Dress codes and the changing federal workforce


Hello everyone. We all know the federal government is undergoing some pretty big changes. Lots of retirements, new technology and the slow march of telework are reshaping the office in new ways (for better or worse).

But when it comes to office dress codes are there any changes? Should there be?

We would like to hear from our readers about what your experiences are when it comes to what people wear at work. Feel free to post comments below or you can send emails to amedici@federaltimes.com


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  1. Flip-flops ar okay in summertime with slacks/jeans but not with dresses.
    Jeans are the norm unless we are expecting visitors in the office.
    Comfortable employee and a more relaxed office atmosphere leads to a more productive staff.

    We have enough sress in our work environment with an overly-cramped office and overwhelming workloads without having to conform to someone else’s expectations of a dress code designed for a more public and politically stiff office environment such as those located in Wahington, DC.

  2. There should definitely be an enforced dress code. Employees come in wearing low-cut blouses and others dress like they are going to the beach instead of work. They are a mess! It’s not rocket science to dress appropriately for work. Flip-flops??? NOT for work.

  3. Around DoD its a coin toss. Some leaders are lax, while some think professionals should dress professional, even while dug into the trenchs with zero exposure. I have noticed over the years that many agencies have become more lenient. But again, it depends on leadership and location. Our military base (outside the beltway) have a verbal policy to dress-down on fridays. But verbal policies really mean nothing.

    Being a senior employee (33+ years) I personally think it should be up to the individual, and it is up to them to be professional. If you plan to sit in a cubicle for 9+ hours, dress down and be comfortable. If you plan to attend a high-level meeting, at least look presentable with shirt and slacks. Sport coat and tie for senior level employees.

    As for telework… it is non-existent at our work place… except for the good ole boy club. But then, they can do what ever they please. Including how, when and where they work. Zero accountablity for them! But this is not new news. It’s been going on for decades and no one with authority is willing to do anything about it.. so it carries on like a family heir-loom.

  4. My Office everyone dresses casually most of the time. By casually I mean dress slack, shirt, and tennis shoes but when there are meetings scheduled the jackets and ties come out. Usually Fridays are jean day. No tops that are low cut or to high up the belly for women.

    When I first started there it was skirts or dresses for women and shirt/tie for men every day. Things have relaxed quite a bit as long as you are not showing to much skin. We had an Office Director many years ago that wanted to make it mandatory for women to wear pumps (no tennis shoes or sandals). Of course it didn’t happen. In our Office there is not that many walk in folks so dressing comfortably but tasteful has become the normal.

  5. I’m an auditor within DoD, 62 years old, with 35+ years as a fed. I wear a long-sleeve dress shirt, tie, and sport coat nearly everyday. On Fridays, I don’t wear a tie, and wear a more casual looking shirt. At HQ, they are less formal. I think it’s a privilege to have a responsible, high-paying job (esp. when compared to the private sector) with some degree of formality of dress. I don’t have a lot of casual clothes of the kind that others in the office wear (short-sleeve, polo shirts, etc.). Even so, most men dress as I do. I don’t go out and buy casual attire because I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing it anyway.

  6. I believe that the dress code should reflect the level of public contact the facility, office, or person has on a daily basis. Less contact means less dress clothes. I personally wear jeans, sneakers, t-shirt & light jacket on most days, unless I have a meeting, then I will wear dress clothes (Jacket, Tie, Slacks, Button Up Shirt, or I wear a nice suit. It is interesting to see that the seasoned employees dress less casual, but now days it is about what you know and can do, not about what you look like.

  7. It’s fairly informal among our engineering group, down here in GA, with ties and sportcoats usually only seen among directors and interviewees.

    Friday is even more casual, with men more likely wearing jeans and Hawaiian shirts, or, red shirts, which have recently come in vogue.

    Footwear usually depends on how often the wearer is likely to have to go into the industrial areas, which require safety shoes.

  8. Don from Korea on

    I think it is difficult to have a standard policy on dress in any agency. I think it depends on geographical location or organization. For example, for most folks in Hawaii it’s a Hawaiian Crisp dress code. I worked for the Corps of Engineers in New Mexico and most folks wore slacks and a shirt or blouse. Senior managers wore jackets and some wore ties. In hotter climates, I will not wear a tie due to comfort, but I will wear a light business jacket and slacks that are cooler with a short sleeve dress shirt. I believe if you are in a position that requires customer interface or senior management interface, business casual, at a minimum is the best choice. Whether an employee cares or not, how you dress and appear can make either a positive or negative impression on others who, at some point, may serve as a reference for you or hire you in the future. Dress to impress, but comfort is also an important consideration. I know a guy who wears tennis shoes with slacks and pull over shirt each day. He also never shaves and has a pony tail. Not trying to be prejudice in any way, but his appearance is not business-like in my opinion. I think he should at least shave and get some dress shoes.

  9. I find that usually the younger the employee is the more casual the dress is. I do not agree with the idea that a more “comfortably dressed” employee is more productive. The effort put forth in appearance is reflected in the professionalism of the work produced. Body language and speech is different when a person is dressed up compared to being dressed down. If employees want to be viewed and treated as professionals, they should look like professionals. Jeans with holes, flip flops and tee shirts should be reserved for wear off the clock.

  10. 1st Section I worked I was told I didn’t dress nice enough, 2nd section they said I dressed too nice (same wardrobe). so it depends, however, our students this summer and some newer employees look good for the party, but not the office.

  11. What’s the civilian equivalent of the ACU? If the Military guys are wearing ACUs on a daily basis, then I should be allowed to wear the civilian equivalent, vice coat and tie every day.

  12. Nothing in my position description compels me to make the cover of Gentlemen’s Quarterly. Thus, as long as my attire is clean, in good repair (torn clothing is a safety hazard in my lab) and free of any slogans that could have any hint of being considered inappropriate, I pretty much wear what I want. Comfortable jeans, a nice shirt, minus the tie with button-down pockets to keep my CAC and other crednetials when outside, and comfortable shoes.

    How others view me is irrelevent. I am rated on my contribution to our labs’s mission and my productivity therein. My work speaks for my professionalism (and so does my paycheck) –not my clothes.

  13. Where I work the dress code is interpreted differently by first line supervisors resulting in a quagmire of who can wear what and when. Some employees are permitted to wear shorts while others directly across the hall are not permitted to wear shorts. Its confusing at best when the dress code is left to the whims of low level supervisors.

  14. The american people don’t pay us to look like slobs. If we dress professionally, we work professionally. Lab folks…..be comfortable. Those of us in the public eye, need to dress appropriately.

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