What’s the Dress Code?

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It was all over the news. Two young women were denied access to board a United Airlines flight because they were wearing leggings. In this instance, the dress was inappropriate and violated the dress code. (In fairness to United, the women were flying on an employee pass and the airline does have a specific dress code for those flyers.) Guys like me aren’t even sure what leggings are or if they’re appropriate for flying. Old timers are now reminiscing about the days when you dressed up to get on an airplane. Men wore jackets and ties, women wore dresses. Times have changed.

Figuring out a dress code today is like asking the “Magic 8 Ball” a question. When you turn it over, the answer on the little screen is “Answer Hazy, Try Again”. Formal dress codes do still exist and, depending on where you work, are usually not open for interpretation. If the dress code calls for a shirt with a collar, that’s what you wear.

It’s the informal dress codes, suggested dress codes or “figure it out on your own” lack of codes that create the mental havoc.

When the Evite hits the screen, business casual is the most often suggested dress. Does business casual mean a blazer and khaki pants or blue jeans and a T-shirt? Or, at some Silicon Valley events, business casual means cargo shorts and a T-shirt.

Business attire in most worlds means wear a tie for a man and get dressed up for a woman. But no one wears ties anymore. In some places wearing a tie is really weird and makes you look like a Grandpa.

What the heck is cocktail attire? Based on some parties I have attended, cocktail attire means wear something that you can spill your drink on.

Does black tie optional mean I should wear a black tie or not? This designation raises an entire spectrum of follow on questions like: If I wear a tux will I be the only one? Should it be a dinner jacket or a black tux? Does black tie really mean black tie or can I wear a blue tie? If the event is that fancy, do I even want to go?

Women have an even more difficult time figuring out the dress code puzzles.

Everyone defines the dress code differently today, depending on age. But there are still rules and good judgment does apply. My rules are simple: Wear what’s comfortable; wear what’s age appropriate; and, wear something that won’t get you into trouble. And never under estimate the power of a blue blazer.

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