Smart Casual, ambiguous much?

"At least you're not under-dressed"

Yet another few days closer to starting placement and I’m begining to wonder what I should wear. So following some advice from the placement staff at my university, I send a quick email to the HR department at my new job. I get the following reply:

“Dear Ruby,

The dress code is smart casual.


New Job HR People”

So I guess that means non-specific smart dress. Thing is I’m uncertain of my working enviroment which I’m pretty sure is something most people in engineering face. What I have found most surprising when I was researching dress codes, is the lack of support towards women entering engineering careers. The dress codes I found were written by men, and were often really unspecific or incredibly restrictive towards their women employees. I am well aware of the situation for men in the workplace, smart casual is a shirt and trousers, simple yeah? For us females it’s so much more than that. Clothes make us feel good, and things aren’t always easy to define.

I am among the lucky majority who don’t have their neckline position determined by X amount of inches below the armpit. But this still leaves me in a spin, as I have only a basic idea of what my job may entail. I will probably be between a small lab and an office, this enviroment change makes dressing slightly difficult. For example during general office hours I’ll probably face a few hazards but will also be comfortably sat at a desk doing a bit of R&D.

After discussion with man-friend, the best method for this job is to wait till I get there, but in the meantime the first week’s outfits will have to be brought or made, including suitable shoes. Which I’ll get back to you with, if anyone else has had any experience with this please leave a comment.

It would be great if a small database of job specific, women in engineering based dress codes could start appearing : )


One thought on “Smart Casual, ambiguous much?

  1. Hi Ruby,

    As a fellow female engineer I know how you feel. I tend to find that women in engineering offices very much forge their own style and no two dress the same. After all, having been ‘brave’ enough to make the decision to step into such a non-traditional domain, most female engineers are interesting bold individuals.

    My tactic for the first day or two anywhere is always to wear smart trousers (in case labs require a ‘bunny’ suit overall, or in case I’m climbing ladders) with a relatively high waist band (so that there’s no possibility of accidentally flashing your pants no matter how much bending & stretching you’re doing). I also wear a shirt, usually with full or 3/4 length sleeves as they often look smarter than short/cap sleeves, and sometimes a tank top or waistcoat as that prevents the ‘shirt gap’ peepshow problem, it also means you’re more likely to be the right temperature without needing a jumper or jacket. With air-conditioned labs & offices you can find yourself cold even in summer…especially as women seem to feel the cold more so male dominated offices are often set at lower temperatures. With trousers, long(ish) sleeved shirt and a tank top/waistcoat I feel confident and prepared for any situation an engineering office, lab, production facility or construction site can throw at me!

    You’ll probably find though that skirts are fine (they should be in all offices, and many labs), and that you can wear shirts of any variety, fitted jumpers, fitted turtle/polo neck tops and tailored dresses.

    Good luck with your placement!

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