Business casual pushes at the seams

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More than a third of American executives think business casual dress has crossed the line from professional to too sloppy for the workplace, according to a poll by Management Recruiters International Inc. (MRI), a human-resources firm.

The group surveyed 3,000 managers at start-ups and Fortune 100 companies nationwide. Many execs said they felt showing up at work in open-toed shoes, tank tops, shorts, and sweatsuits is inappropriate. Yet they saw more employees dressing that way this past year. "What started out as business casual has degenerated into weekend casual," says Karen Bloomfield, senior director of marketing at MRI.

The poll found men could get away with wearing slacks (not Dockers), a casual shirt and sweater, sans coat and tie. For women, nice pants made the cut, but anything too short, tight, or revealing was deemed unacceptable.

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To address the casual confusion, Ms. Bloomfield says human-resource departments are using videotapes and live demonstrations to illustrate what they mean by acceptable business casual.

But don't worry about being locked in a three-piece suit. "Business casual is here to stay," Bloomfield says. "More companies might start to have more formal dress-code policies, but [they] won't go back."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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