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Fashion & Finance: The great debate

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April 20, 2012

For me, LinkedIn is a helpful platform available for crowdsourcing ideas and getting feedback for my blogs and the work that I do in accounting. I recently posed a question within one of the accounting industry groups I participate, asking what kinds of topics members might be interested in reading here in my Fashion & Finance posts. I also was curious about what dress code issues accountants and those who work in the industry often find come up while on the job?

Fellow Accounting Today contributor Katie Tolin had some great ideas, and as spring weather has sprung all across the country, I decided to take her up on her suggestion of, “Did you address the big one yet? Pantyhose and open-toed shoes for women in the summer?”

Great idea! This seems to be an eternal dress code dilemma for women across the country in more conservative offices, and HR departments often have to make the big decision as to what will be allowed.

It’s even made a Forbes Women article last year, sparking debate and a revived marketing strategy from a major hosiery brand! One way or another, it seems that both pantyhose and open toed shoes, or a combination of both, often create a very passionate response from the many professionals that have to deal with them in their dress-code regulations.

As the busy tax season comes to a close, many firms adopt a more relaxed dress code in the spring and summer months. It gives their employees the chance to enjoy a more comfortable and hassle-free atmosphere and not be so “buttoned-up.” Also, as less layers of clothing are needed as the weather warms up, policies can be adjusted and modified to suit the temperature, clothing and footwear needs of employees.

However, on the other hand, some firms become even more strict and specific with their dress-code direction, and have more complicated rules and regulations, especially for women.

It seems many employers feel that they need to be more upfront about what is and what is not allowed, and because of that, some dress-code rules can be pages and pages of direction! It may not always seem fair for women to have more complicated rules, but this often stems from the many more apparel and footwear options that women have, as compared to men.

Saying Yes

Some firms will say yes to bare legs and open-toed shoes, as long as employees are careful to have followed careful direction on the proper skirt length, pedicure and/or skin care recommendations. Many firms are fine with women showing bare skin and toes as long as skin appears healthy, nails are neat, trimmed and polished using a professional and subdued color.

This can be tricky, as nail polish colors have really exploded over the last few years, and more bright and vibrant colors are available. From neon brights, to shiny metallics, greens and blues, not every color may be appreciated at your office. If that’s the case, go for classic colors like pinks, reds and the very hot-this-spring neutral palette. To get an idea of what’s out there, check out this article and this article from Harpers Bazaar. They have some fabulous recommendations and ideas.

If you have the option of not wearing pantyhose while at the office, I have a few tips and tricks to stay comfortable and look great in bare legs. It’s all about good skincare. First, use a good moisturizer after showering to avoid itchy, dry skin, and create a smooth, soft surface. I personally go for the more reasonably priced drug store variety lotions, and spend no more than $3-4 per bottle of Queen Helene Cocoa Butter Hand and Body Lotion, my absolute favorite product. It has a light, not too strong scent, and feels great on my skin—both arms and legs. You can also check out this helpful article detailing some of the best lotions and potions for dry skin on legs.

 A lot of women also love to have a little color on their limbs, and as tanning beds and unprotected sun exposure are unhealthy no-no’s, here are a few suggestions.

My first and favorite pick is Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs, which I use all throughout the spring, summer and at special events. With no sun, no salon and no streaks, the lightweight leg makeup, enriched with Palmaria Extract, covers your freckles, veins and any imperfections that you may have. It’s also both water and transfer-resistant and you shouldn’t have a problem with it coming off on clothes after letting it dry properly.

This product is one of my favorite beauty secrets and I love the way my legs look after application, as though they’ve been airbrushed or even photoshopped silky smooth in a magazine! So long pantyhose, I don’t need you!

There are also tons of great self-tanner products out there, but follow these helpful rules to get the best application, and try these products to see what works best for you. No one should look like the cast of the Jersey Shore, and being too tan generally looks terrible. If you have a suggestion of a product you don’t see on the list, let me know—I’d love to share with readers!

Another tip, if you like the fit and feel of pantyhose on your legs, but want to be able to wear open-toed shoes and show off your pedicure: consider that there are a lot of toe-less pantyhose options out there! A pretty sneaky deception!

Saying No

If your employer prefers to keep things ultra-conservative, and you must include pantyhose in your work wardrobe, here’s a few ways you can still make it work. Check out this helpful article for some great “survival guide” tips to rocking pantyhose.

Some of the most helpful advice I have found here is to find the best shade that matches your skin tone and make sure your hose fit you well. One of the worst things is a too-tight pair, or a pair that you are constantly pulling up all day long. If you are not comfortable at work, you will likely not appear confident. There are lots of brands out there to try, so see what fits best by trying out a few different styles and brands.

That is another important point. There a ton of brands out there to choose from, offering all different options depending on your size and style needs. There are many price points available, and I have certainly experienced that you often get what you pay for. Many times the drug store-brand hose I have purchased are the first to run, and after only a few short hours of wearing them, I have holes or pulls that don’t look very professional. If this does happen to you, consider these tips:

1.    Clear polish is perfect! I don’t remember where I heard this one, but it has been a recommendation that’s been around for a long time. Dab a bit of the clear polish onto the pulled area and it should stop the run from continuing. I keep clear polish in my desk emergency kit (which I’ll cover in an upcoming post!), and it’s great for chipped or smudged nail polish as well.
2.    Hair spray baby! I don’t know if this is an old wives’ tale or not, but this recommendation can be found everywhere. Spraying your stockings with a bit of hair spray before wearing them may help stiffen the fibers, but I have never tried this one myself.
3.    Sink ‘em! I hand-wash my tights and stockings all the time, and have found it helps to keep them intact. Hand washing is a softer and gentler option than the washing machine, and it seems I’ve been able to hold on to many pairs much longer than others this way. They look pretty funny hanging all over the bathroom, but this has worked well for me!

For information on the best pantyhose brands, check out this helpful article, and keep in mind, everyone is different and it may require some trial and error. Some brands and styles may be more suited to your body type than others, and textures and denier measurements are all options to consider when finding what you like best.

I’ve often found that a lot of great pantyhose options are from the U.K., and maybe that’s part of why Kate Middleton is bringing them back! Try these brands and stores to see what might work for you:

John Lewis

Debenhams

Aristoc

If you have an opinion on the subject or a pantyhose or open-toed shoe story, I’d love to hear it! Leave your comments below or post something on Accounting Today’s Facebook page to share your thoughts.

Dress codes can sometimes be stressful, but the more we share our experiences and suggestions with one another, the easier it gets to look fabulous in finance! Looking and feeling great and a professional appearance are a large part of business success, so don’t discount the importance of style at work!

Emily Alexandria Burns is a State University of New York Fashion Institute of Technology graduate and started her career in New York City working for companies including Giorgio Armani Le Collezioni, Christian Dior and Jones Apparel Group. She is now e-marketing communications specialist for Freed Maxick & Battaglia CPAs in Buffalo, N.Y., and recently named the Association for Accounting Marketing's 2011 "Rookie of the Year." Follow her on Twitter @FreedMaxickPR or email her at emily.burns@freedmaxick.com.

 

Comments (1)
Did you forget that there is another option? What about stockings? Many women still wear stockings and it is much more comfortable at work in both winter and summer months.
Posted by kathmclane | Friday, April 27 2012 at 11:01PM ET
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