Vinny Gambini: You were serious about that?
You ever see a sign outside a business that reads "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service"? That's a Dress Code.
Anytime a place has rules for what people should and shouldn't wear. This can include uniforms, but in that case the code is simply to wear the appropriate uniform. Actual dress codes allow more freedom, especially depending on the situation.
This trope applies just as much in Real Life as in fiction.
Two of the most common places for dress codes are schools and workplaces, particularly offices. Schools which enforce dress codes may carve out exceptions, i.e. spirit wear or casual wear allowed as a reward, on birthdays, at regular intervals, or in exchange for a small donation to charity note . Workplaces often have "Casual Fridays." (There are still limits, of course, although on many shows the characters will take their sartorial freedom to hilarious extremes).
And this can also be in other formal situations like black tie dinners or Standard Royal Courts.
In fiction, two of the most common reasons for stating dress codes are:
- To add flavor to the place, such as a Deadly Decadent Court.
- To show that a character is going to violate the code, and get in some form of trouble over it.
Occasionally a part of Dress-Coded for Your Convenience (when at least one side actually had a dress code).
Not to be confused with Hollywood Dress Code.
- In A Certain Magical Index, girls from Tokiwadai Middle School are required to wear their uniform at all times, even outside of school. Mikoto wears Modesty Shorts under her skirt since it's too short for her.
- In Candy Candy, the Saint Paul Boarding School has two different uniforms: white clothes for the normal weekdays plus Saturday, black ones for Sunday. A recently transferred Candy gets in problems when she shows up in her first Sunday at school in the white one.
- In Detective Conan, Natsuki Koshimizu shows up in a Sailor Fuku and says that she took a long time preparing for the fake Detectives Koshien show because she's from a school that has a very strict dress code.
- Dilbert likes to mock these once in a while.
- Peanuts had a '70s storyline in which Peppermint Patty was suspended for violating the school dress code, namely wearing sandals.
- In a Calvin and Hobbes strip:
Calvin: I saw a sign on a restaurant door that said "No shirt, no shoes, no service." But it didn't say anything about pants! If I went in wearing shoes and a shirt by no pants, they'd have to serve me!
Hobbes: They'd probably serve you with a court summons.
Calvin: [taking off his pants] C'mon, let's see if Mom will take us out for dinner!
- Beetle Bailey:
- Miss Buxley often flouts the office dress code. PVT Blips has remarked that General Halftrack won't say anything about her pants being too tight because it's hard to speak with your tongue hanging out.
- In one strip, Miss Buxley wears a matching mini-skirt and cropped top to work and explains to PVT Blips why she's wearing that outfit:
PVT Blips: Isn't that a little brief for the office?
Miss Buxley: Well, it's too warm to wear much.
- In this strip◊, she wears a bikini to the office.
- For Better or for Worse: April finds a loophole in her school's uniform dress code when she notes that knee length socks are compulsory, but that it does not specify colour. She proceeds to buy the brightest rainbow striped socks she can find.
- In Mr. Holland's Opus, there is a scene where the principal sees that two girls are wearing skirts that are too short, so he sends them home.
- In My Cousin Vinny, Vinny gets in trouble with the judge because his clothes don't match what the judge feels is appropriate for the court.
- Winter Kills has a scene where Nick meets with his girlfriend Yvette at a swank NYC hotel restaurant. When the maître d' refuses to seat them, because Yvette is wearing a pantsuit and the restaurant has a strict policy prohibiting this, she complies by taking her pants off on the spot (a Refuge in Audacity move that was supposedly inspired by a real-life incident involving '60s socialite Nan Kempner).
- In Marianne Curley's Guardians Of Time series, one of the signs that chaos is overtaking the world is either that the dress code at the protagonists' high school gets abolished.
- In The Sword of Truth series, length of hair on women designates social standing. The most important woman in the Midlands—the Mother Confessor—has the longest hair, and it's socially (and in some places, legally) unacceptable to have hair any longer than hers.
