what are you wearing?

Was having a brilliant day. I’d just dropped off a big regular bowl of Thai Curry soup at a colleague’s place as she was down with sniffles and not at work, as the poor thing lives alone. It’s a cold, blustery, rainy day outside. Got myself a small bowl of it and just dug into it, when I realize I have new mail. It’s from the HR lady asking me to drop by.

A little background and a little more specifics for Thursday, the day of this event:

I work near DC. It’s a small company, and though the number of employees are substantial, minimal folks show up at work. I have to. [Don’t ask, that would make a different rant post by itself.] I don’t meet clients on  regular basis, and though clients do show up at work, they hardly come over to our side (again, can’t explain). The CEO/President is not at work, and apart from the HR lady, there’s no one else from top management on site. My manager is in, but we do not have any scheduled meetings today and she’s in her own office, far from mine.

A little background on me:

I would like to believe am well dressed and groomed. Not perhaps the most stylishly dressed on this side of the country/company (am surrounded by single women in their mid-late 20’s in size 2’s and 4’s so give me a break), but am no sloth. I believe that clothes and a personal sense of style makes a man (woman) stand out, more so in professional settings than personal.  I also believe that before one can open their mind, mouth and prove their worth, their clothes and how they carry themselves sets the tone – first impressions and all that.

Also, I have waited a long time, a very long time to get myself some smart business attire in my closet as I have stayed home with the kids much longer than I expected. So yes, I enjoy wearing good clothes and especially like how I feel in them.

Thursday right after lunch:

The HR lady calls me over to give me a condescending “o-u-truant-little-middle-schooler” look while she informs me that I am in jeans and that company policy does not allow that!

I look at her with a “Are YOU FRIKKIN KIDDIN’ me?” and as am put on a spot get defensive and explain why am in jeans. I feel like an idiot now, but am partly relieved I wasn’t getting fired or being pulled up for printing some secure document off the common printer or some such higher level of truancy! The very first time, I rush to work in what am wearing while I drop munchkin off at 7:30 in a great rush and then try and beat the goddamn traffic so I can make it on time to work, and I get this thrown at my face. I tell her that. She nods, and continues with her perfect little arched eyebrow still hung on her forehead “Okay, yes, but it’s policy.” (My day starts at 5:45, and am not sitting still until I rest my bottom while I drive 24 miles up to work, after I rush the kids off into their respective buses at 7:30 am.)

The jeans were dark washed, clean and new. No tears, rips, no visible cheeks of any kind seen. I am wearing a lovely white blouse with a red sweater on top. I had my neat little black heels on. I could go visit the Royal Philharmonic and the usher wouldn’t bat an eyelid. I’ve been to concerts and I know.

The manager agrees with the HR, raises her voice, and then goes contrite and gives me a hug, saying “don’t take it personally, it’s policy.”

All I say is: “considering the fact that I’ve been with the company awhile, and considering that this has been the single most rare occasion when I’ve not been ‘perfectly dressed” to sit in my quiet corner and tap at the keys while the office looks like it’s a graveyard, and that I wasn’t meeting clients, and that no one was expected either, I’d have expected a casual mail, a passing by comment in the lines of “hey, I see you are in jeans, it isn’t Friday, so could you be careful next time?” – I get this.

The icing on this cake is that the husband agrees with the HR. Perfect. Expecting support from the spouse is being unrealistic of course.

So am wondering, am I bizarre or is this normal? ..and just to rub it in, please tell me, what are you wearing at work, and what’s the policy at your place? Add in the approximate geographic area you are from too if you don’t mind?

..and you thought I was doing the cheesy chat opener didn’t ya?

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59 thoughts on “what are you wearing?

  1. I dont work, so I dont know but given the circumastances you gave, I think its a bit too strict.
    Or maybe a all out email,saying that the company policy is not to wear jeans instead of signalling you out

    PS: Spouses are never helpful in such situations. I have more than once, if you cant help me feel better, then stfu.

    • True, a dress code policy email would have sufficed, IF the idea wasn’t to keep it casual and non-intrusive. I have no issues with her doing her job, as much as she’d take into consideration that this is a small place and not some huge MNC she heads.

