Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at www.news-sentinel.com
Q. Karen, I am often surprised at what some people in our office wear to work during the summer. Some of them look as if they are going to the beach. What do you suggest we wear to work when it is hot outside?
A. In this day of “business casual” many people put the emphasis on “casual” when choosing their work wardrobe. Add the summer heat into the equation and you can get some very inappropriate choices. Keep in mind that getting too skimpy with your clothing can be a real liability in how you are perceived as a professional.
Your job, position and work environment should dictate the level of formality needed in your attire. If you are in a serious business, such as finance, law or other highly professional fields, it is very important not to get too casual. There should never be a question as to whether you are working, based on what you are wearing.
Employee manuals should have well-defined guidelines for what people can and can't wear. One person's idea of “business appropriate” attire can differ dramatically from another.
Here are some of my standard dos and don'ts to maintain a professional image on hot summer days:
•Don't expose too much skin. Sleeveless, low-cut tops are not appropriate in traditional work settings.
• Don't flip and flop with your shoes. Slides, flip-flops and sandals are not as professional as closed-toe shoes or closed-toe sling-backs.
•Don't get too high with your heels. Anything over two inches can be perceived as “sexy.”
•Don't get too short with your skirts. One to two inches above the knee should be the limit, regardless of how great your legs are.
•Don't reveal all of your assets. Cleavage is inappropriate in any work environment. Be careful not to expose your bare midriff when raising your arms.
•Don't wear tight T-shirts, tanks or sheer tops. No one wants to tell the temperature of the room by what a woman has on. Layering or a lined bra can help avoid this faux pas.
•Don't wear capris, long shorts or cargo pants. Lightweight long pants are a better choice.
•Do wear lighter-weight wrinkle-resistant fabrics.
•Do lose the tie and wear an open collar, if ties are not required.
•Do remove your jacket, but keep one handy if something pops up during your day that might require one.
•Do go bare-legged if hose are not required. If your toes are exposed, get a pedicure.
•Do wear lighter-weight skirts if long pants are too hot.
If you question whether something is appropriate for work — it probably isn't. If you find yourself apologizing for what you have on — it's wrong.