TCG 411: The Downside Of Dressing Down

Summer Office Attire Gone Awry

By Donna Farrugia, Executive Director of The Creative Group

Summer is upon us – and that means warm weather, company picnics … and fashion faux pas on the job. In fact, four in 10 advertising and marketing executives polled by The Creative Group said employees at their firms are dressing more casually on the job.

While creative teams often have a little more leeway in terms of dress codes compared to their counterparts in the legal or HR departments, for example, you don’t want to abuse this privilege. Presenting a polished image is an easy way to boost your credibility and signal to others you take your job seriously – and perhaps move you one step closer to a potential promotion.

As such, here are five wardrobe offenses to avoid this summer:

1. Sheer clothing. Lace and light-weight fabric may be all the rage right now, but your clothing should never be overly revealing.  Also watch out for see-through materials like linen, silk and chiffon.
2. Flip-flops (or Birkenstocks). While open-toed sandals are often OK to wear, foam or plastic flip-flops or well-worn “mandals” are almost never appropriate in office environments.
3. Statement T-shirts. Are you a Twilight fan who’s on “Team Edward”? Or a vegetarian who “Doesn’t Eat Anything That Had Eyes”? Your colleagues and boss may know these personal details, but they certainly don’t need to be reminded of them by your wardrobe. In particular, steer clear of T-shirts that contain political, religious or other controversial messages.
4. Midriff-baring shirts and low-rise pants. No matter how fit you are, avoid showing too much skin at work. Wearing clothes that are extremely form-fitting is another no-no.
5. Acid wash jeans. If you do wear jeans to work, they should be tailored, and not too tight or trendy. Leave your vintage, threadbare 501s or rhinestone-studded flares at home, too.

As a rule, you want to dress to fit in, even though this may go against your creative grain. It’s important to know – and emulate – your company’s general dress code. Ultimately, when it comes to attire, simplicity can be chic. After all, it’s best to bring attention to your ability to do the job well, not your love for oversize hoop earrings or fedora hats.

Donna Farrugia is executive director of The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing interactive, design and marketing professionals with a variety of firms. More information, including online job-hunting services, candidate portfolios and The Creative Group’s award-winning career magazine, can be found at


8 thoughts on “TCG 411: The Downside Of Dressing Down

  1. Darcy

    I work for a company that allows casual dress. There are definitely pros and cons to this. There isn’t the stress of having to dress up for work, allowing people to work in clothes that they feel comfortable in. But the downfall is that I think that there has to be some guidelines as to what is acceptable and what is not. There is a good mixture of people who do dress up for work, those that dress casual-work (slacks, nice jeans, blouses, polos, etc.) and then there are those that come to work in things like Nascar tee shirts, hoodies, jeans, flip flops, etc. For me, personally, while I don’t like dressing up for work everyday, I do try to keep to that casual-work look. I don’t feel as though I look professional if I come to work in what I’d typically wear around my house on a weekend day. I also want people to take me more seriously and I think that appearance can definitely play a big part in that. Plus, I feel better about myself when I put a little more effort into how I look each day and I know that also has an effect on my mood, my attitude, my productivity, etc. It does make a difference!

    1. Rayna Diane

      I agree – I feel better when I put more effort into my clothes and I do think as an employee, you are taken more seriously when you make the effort because it shows you take it seriously (without being stuffy, of course!! 😉 ).

  2. C Miles

    Flip flops are fine in the corporate environment of the major publishing company for which I work. And I’m a 50 year old man, part of management, and regarded as a snappy dresser. I’m not the only one in flip flops on any given hot summer day either. But then again, publishing tends to be more crunchy and casual, being the glamorous, high-income industry that is is. (HA!).

    1. Mrs T

      Agree with Miles….same age group and management and same high-income industry. I do draw the line at spaghetti-straps for women and sleeveless-Ts on guys (especially when excessive hair is involved). If you’re meeting with off-site directorship or vendors, a completely different story and set of rules. But don’t we all know this by now?

    2. glorianne roccanova

      people should just look in the mirror before they leave the house…..and if they dressed like shanks in the winter, what makes you think they would do any better on the job…..i work for myself and i wouldn’t wear most of the “outfits” i see people in….too bad it is not my job to send them home without pay….for stupidity….

  3. Bryan Leed

    I work at an in-house graphics department for a company that does engineering as its main focus. I feel that everyone should let the upper management decide what the dress code standards are, because leaving it up to individuals results in folks lowering the standards below acceptable for our type of conservative customers. Some individuals reason that they do not usually deal directly with customers, so they should be allowed to be frumpy to the max, (or even not bother to show up for work, just email it in). It must be nice to not be concerned about having no customers to deal with, but they are not considering that others in the company actually ARE dealing directly with conservative customers. Even if your job does not require direct customer interaction, dressing professionally is a show of solidarity with your frontline personnel who DO have to look professional throughout the week, and it raises the awareness that your company is a professional place that must cater to the highest common denominator of dressing, not the lowest.

  4. Regina

    I know all of this is sound advice, but the “even though it may go against your creative grain” is my personal stumbling block. I prefer self expression and have an affinity towards what some deem as a multitude of vibrant colors. I also wear shoes in all colors of the rainbow.