  2. God! your company does have some ancient policy when it comes to dresses – the last time I checked, we were in 21st century :-) My POV is somewhere between your husband and yours – as much as I understand that it is company policy et al, which I presume you (and other employees) are well aware of and from a company standpoint they have no reason to make exceptions (what I am trying to say here is that the HR lady’s action is alright and well within her boundary), it would have been a nice gesture if the entire episode was handled a little more casually especially since you don’t have a history of not following the policy & there are no major customer visits.

    Now to rub it in, you asked for it, we don’t have any specific dress policy as long as we are dressed decently (whatever that means!). I usually go in jeans / skirts (floral / printed, not necessarily formal), casual pants with T-shirts / shirts / sweater / kurtis, depending on the weather. I try to wear my formal pants once a month atleast, just to check I still fit in them :)

    • A-Kay, it really depends on where on earth one works and in what sector. That’s the reason I said “DC” , 5 miles north and folks are required to be in suits. It’s just the atmosphere and the kind of business we do. :-)

      I am right there with you if she’d just made it casual considering it was my “first misdemeanor”. As long as one dresses well without being nasty, indecent, anything should work. One lady came in a broad tank top over the summer and that afternoon, the dress code policy was sent out. It’s Virginia, we are prudes I guess. :-)

  3. ahh..the one time that I used to work, jeans were only to be worn on Firdays.. there was this one time, a colleague of mine came dressed in casual clothes on a weekday and she got a dressing down, was asked to go back home, come dressed in appropriate code (some boot camp that was)..i thought this was very juvenile..

    my husband, on the other hand, went casually dressed every single day.. the company he worked for had no specific rules on business dressing.

    • Yeah, there’s a line that sometimes even HR crosses. All of us are adults and I suppose, gentle reminders is all one really needs.

      Right, it depends on the company and the kind of business they do.

  4. I work at an huge accounting firm (while I’m no accountant) but in my line of work I am pretty much 80% out at the client site – that can range to a landfill or cemetery (believe me I’m not making this up) or a leading bank or pharamaceutical giant. We have what we call ‘modern professional dress’ and women especially can get away with a LOT – professional AND fashionable :P.

    I know of an instance where a girl was made to go home and change because while she was wearing a shirt and business skirt – the shirt was too sheer and lowcut. But generally anything except jeans typically goes (except on casual days).

    Having said that, however, our general rule is – one ‘level’ above the client – so if it was a landfill – it was ok for us to wear casuals, a cigarette manufacturing plant head office – MPD and banks etc – pretty much business attire.

    Evs is an engineer that is jumping in and around vehicles (his client is the Department of Defence) so doesn’t wear suits unless he has an important meeting – he’s ready in like 10 mins :P

    • heh, DOD out here means you are in suits, unless you are doing some tech stuff for them sitting in some dingy windowless office! :)

      I like it that way too, if one is meeting with clients. The couple of years I worked in the hospital in India, I would command more respect from the patients and family when I landed in a neatly pressed sari than a casual salwar kurta. Certain types of work just demands certain kinds of dress codes. No one forced us to, but when you did, you are just received better, and who doesn’t like to?

  5. Why is it a company policy in the first place, does every one have to do this or only people who interact with clients?

    So, you can see from the barrage of the questions, I have never worked in a place that required a dress code, why I have seen a woman whose skirt I suspected was out sick, consistently. Infact, I tried doing my own enquiry and still couldnt see any traces of it beyond the slightly longer than a shirt coat she was wearing. There are not lot of HRs around for them to reprimand nor is there a dress code.

    Move to california:) Though my brother who works in financial sector has to be on formals. so may be field matters too.

    • Well, it’s business casual, and when I do go out to meet clients (once every few months) I throw on a jacket. We are not an IT firm, though I do the IT work within, and our president /owner retired high up under Prez Reagan. So the kind of work we do does involve govt clients, just that the dept I work in is more IT than policy.

      It’s stifling, and am no prude for wanting to dress up all the time, but I’d like to relax occasionally :-)

    • Not really. It really depends on where you are on the ladder up and where in the world one works. Husband’s high up techy, he goes business casual. His team members land in jeans.

      Being an eyesore is no fun for anyone.

      I am just saying, I was far from it for me to be reprimanded for it.

  6. I am in business casual – a dockers pant and a sweater. We are allowed to wear jeans only on Friday as well. Every month one Thursday, we are allowed to wear jeans but we need to contribute 2 bucks for a charity and the HR collects money.
    Me in Dallas.

