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They Pretend to Pay Us and We Pretend to Dress

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You'd think with the scarcity of jobs today, people would "dress the part." But employees are continually downscaling their dress, say employers, either because of their shrinking clothing budget or shrinking respect for the job itself.

Scarce though jobs might be, employers continue to issue memos admonishing workers not to wear jeans, shorts, T-shirts, tank tops, undershirts, sweat pants and workout clothes to the office.

They also remind workers not to wear bare midriffs, "excessively low-cut or revealing clothing," clothing that has "holes, tears and a ragged appearance" or that is "obviously ill-fitting." Many also ban leather jackets, sunglasses, "special colors" and "club insignia" (they do not mean drum and bugle corps) and hats, bandanas and "distracting" headgear. Employers also nix "visible underwear," low risers, tattoos, "inappropriate jewelry" and "extreme hair colors and styles."

dress code

Nor do they forget the feet, banning tennis shoes, boots, sandals and of course flip flops which are a kind of people's sandal.

Still there are many loopholes. At what point does a do-rag become a bandana? Is a tissue weight, see-through halter dress "excessively low-cut or revealing," "obviously ill-fitting" or "visible underwear"? Is a tube top a T-shirt or a "bare midriff"? Are cutoff yoga pants "workout clothes" or "shorts"? Are cotton leggings sweat pants or underwear? Are shiny leggings workout clothes or "special colors"? (Or "obviously ill- fitting" if they are tight?) Are Crocs "clothing that has holes" or "special colors" thanks to their neon orange and pink hues?

To a certain extent, the fashion industry has capitulated to a comfort oriented population. Pencil skirts and tight waistbands are outré and many garments are now 3 percent Spandex and Lycra for ease of fit. And speaking of ease, few women have to wash garments out by hand anymore or-perish the thought-iron them.

But of course the irony is the same companies who regulate your fashion groove are known to mandate headsets to answer the company phone (though ear buds are banned), sun visors as part of a "uniform" and pin-on buttons at your collarbone pushing sale products. And the same companies who ban message T-shirts make employees wear T-shirts that say We're The Team for morale.

Why do employers always try to raise morale without raising wages? See: they pretend to pay us.

Martha Rosenberg's first book, Born With a Junk Food Deficiency,
has just been published.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist and cartoonist, who writes about public health Read more stories by Martha Rosenberg.

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