I receive the Real Simple weekly newsletter via email. I went through a purge recently of email subscriptions and I found that I just couldn't live without my Real Simple fix - they cover it all - recipes, skin care, time management, holidays, decorating, style - and more!
They polled 2,650 Real Simple readers (via Facebook) on what they deem as appropriate for work. You can read the article here.
The results can be summarized as this:
Bare legs - 75% say yes
Open-toe shoes - 69% say yes
Jeans - 65% say yes
Cropped pants - 53% say yes
Leggings - 26% say yes (I might have croaked if it was over 30%)
Shorts - 12% say yes
Strappy tops and dresses - 12% say yes
I really liked how they gave the perspective of a corporate, business casual, and creative work environment. Most of these for me are a "Yes, if..." scenario. It's so dependent on the culture of your office. I work at a university where it's a business-casual environment, generally speaking. There are offices where staff are not allowed to wear denim at all - not even on Fridays, while in our office, it's perfectly okay to wear a nice pair of jeans in the middle of the week. I've seen chinos, I've seen wool suits (and people sweltering in them during a Florida summer), I've seen uniforms, jeans, shorts - you name it. It depends on the office, its function and relation to student service.
With items such as leggings, shorts, and strappy tops/dresses, you can find yourself on a slippery slope. You may have one person who wears leggings "responsibly" with a blouse-y tunic that hits mid thigh and the next may wear a fitted tshirt that comes to the hip with leggings (do NOT make me find you guys pictures of this). If leggings are okay, then both are technically permissible. However, I think we'll all agree that the former scenario is much more palatable for a work environment. Especially if you are a manager, you may find yourself erring on the side of caution and call leggings as inappropriate for your office setting because I guess you can't chastise someone for having bad judgement in clothing... besides, that would be a super awkward conversation.
I would say that my office is on the casual side of business casual. We have a classy crew, so there's been few work wear faux pas. This is and will continue to be my perspective for work wear. And, by judging by the high percentage of "yeses" to bare legs, open toe shoes, jeans, and cropped pants, I would say that in general, work environments are, over time, becoming more relaxed.
My verdict (as it relates to my office culture)
Bare legs - yes, especially in the summer - let's keep that air flowin'! Just make sure your hemline is at least just a hair above the knee or lower.
Open-toe shoes - sure. Although, I'm not a fan of thong sandals in the office. A nice peep toe pump or wedge heel is nice.
Jeans - yes. This depends on your office climate. Make sure you have a nice pair of jeans in a dark wash and contemporary shape that's flattering to your figure. Faded, shredded, overly embellished or ill-fitting jeans should remain at home.
Cropped pants - yes. Opt for a figure flattering cut in a suiting material. There are quite a few options in stretch twills at reasonable prices at retailers like Loft and Gap. You might even find a printed pair that strikes your fancy. Cropped pants are silhouette of the moment. They're the new bootcut trouser.
Leggings - nope.
Shorts - nope.
Strappy tops and dresses - yes, IF IF IF IF and only IF you wear a cardigan/sweater over it that you don't take off. If it's too hot to put on a sweater, please forgive me for being so blunt here, but, wear something else.