    I agree with your HR and hubby. A company policy is a policy:-)

    Sashi

  7. This reminds of an interview I attended at a major cosmetics company in Dallas 2 years back. Over there women had to wear a formal skirt suit every single day at work. Even pant suit was not allowed. I was planning on going in business casual to the interview. The recruiter begged me to wear a skirt suit. After much hesitation I took out my old pair (thankfully i fitted in it) and went to the interview. I refused to wear a pantyhose. The manager was a lady. She mentioned that until recently skirt suit + pantyhose was a must. Just a few days before, the company had changed its policy and had made pantyhose optional. They offered me a job. Needless to say, I refused and took up another offer. I did not want to spend an hour every day dressing up and definitely was not going to changing my entire wardrobe plus it was too far from home.

    Sashi

    • Before people start wondering what position i was interviewing for, it was an IT position. Only interaction I was going to have was with my computer in my cube for about 10 hours a day.:-)

    • wow@contributing money for wearing Jeans! That’s creative, and deterring in a way I’d say!

      I have no issues with policy, and I have no issues with dressing, I just demand to be spoken to nicer. That’s all :-)

      Pantyhose is the height most definitely! Being well dressed is subjective I guess.

  8. You did mention it was DC.
    My husband worked in a hospital and was in IT – too in DC.
    He did not meet with clients a whole lot.
    He was expected to wear a tie every single day and hated it.No Jeans was allowed.
    The higher-up wore a bow-tie every single day.

    Its just the location :)

    I do agree with you that a casual comment would have sufficed. May be they don’t want anyone setting a precedent..

    – SV

    • I know @tie :-)

      My thoughts exactly! A simple tap on my fingers would have worked. Am not dense, as is any adult holding down a job?

      That precedent thing – when you work with 90% females, it becomes less grown-up and more hormone driven. :|

  9. I am wearing jeans, sandals and a casual shirt. Though I could probably show up in pajamas and no one at work would bat an eyelid.

    And ya, I work as a techie in the bay area – wasn’t that obvious :-D?

  10. Hmm… things are different in different places. when I worked in Microsoft, wearing a full formal dress would make someone stand out. in fact, I feel very uneasy wearing anything that can be called ‘formal’. Casual is the style over there. then, I moved to Disney in downtown. Though, I haven’t been confronted by anyone, I feel a bit odd wearing my casual look I took up in Microsoft. Downtown is really very formal – with people is suits all over. but I couldn’t change my wardrobe and somehow tried to look more serious with my limited resources. :-) thankfully, I didn’t get any ‘policy reminders’ till now.
    For me, “no jeans’ would seem like a cruel rule.

    • lol@cruel rule. Sure, I agree, but tell me this – it is possible to dress a jean up or down depending on your blouse/shirt or accessories. I truly feel sorry for the denim to spell such!

      Downtown is formal everywhere I suppose. Historically, that’s where all the businesses were held.

      Keep your fingers crossed! ;-)

  11. Unfortunately, I agree with your hubby and the HR. Although probably she could have told you a bit more nicely :) We have the same policy of business casuals mon to thurs and jeans on fri

  12. Kowthas,
    Just one doubt.
    The manager agrees with the HR, raises her voice, and then goes contrite and gives me a hug, saying “don’t take it personally, it’s policy.”
    Hugs are part of the company policy? Sorry, I am lost. :\
    -Nikhil

  13. You think that’s bad?

    In a company that shall go unnamed, a poor Associate walked into a top i-banking client’s office on his first day, in an impeccable navy suit, light blue shirt, spotless red tie and oxblood wingtips.

    The partner looks at the Associate top to bottom and asks him if he’s dressed for a fancy dress competition — and takes him to the nearest Brooks Brothers to get him five sets of crisp, white shirts.

    Unfortunately, I’m one of those people staunchly against jeans, so you know where I stand. :-)

      • Yeah. Other fun statements that I’ve heard from friends, colleagues and other corporate slaves:

        Colleague wearing a black suit — Are you working for the secret service? Who’s dead and why are you dressed like you’re going to a funeral? (to be fair, those are valid points).

        Friend wearing a black, bright-colored or non-blue/non-white shirt (or sport coat) — Are you working as a circus clown? Looking for jobs as a Hollywood Actor? Why did you steal your girlfriend’s clothes? Hello, Mr. Skittles. I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK, I work all night and I sleep all day.

