Workplaces vary in the degree to which employees are expected to comply with particular norms concerning dress and uniform. Employers are not legally allowed to have transgender-exclusive dress codes, but it is customary for employers to establish reasonable employee dress codes and grooming guidelines for work-related activities.
This may be to:
- Maintain a certain image with customers and competitors
- Ensure safety (e.g. closed-toe shoes, goggles or gloves)
- Increase visibility and ensure employees are recognizable
While your career goals and ambitions shouldn’t be determined by whether or not you can comfortably express your gender in any given job or industry, it’s important to consider expectations and possible restrictions on dress when you’re exploring and/or applying for a job.
Additionally, if you are binding, packing, or tucking, consider the length of your workday or shift and how that aligns with your personal needs. While some industries and professions have adopted seemingly all-gender uniforms (nursing, law enforcement, some restaurant and service industries) others have not, and there are variances even within some industries. For example, many larger organizations are moving away from formal dress codes and instead adopting “dress for your day” policies.
Looking into their policies
It may be wise to inquire about an employer’s or sector’s policy concerning dress and attire. For example, Public Services and Procurement Canada has the right to regulate employee appearance in the workplace for reasonable business purposes. In this instance, a trans employee can dress consistently with their gender identity and is required to comply with the same standards of dress and appearance that apply to all other people in the workplace. Consider what you need or want to wear that can help you feel both professional and true to yourself in the workplace. There may also be flexibility in the expectations for workplace attire — perhaps the workplace has an informal “casual Fridays,” or the environment is casual unless you are meeting with external clients or hosting workplace events. Understanding the culture of the workplace or organization will help you decide what to wear.