- In the Honor Harrington series the standard court costume imposed by tradition on the Manticoran nobility during formal events, having been created by a society with essentially de facto gender equality, is unisex and includes such things as tight brightly striped pants which look unfortunate on people without the physique to pull it off and mildly ridiculous otherwise. Duchess Harrington herself, choosing to exploit her title from the planet Grayson as an excuse, decides on wearing a much more comfortable and fashionable looking dress (Grayson having a more "traditional" view of women and fashion), this causing a minor social uproar when Queen Elizabeth III decides that's a damn fine idea.
- In The Princess Diaries, Mia mentions her school dress code here and there, such as complaining when the Alpha Bitch blatantly violates it by wearing her boyfriend's shorts under her skirt, or complaining about how they can't tie their uniform shirts into midriff tops like Britney Spears.
- Little House on the Prairie: The Season 7 episode "Goodbye, Mrs. Wilder," sees temporary Schoolmarm Mrs. Oleson demand not suggest or request, demand a dress code for the students a white button-down shirt, ties, slacks and dress shoes. All to assert her snobbish authority and uncaring that most families are from farming backgrounds could not afford expensive uniforms, and poo-pooing the notion that Walnut Grove School was not a large private or boarding school hoping to draw more business to the Mercantile (since it was the only dry good store in town and it would be the point of delivery for the uniforms). The school did not have a dress code specifically written, although it was expected they'd dress appropriately.
- Leave It to Beaver: Beaver learns why it is inappropriate to wear a sweatshirt with a large, grotesque monster printed on the front and as a result, why the (unstated) dress code had the expectation that students would dress appropriately in Season 4's "Sweatshirt Monsters."
- NCIS has Lab Rat/Perky Goth Abby wearing clothing that ranges from stereotypical Goth to Stripperiffic. When called out on it and forced to wear normal office attire, she ends up in a great deal of emotional distress and loses some of her brilliance. Naturally, Papa Wolf Gibbs stands up for her and she is allowed to revert to her...less than business casual wardrobe.
- An Ally McBeal episode has a judge ordering Ally to stop donning her trademark miniskirts in court. When she refuses, he has her jailed for contempt.
- One Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode has a (male) judge chewing ADA Casey Novak out for wearing pants in court and ordering her to wear a skirt in the future. She then proceeds to kick his ass. Casey Novak, everybody.
- The whole point of the episode is said judge's "traditional" (i.e. sexist) views on women in society, and how Novak is able to reveal the ways he lets those views affect his judgment in court. For example, a married housewife is automatically assumed to be a good person, despite the evidence that she tends to shake her baby; on the other hand, he convicts a single mother of killing her baby mostly because he sees her as little more than a slut.
- The Good Wife has an episode where a male judge takes Alica to task for wearing pants in the courtroom. In a later scene, she encounters him again - now wearing a skirt - and sarcastically asks if it's short enough.
- The late-'60s high school drama Room 222 had an episode centering around a student challenging the school dress code.
- In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will would occasionally find loopholes in his high school's dress code, such as wearing his school blazer inside-out, or tying his necktie on his forehead.
- The U.S. version of The Office had a casual Friday episode.
- In "New Boss", Charles Miner clashes with Jim and Dwight over their attire.
- In season 10 of Degrassi the school introduces uniforms in the middle of the school year, in response to a number of incidents. A far cry from Degrassi Junior High where they didn't even have a wardrobe and the characters' clothes were the actors' own.
- In an episode of Little People Big World, the Roloffs are preparing for Molly's middle school graduation. They don't check the dress code right away, and have to scramble to find a new dress for Molly because they didn't immediately check the dress code and realize the straps on her dress were too narrow.
- Spoofed in the opening segment of The Deadly Mantis episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, where Servo announces it's "Business Casual Day" on the SOL and cites Mike for alleged violations of the dress code, despite Mike's protestations that they aren't a business.
- On Sex and the City, Miranda and her coworker dressed in such a way as to kill the newly-implemented casual Friday.
- Our Miss Brooks: In "Dress Code Protest", Mr. Conklin imposes a dress code after the students celebrate "Spirit Week" by wearing outrageous and mismatched clothing. Miss Brooks refers to the "celebration" as a "Malevolent Mardi Gras."
