When I was younger and working as a junior executive in a big company at Ayala Avenue, Makati, we had to follow a corporate dress code. While the rank and file female employees wore modest uniforms, women execs were not allowed to wear pants, T-shirts, anything made of denim or corduroy, tight-fitting or strapless dresses or miniskirts.
A dress or skirt-and-blouse ensemble with glaringly colorful prints, a plunging neckline, halter neck or a backless design was a no-no.
The code applied to shoes, too. We had to wear pumps—high-heel, closed shoes that do not expose the toes, the sides and the back of the feet. Naturally, after I retired from that company, I forgot the business attire protocol altogether and took to wearing collarless T-shirts, denim jeans, shorts, flats, sandals and open-toe shoes.
I came to the conclusion that if a woman wants to look nice wearing sandals or open-toe shoes, she should have a pedicure regularly. That’s all it requires. But then came the time when I made the mistake of posing for a group photo wearing a long-sleeve blouse, black slacks and open-toe shoes. The others in the full-length photo were all male business executives—seven of them—attired in barong Tagalog, black pants and black shoes.
When I saw the photo, I cringed because my toes were showing. My exposed toes ruined the picture because the formally dressed gentlemen in their polished black shoes looked so distinguished and well-groomed compared to me, the only woman in the photo, with my toes grossly and crudely protruding from my shoes.
The originators of the corporate dress code were right, after all: a woman in heels, toes covered, commands a strong, awesome presence worthy of deference and respect, while a woman with toes peeking out her shoes looks flighty and irresponsible.
Summing up, all of us know that in a diverse mega-city like Metro Manila, people can and do dress as casually as they please, wearing jeans, shorts and flip-flops. But if you are going to transact business in the central business districts of Makati and Bonifacio Global City, it’s smart to dress to impress. In a corporate setting, no one will respect you if you appear sloppy and unkempt. And if you’re a woman with toes sticking out of open-toe shoes.