        Wearing khakis/chinos too often — Are you that poor that you can’t buy regular slacks? I know you’re Indian, but there are other fabrics than just cotton.

        Wearing non-leather shoes/ugly shoes/unpolished shoes/sneakers — If you want to look like an idiot, I can get you a clown outfit. Are you afraid of a mountain popping up in the middle of work that you’ll need to climb (or variations — are you afraid a lion is going to show up in the middle of work that you’ll need to run?).

        Wearing jeans — Jobless? Homeless? You’re out of college, you know. You’re older than 12, in case you didn’t know. If I wanted a lumberjack, I’d have hired one.

        Wearing jeans + dress shirt with a bright green sweater — Teenage Mutant Ninja Idiot!

        • So, what do you wear on a regular basis if not jeans? I’m really curious coz I want to know what men wear for casual? Chinos sorta thing?

          Since I’m here, I might as well tell you no? :D

          We wore anything. In fact we had Pajama Days and we thorougly enjoyed it. Men fantasized, women quickly went and bought decent ones or very track suity ones :D

          But ya, shorts, jeans, anything. You should watch this, Rads.

        • Usually, I prefer khakis or chinos in summer, and regular wool slacks in winter.

          Truth be told, slacks and khakis are infinitely more comfortable (and better looking) than jeans.

          If people treated jeans like regular clothes (washing them regularly/ironing them/dry cleaning them), it would be alright. Sadly, they don’t.

        • LOL, as funny as the remarks sound, you guys have it bad eh? :-)

          Yep, I like khakis and I do like a well dressed man, not always suited, but put together. I did tell you about the Europeans pressing their jeans when they wear them didn’t I? You could tell the crease from a block away! ..and knock on their door at anytime of the day and they look like they’d step out anytime. Not something I’d want to do 24*7, but definitely not in sweats and a tee that looked like the cat dragged in.

  14. aah! was going to send you an email yesterday to check on you :) Every place I have worked the rule has been jeans only on Fridays but that seems to be just in the books. I try to follow it religiously and the rest come in jeans even during the other days. The husband for his part can even go in shorts and no one would object at his work place!

    • True, and I have no complaints against that policy. Sometimes, folks need to see the bigger picture. Escalating wearing jeans to the level of some crazy breach of trust level kind of talk just doesn’t seem to cut it?

      Am ok Sands, just have a million things on my mind, and taking a step back here sub-consciously :)

  15. I work in the design side of a large company (30K folks or so) and the dress policy is more of a “please wear *something* that covers up all necessary body parts” – the company issued a basic dress policy statement only after large numbers of the programming crowd started showing up in tank tops (basic banians!) and work-out shorts in summer. On the business side, the code is business-casual-no-jeans-except-for-Friday – and yes, it is followed strictly enough that designers were asked not to wear jeans if they had meetings on the business side.

    All that said, I think your HR lady lacks tact, but am not surprised – HR, the one department that you would expect to have good relationships with employees, seems to always be at loggerheads with them :-)

    M

    • LOl@wear *something* :-))
      I understand there’s a demarcation between business and tech side, but it’s like am the minority out here, so it’s across the board.

      Lacks tact. Yes. Perfect. I agree! :-)

  16. I dont the fad behind ppl wearin jeans to wrk, how are a pair of trousers gonna kill you? Treat them like school uniforms where birthdays were civil dress days!

    We have business casuals, but I wear the same on fridays as well. I’m batman at wrk, and bruce wayne while lazing around in jeans elsewhere!

  17. :-). I work in Northern VA, for a tech company. We have no official dress code(as an aside, I saw some other company’s org structure presentation recently where they mentioned- we don’t have a policy for everything. We don’t have a dress code, but no one has shown up in their bday suit yet! :D).

    However just on a whim, I come dressed in business casuals once in a while or might end up in jeans and sweatshirt on a Monday. No one really says anything.

    However, if its policy, it is what it is. And if you aren’t the regular offender, I don’t see the big fuss. I would think a gentle reminder would’ve sufficed, or perhaps a casual mention or a printout of the policy left on your table as fyi. I am sure there are a myriad ways to get the point across subtly(I am assuming you aren’t dense :P).

