore, this paper will begin by exploring arguing for the ways in which dressing of women is restricted by external influences, and conclude that their clothing cues may not be related to true identity of women as freedom of dressing is compromised. Company’s desire for professional image

In today’s world, many companies enforce strict dress codes on women in order to gain the merit of a workforce labor with a professional image (Cardon & Okoro, 2009). Knowing that a female employee’s appearance at work has a direct impact on the company’s image, many organizations establish and enforce regulatory regime on work clothing to ensure that the organization is best represented in a professional manner (Findley, Fretwell, Wheatley & Ingram, 2006). From a corporate perspective, it appears that formal dress codes are usually associated with increased professionalism. For example, when women wear white blouses, black blazers and black knee-length skirts, they are said to appear more authoritative, influential, powerful, confident and competent (Cardon & Okoro, 2009). Since work attire of women has a direct impact on their ability to attract clients as well as acquire new business for the company, most companies end up monitoring and dictating dress policies that demand for a regulated attire such as sensible dark suits and A-line skirts (McPherson, 1997; Findley, Fretwell, Wheatley & Ingram, 2006). This effectively restricts the diversity of work attire working women are allowed to don in their workplaces. As a result, women’s ability to demonstrate their true identities through dressing is often restricted by an enforced corporate attire and identity. That is to say, organizations implicitly control office ladies’ work attire by stating clothing policies that mandate a satisfactory level of dress standard. For instance, female employees in especially conservative industries such as banks and law firms are prohibited from wearing...
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