Dress codes – yoga pants, tank tops and sexual harassment

Let’s face the facts for just one reasonable moment here.  Clothing makes an impact.  A big impact.  Ask any judge or jury.   Anyone that says it doesn’t is a darn liar.  Anyone that says certain clothes don’t evoke certain brain activity, emotions and thoughts, well, hasn’t read or studying the subject. That being said, let me clearly say this. The way you dress DOES NOT give anyone the right to harass you.  But I can still see your private parts!  So why are we focusing on dress, color of dress and tightness of dress?  Because there has been an uproar in the media about dress codes in schools, on planes and in sexual harassment suits and we truly need to understand the effects our clothing has on human behavior so we can effectively deal with the potential outcomes.

The Studies

So here’s a few studies you should read to get your started.








The way you dress doesn’t give anyone the right to harass you.  But I can still see your private parts!

Color versus tightness versus cut

Employers have been dealing with dress codes for many decades now and have mostly cleared up the unprofessional clothing options.  The ripped up jeans, football jerseys, tank tops, etc.  As Mike and I have discussed in The Risk Control Show, the lighthouse effect is in full force.  One issue is fixed and another pops up.  Society needs that to distinguish people into good and bad actors.  To differeniate themselves.  Combine that with the lackidasical view on clothing from suits to ahtleisure wear and you have placed a keg bomb in the HR department.

The rise in the entitlement culture and body positive movement as well as the safe-space movement has led to an anything goes mentality that denies basic human instinct.  And that spells trouble when it comes to holding a professional line in the workplace.

From Wikipedia

Body positivity is acceptance and appreciation of all human body types.[1][2] It is a social movement rooted in the belief that all human beings should have a positive body image, and be accepting of their own bodies as well as the bodies of others.[3] The movement sets forth the notion that beauty is a construct of society, and poses that this construct should not infringe upon one’s ability to feel confidence or self-worth.[3]

Body positivity has roots in the fat acceptance movement as well as the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.[4] Body positivity differs from fat acceptance in that it is all encompassing and inclusive of all body types and body shapes, whereas fat acceptance only advocates for individuals considered to be obese or overweight.[5]

The movement posits that neither fat-shaming nor skinny-shaming[6] is okay, and that all body types can and should be celebrated.[7] Body-shaming of all types has been shown to yield detrimental long-term psychological effects such as negative body image, depression, anxiety, as well as anorexia nervosabulimia nervosa, and body dysmorphia.[7]

The way you dress doesn’t give anyone the right to harass you.  But I can still see your private parts!


So back to the beginning here. Dress does matter.  And dress does impact human thoughts.  Take the same person put them in a suit and then in ratty gym clothes and your perception of them will change.  I have repeated that this perception doesn’t give a person the right to harass you and it certainly doesn’t mean that a person is looking to be harassed.

However, and this is the point, employers implement dress codes to avoid excaerbating situations which could lead to sexual harssment, safety accidents, losses in productivity and general offensiveness.  What you wear matters.

Color is less of an issue and rarely makes its way into dress code policy unless you are Ross Perot  who had strict dress codes for dark colored clothing.  Something that may have backfired.  http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19920607&slug=1495858

Tightness is another issue altogether.  The major factor here is that it can inadvertnly highlight private parts.  Yes, we call them private parts because they are supposed to be private and not on public display.  Yoga pants are falling into that category because they can accentuate private parts and leave little to the imagination.  Lululemon made this paramount when the fabric became so thin that you could see what was beneath.

The way you dress doesn’t give anyone the right to harass you.  But I can still see your private parts!


The way you dress doesn’t give anyone the right to harass you.  But I can still see your private parts!

Now we come to cut.  Clothing styles have become more and more provactive and cut is responsible in many cases.  From off the shoulder, to low cut v’s. Again highlighting private areas of the human body.  When men come in with their shirt open below their nipple line, the response is to button up.  However, women showing clevage is standard attire in most workplaces.



The bottom line on dress codes

The bottom line is this.  What you wear matters, whether you believe it or not, whether it should or not, it matters.  Some styles of clothing are distracting in certain enviorments, elicite certain human emotions and reveal parts of the body that are better left covered.

When you develop dress code policies they should be based on business needs, respect the existing laws on dresses, pants and costumes.  And it is important to hold training on diversity, sensitivity, and sexual harassment to understand what all of these things mean.  We offer in-depth training on sexual harassment, diversity, and sensitivity to help organizations avoid problems.

Hope you enjoyed this article.  If you need more personalized assistance, you can work directly with us.  Reach out here. http://wilmes.co/contact-wilmes-risk-control/

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