    Hope you are feeling better!

    • Heyy stranger! :)

      Yes lady, I know how you go to work. *argh* I like the option of dress down I suppose, but it’s a fine subjective line being presentable and taking it easy! (esp with desis and not a soul come brandishing their swords at me, I see it all the time around!)
      Thank you, yes, all am saying is, things needn’t have been escalated to where she did. :)

  18. If it is a corporate policy…it is a corporate policy! unless you work for someplace like where I do, where the policy does say that, but most people wear jeans tue through friday!

    Infact, its the other way around…I wore a full sleeve shirt and a sweater one winter day to work and my manager wanted to know how my interview went !!

    -G

  19. I live in Southern California and in IT, in the Mortgage sector I have been the dress code has been business casuals/formals on weekdays and casual on Friday. The smaller companies seem to be more stricter about the rule is my observation. In a bigger company even if one person violates a bit, it is overseen.

    But in a totally techie company I worked, everything was allowed. Not many women were there in that company (just a few to fill in as diversity candidates) and we ended up dressing up like guys. After a while I hated it and wanted to wear formals. Just to feel pretty :)

    Now I am glad I can wear formals again.

    On your rendezvous, HR could have just delegated the task to your Manager who could have dropped the word casually. Something like “Hey, I see you are in Jeans, hope HR’s won’t question us again. Don’t wear it again” or something in those lines. HR probably didn’t have much work to do, so they have to show some meeting in their timesheet :) That is why she set up that meeting. Very productive indeed!!!

    • I believe so@smaller companies. Another reason am looking to gets wallowed in the bigger places..

      lol@productive! Absolutely, that’s what a colleague said too. It’s your good deed of the day, that I gave the HR some work to do ;-)

  20. ha ha…it was a painful day in jeans!…but I guess work policy is work policy…keep a pair of neutral colored trousers at work for these kind of situations…I know someone who has done that..it works! :O) xoxo ..and that stuffy nosey HR lady doing her job may take it easy!..ha ha

    • oh boy! There’s a thought. I usually have a sweater/shawl for the days it gets chill inside, and then of course teh snacks, the breakfast stuff, but now with slacks jumping in, it will almost be like a mini-tran-home?! :-)

  21. Yello Rads :–)
    No dress code for me, although I do wear non-jean trousers and formal tops/shirts 2-3times a week. Just a routine I created for myself. BUT I do like the option to wear whatever I feel like on a bad hair day. I do not like restraints or constraints. The rebel in me would never like to be told what to do, leave alone what to wear.

    In your case, I guess she was just doing her job, you should write an appeal to change the code for non-client facing folks.

    • Right. So am I. Rules make me itch to break them :-)

      The thing is when someone forces me to do something, I get antsy and feel ‘bound’ down, but the point here is that I don’t have issues dressing up. *sigh

  22. It should be called the stubble-code in my case. I believe life is too big to worry about slightly dark cheek areas compared to a relatively hairless face. Especially when I drive 30 miles to sit all day in an office with 3 other human beings, none of them being clients.

    ~ A fellow cube-farm-animal from the DC area (Howdy! :) )

    • LOL@stubble-code :-))

      Howdy?! Excuse me kind sir, but which farm’s tomah-to truck did you drop off from. Here in the Capital we say “Hello Ms. Rads” ;-p

      You trip across the beltway eh? Poor you :)

      • Ok fine, it’s HELLO then :)
        Fortunately I’m one of the few souls lucky enough to avoid the Beltway. And yet 30 miles. Darn these distances! Oh, how I miss the days of public transportation :|

  23. Hey! Hopped over from MiM.
    We have a jeans-only-on-friday rule too. But I dont work in the head office. So I can get away with dark denim on an occasional week day. But I stick to formal trousers because I like them more than jeans (!) and plus jeans is all I wear on weekends anyways.

    I agree with the HR – you should stick to your company dress code. Where I disagree is the way she put it. As you’ve mentioned, a casual reference would have driven the point better, IMO.

    That said, I am from your ‘hood too. So hiya there neighbor :)

  24. Bizarre to say the least.
    What you are wearing seems more than appropriate work attire to me – dark jeans are really no different from dark trousers, are they? And the white blouse, and red sweater with heels sounds rather dressy.
    HR should be renamed InHuman Resources.

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