As a matter of fact, I learned the hard way myself when I first began my role as Director of Catering in that fine club. I was in my late 20s and had come from a background in more casual country club settings. Once I realized both coworkers and clients were looking me up and down (and I mean women passing judgment), I figured out quickly I had better get my act together and take it up a notch with my professionalism. Your coworkers can be very tough critics and the last thing you want is to cause a stir with a short hemline.
So, for my employees in the department, we came up with four categories of dress code:
1. Business casual
2. Business professional
3. Evening professional
4. Black tie professional
We had no trouble detailing that "business professional" was slightly more formal and suits were encouraged. Evening professional could be slightly dressier, but should be conservative and dark colors were recommended. Black tie professional included a black dress or suit, at least knee length for skirts. The details we included in our description of appropriate attire came in handy when our charming new hostess showed up in a fuschia sleeveless mini dress, complete with a glittering silver sequined neckline and black bra straps showing (we gently sent her home).
The greatest mystery was in defining "business casual." Funny, business casual is the most common of all, but there are truly many, many interpretations of what is, or is not appropriate. We suffered over just how casual was ok (no denim), and which trends were acceptable. We wanted to make sure we maintained professional credibility amongst our coworkers (no short skirts) and could be ready on a whim for walk in appointments. Ultimately, it was one of my employees, Sharon Campbell, who summed it up best:
"Your appearance should inspire confidence."
So regardless of where you work, consider what others will perceive when they look at you. Err on the side of safety at first, and then check out what others are wearing. And remember the adage, "dress for the job you want." It's ok to show a bit of style, but keep in mind where you chose to work and whether or not it will be a distraction from the business at hand. Remember that a smile goes a long way in contributing to your wardrobe and if ever you find yourself feeling slightly out of place with your choice, put on your best impression of confidence and charm your way through with attitude! Personality can make or break any outfit.
Now, for a more thorough official description of "business casual," here are a few great sites:
Virginia Tech Career Services
Wikipedia - Business Casual
USA Today article