Deconstructing Professional Workplace Attire Workshop

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By Jess Crespo, Wasserman Career Ambassador, CAS ’23

Hi everyone! My name is Jess, and I am currently a junior majoring in Global Public Health and Sociology, along with being a Wasserman Career Ambassador. Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Deconstructing Professional Workplace Attire workshop hosted by Wasserman. Throughout this presentation, a great discussion about one’s self expression in the workplace in relation to professionalism ensued. This virtual event provided me with a lot of useful insight regarding the expression of identity while on-the-job, and how to contribute to the deconstruction of certain discriminatory practices. If you did not have a chance to come to the event, continue reading for some of my key takeaways!

The presenter of this event was Gabby Royal, the Senior Director of Global Inclusion & Diversity at Abercrombie & Fitch Co. Gabby touched on a variety of topics regarding workplace attire, ranging from gender dress codes to hair discrimination, and discussed her personal experiences as well. The event concluded with an in-depth group discussion based on prompts related to the issue at hand!

Gabby began this presentation by talking about her experiences in the workplace, and how she navigated expressing her identity. After moving and transitioning into a job in New York, her expression of identity changed significantly— as a result of this, she was scared of facing gender discrimination. 

She followed this story by mentioning how employers are allowed to regulate their employees’ appearance, as long as they do not end up discriminating against employees. She then transitioned into discussing gender dress codes, and the steps people can take in order to dismantle them in the workplace.

Gabby then went on to share two informative videos with us. The first video was about adaptive fashion for those with disabilities— it discussed how fashion and design industries have always ignored the population of those with disabilities, and how the lack of representation in their community is in the process of changing, as more people with disabilities are becoming models and making names for themselves. The second video was about hair discrimination in the workplace and New York’s anti-discrimination law— it featured multiple black women discussing how they are impacted by the C.R.O.W.N. (Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act passed in 2019, and how many feel nervous about showing up to work with certain hair styles, as a result of how their hair may be perceived by others.

Gabby then began to close the presentation by reviewing how to dress for success in the workplace, and gave a shout out to Abercrombie & Fitch Co. for it’s inclusivity in fashion! The final activity of this event was a group discussion, based on the following prompts:

  • Prompt 1: What is professional work attire? Do you feel that definitions of professional attire limits our ability to show up authentically?
  • Prompt 2: What are your biggest fears or challenges around dressing up for the job? Or what excites you about dressing up for your job?
  • Prompt 3: What can employers do to better support the needs of diverse employees entering the workforce?
  • Prompt 4: Who is your biggest style icon or where do you find your inspiration? What can brands do to better support the needs of our communities?

Overall, this event was an excellent opportunity to learn more about the deconstruction of the concept of professional attire in the workplace. I hope from this summary that you were able to reflect on your own professional work style and how you may want to dress in your career.