As I write this, I am pondering what to wear for a business meeting in a few hours. The meeting invitation said “business casual,” which immediately sent a shaft of dread into my chest.
That’s because, to my mind, business casual is one of …
This item is available in full to subscribers.
If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.
Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.
If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.
That’s because, to my mind, business casual is one of the worst things to happen to women in the workplace. I’m not talking here about a gender-discrimination topic — but this is a gender-based issue.
The concept of a relaxed dress code at work started for me in the 1980s with what was known around the office as “California casual.” This term has always had a certain kind of cachet to me, a land-locked Colorado-born girl, that conjured up visions of breezy pastels and topsider boat shoes with jaunty white leather laces.
In reality, I wasn’t that far off—light-colored khaki pants became preferred attire, usually with an open-collared shirt. Topsiders were acceptable, as long as they were worn with socks.
Now, you might have noticed here that what I am describing is clothing perfectly suitable for men for California casual, casual Fridays, dress-down days, and, ultimately, business casual. Of course, women were also free to adopt this casual style, but in my experience, women in khakis and a shirt looked less professional than the men (and far less comfortable).
And as I’m backpedaling though my mind about what my options are for my meeting, I’m aware of my own discomfort with business casual attire.
I usually prefer not to wear pants, unless they’re jeans, which do occasionally sneak into a casual dress code if they are “nice.” I’ve also noticed that when said dress code also allows tennis shoes, I have a literal spring in my step and I go about my work with more of a lilt.
But tennies are often off the list, and the quandary for me becomes what shoes to wear with pants … I do not like wearing socks. It’s far easier for me to pair flats with a casual skirt, but there’s also a catch to that — for much of my professional career, we women have been required to wear pantyhose. This sort of takes away the whole aspect of going casual!
Not only are bare legs more fashionable these days — check out any red carpet — but going without hose is way more comfortable, especially in warmer weather. But this item of women’s wear is so contentious that sometimes whole meetings are dedicated to this decision, and it never seems to be the women who object to a no-hose policy. I’m not really sure why it matters to people who don’t have to wear them ...
Granted, there are some months in Colorado when tights or pants are preferable simply because of the temperature. And I found when I worked in health care that wearing hose was non-negotiable, and I accepted that, usually opting for slacks or a suit with pants and regular socks and shoes.
But today it’s springtime in the Rockies, and as soon as put down my pen, I’m going to rummage up a swingy skirt and toss on a blazer and greet the world in barelegged beauty.
And I’m quite comfortable with that.
Other items that may interest you
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.