The Elusive Office Dress Code

Posted on October 3, 2017

By Kylie Bayer-Fertterer, Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District
Can I just say that I thought the theme of #ELGLPopUps was darling and I loved how all of the sessions aimed at teaching attendees something? And I was 100% in approval of school-themed table swag like little puzzles and play dough! And I was even more in approval of my radical “conference overalls” as I dubbed them. Even after Kent Wyatt knocked on the few of us PDX attendees in a bit more casual attire. [He’s probably just a bit frustrated that he can’t pull off “conference overalls” because let’s be honest, not many can.]

Overalls, Nike Cortez’s, Costco Blazer?! Note my ‘lil pocket for my phone. Hands free!

My conference overalls got me thinking, why are dress codes so damn frustrating and confusing and since people don’t really follow them anyway why do we still have them?
I did a little googling around and came across this article: Are Millennial Employees Driving Casual Dress Codes? (Yes, it’s Forbes, I know.) Then I searched Buzzfeed because even though everyone loves to hate on Buzzfeed it’s sort of my dream job to work there and write about local government and celebrities and dogs. On Buzzfeed I found this, which is long but the last little sentence reads “Ultimately, remember that you’re there to do work and your work clothes should facilitate that.”
Before I dive into what I think about some iffy clothing choices know that your work attire shouldn’t completely shut down your personality. It shouldn’t distract others from their work either. Find that balance. Regardless of your gender or gender expression, you can never go wrong with slacks and a nice top or slim button up shirt. Jazz it up with some accessories if you need some oomph.
It goes without saying but keep your clothes clean, in good repair, and if you out grow something please buy a size up. Also, you can be the best dressed person in the office but if you stink no one will care. Please shower before work.
Here’s my take on the more questionable pieces of attire for an office dress code in local government:

Jeans & Pants!

  • Dark jeans with no holes = YES. They look nice and professional. No dad/mom jeans though.
  • Light jeans with holes/tears = Leave and never come back.
  • Shorts = I would fire you on the spot. [Jorts? I’d probably take you out for a beer because I bet you like to party.]


  • Sandals = Summers only and only on ladies who have pedicures. If you have nasty feet/toenails keep ’em covered. [Sorry guys, man feet in sandals are only for vacation. And even then I don’t like it.]
  • Flip Flops = No. Never. Don’t slap your feet around the cubicles. Give me a call about #FlipFlopGate in my office. I swear there was almost a revolt.
  • Sneakers = OMG yes if they are cute and bring some fun/whimsy to your outfit. I love wearing my Nike Cortez’s to work with a pair of cute jeans and a black blazer. I basically look like Ellen DeGeneres most days. Sneakers are not OK if they are dirty and gross.

Tops and Shirts!

  • Graphic Ts = Only under a blazer or cardigan. And only sort of quirky but not too quirky. Like, a sports team T is totally cool but that stupid “Jesus Is My Homeboy” T that everyone wore a few years ago is not. I’ve been known to rock my Arizona Diamondbacks t-shirt under a blazer at least once a month.
  • Other Ts = On ladies, dress them up a bit and they’re cool. Like a chunky necklace or cool scarf. [Does not apply to men; they look like giant toddlers in T shirts at work.]
  • Hoodies = It’s gotta be a real fashionable hoodie to be OK at work. Like I don’t know if I’ve ever even seen one that is fashionable enough. Probably should just leave these at home.


  • Gym Clothes/Athleisure = Only if you worked out over a super late lunch and you aren’t meeting anyone important the rest of the day. I am way forgiving of this faux pas because I want to support anyone trying to get their fitness on.
  • Hair = Don’t ever police your employee’s hair style/color. And don’t ever touch anyone’s hair.
  • Tattoos/Piercings = As long as they don’t have something racist, sexist, or otherwise vulgar don’t force your employees to cover up tattoos. Piercings are fine. Let people live!
  • Halloween Costumes = Keep it somewhat classy. Our HR Coordinator did a benefits orientation with a brand new park planner in a Batman costume once. It was awesome.

What other questionable clothing choices at work confuse you? Do you have a to wear a suit every day? Do your dress codes vary based on department? Do you have a huge pet peeve with how people dress in your office? I want to know! Find me on Twitter and let me know!
PS: You best believe I rocked a pair of black jeans with booties and a funky sweater yesterday.

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