Casual Friday: Dressing down for summer

Although the financial services professions have traditionally embraced the suit-and-tie formality, workplace clothing today is trending casual, according to a recent survey by Toronto-based recruitment firm Robert Half Finance and Accounting.

In the survey, 66% of Canadian chief financial officers describe their accounting and financial departments as having a “somewhat casual” dress code. That means professionals are often wearing outfits like khakis and a polo shirt or sweater, the report says. Only 3% of respondents, on the other hand, say their office requires formal clothing, such as a business suit.

“Workplace dress codes are evolving to reflect changing employee preferences and trends,” says Greg Scileppi, president of Robert Half International Staffing Operations. “What you wear is a reflection of who you are. Especially in a more casual environment, make sure your attire appropriately represents your confidence and professionalism.”

Follow these tips to ensure you dress appropriately in today’s business environment:

1. Look up the corporate ladder
Robert Half employs the old adage “dress for the job you want.” Ask yourself: “What does my boss — and my boss’s boss — wear?”

If you’re unsure of what’s appropriate in the workplace, start by taking a cue from your manager’s style and degree of formality.

2. Consider your clients
People usually make a snap judgement within the first seven seconds of meeting someone based on clothing, appearance and body language, says Pat Stonehouse, president and founder of Advancing With Style in Toronto.

“Of particular importance to those who are financial advisors,” she says, “is that people will form impressions about your trustworthiness, moral character and success in previous and current endeavours.”

Dress for meet-and-greets with your potential client’s first impression in mind. Meeting a client presents an opportunity to assess how you might dress for subsequent meetings with that client, Stonehouse says.

For example, if your client shows up in a business suit, you should do the same. If your client wears business casual, than you might also choose to dress less formally.

3. Be prepared
Follow the Scout motto and always “be prepared,” Stonehouse says.

While you might dress somewhat casually if you intend to do paperwork all day, be ready for any unscheduled interactions.

“If you are dressing business casual,” Stonehouse says, “keep a jacket behind your door in the office so you can slip it on if an important meeting pops up.”

4. Remember the details
In today’s workplace, its popular and acceptable for men to wear a suit without a tie, Stonehouse says.

“Why do some men pull this off and look great and others look dishevelled? The key,” she says, “is the shirt.”

Not only should your shirt be wrinkle-free, but if your collar is limp, you should wear collar stays — also known as collar stiffs —to ensure your collar remains crisp and in place, Stonehouse says.

Likewise, women should pay attention to how accessories, such as scarves, bags and jewellery, might reflect on their overall professionalism.

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