Magazine article Management Review

Millennium FASHION

Magazine article Management Review

Millennium FASHION

Article excerpt

Browsing through my favorite book store recently, I came across an end-less selection of books with titles about Y2K, like Crisis Investing for the Year 2000, Where to Hide on Millennium Eve and, somewhat inappropriate for the purposes of this column, Millennium Midnight.

Millennium eve will certainly not be a dress-down occasion. The celebration will be replete with black-tie outfits for the men, three- and four-button tuxedos, even top hat and tails. And the women will add their own dash of excitement with couture ball gowns and dresses in bright seasonal colors or sportswear-inspired separates like beaded sweaters.

So, after the great millennial ball has dropped, how will America's businessmen and women of the 21st century dress differently from their 20th century counterparts?

Before fashion rules were eased in the 1980s, men and women did what they were expected to do: They showed up for work, well-groomed and buttoned- up for their executive positions.

But a lot has changed since then, and the journey from corporate traditional to corporate casual has left no one untouched.

In 1997, Levi Strauss & Co. conducted a national businesswear survey to assess dressing behavior and attitudes in the workplace. The survey was comprised of male and female white-collar workers, representing a broad range of industries across all regions of the country. The sampling included executives from middle to upper management. At that time, 53 percent of white-collar workers reported that they dressed casually for work every day. This was a significant increase from 1995, when human resources managers reported that 33 percent of workers dressed casually every day.

J. Thomas Van Berkem, senior vice president of human resources for Well-Point Health Network, an HMO based in Thousand Oaks, California, says, "When I began with WellPoint two years ago, our dress code was traditional from day to day with some parts of the company enjoying 'casual Friday' only." But later, Van Berkem says, he got a major employee request to change the dress code to casual all the time.

Martin Greenfield, president and CEO of Martin Greenfield Clothiers, a manufacturer of traditional clothing for men sold in such stores as Brooks Brothers and Nieman Marcus, has a somewhat different point of view for the coming millennium.

Says Greenfield, "It will still be suits, two-and three-button, but with more colors and utilitarian sophistication. …

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