- One of the smaller "offenses" in Rockstar's Bully is to break the dress code. By itself, the ping on your Wanted Meter won't even get the power-tripping prefects doing anything more than yelling at you, but if you commit other infractions, it can push it over a dangerous line.
- In Professor Layton and the Last Specter's London Life game, your character will not be allowed inside the classier establishments of Little London unless his or her outfit has a sufficient Formality score. The way the system works, you can get away with stuff like wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses in a fancy restaurant just so long as the rest of your outfit is nice enough to make up for it.
- Bizarre dress codes are a staple of transgender fiction, as seen on sites like FictionMania. Usually, a male character finds himself in an all-female workplace with a dress code that doesn't account for two genders, and thus requires things like skirt, pantyhose, makeup, etc. After being Dragged into Drag, adopting a Wholesome Crossdresser lifestyle (and in more extreme cases, dragged into more than that), the protagonist often finds that many of the "women" in the office are, or were, also men.
- Parodied in "Magiconomy" by Shiny Objects Videos. Even destructive forces of dark magic need to wear a tie in the office.
- Parodied in CollegeHumor's Problem With Jeggings series.
- Usually averted in SpongeBob SquarePants (mostly because Patrick, who wears neither a shirt nor shoes is one of the Krusty Krab's regular customers, not to mention, most of the characters on the show don't wear shoes), but the episode, "The Algae's Always Greener" has Spongebob scream, "No shirt, no shoes, no service!" while firing a cannon armed with clothing at a naked Mr. Krabs.
- The 2013 Mickey Mouse short "No Service" has Goofy's Snack Shack, which has a No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service policy. Since Mickey doesn't wear a shirt, nor does Donald wear shoes, Mickey is forced to surrender his clothes to Donald and stay outside naked while Donald orders the food.
- A classic Cartoon Network bumper has Fred Flintstone, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, and Weasel being refused service at a mini-mart because of its dress code.
Fred: So you're saying I can't buy shoes because I don't have shoes?
- At the beginning of The Simpsons episode "Bart Sells His Soul", the First Church of Springfield has a sign reading "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Salvation".
- The court of Tsarist Russia had a dress code, which included requiring ladies to wear the Pimped Out Dresses with the distinctive sleeves and tiaras.
- Many other royal courts in the 19th century had their own codes as well. In a nutshell, this was the Ermine Cape Effect being enforced, rather than just as an image.
- And even earlier. One of Jane Seymour's newly appointed maids of honor caught all kinds of grief over her clothes. They were too French, she didn't have the right headress, and her girdle didn't have the regulation two hundred pearls!
- And before that, there were the "Sumptuary Laws", which dictated what materials people of a certain rank were allowed to wear. Apparently this was enacted by kings and queens tired of people of lower rank dressing better than them.
- More importantly, at the time social rank determined how the law treated you, so trying to pass out for a higher class than you actually were was tantamount to serious fraud.
- One of the laws was what kind of fur one could wear. Ermine was largely associated with royalty already due to their robes and capes, but at that time royalty had it exclusive by law.
- Many other royal courts in the 19th century had their own codes as well. In a nutshell, this was the Ermine Cape Effect being enforced, rather than just as an image.
- England, circa the 17th century onwards, the length of one's wig determined one's social status in polite society. This still remains with English law: judges wear longer, full wigs than the barristers (lawyers) who wear short, abbreviated ones—although because nothing is simple in English law or custom, the Court of Appeal wears short wigs and the Supreme Court (formerly the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords) doesn't even wear robes, sitting instead in suits. Also, judges and Queen's Counsel (QCs for short, senior barristers who have been formally recognised for their skill; the title becomes King's Counsel when the monarch is male) wear silk robes and stockings in court, while junior barristers wear other materials. This requirement has led to the process of becoming a QC being called "taking silk" and QCs being referred to as "silks".
- Almost everyone in an American court is required to meet a dress code, including the jury in many cases (which is printed on the letter sent to jurors). Jury dress codes are usually much laxer, however; typically, jurors can get away with wearing street clothes as long as they cover everything up and aren't offensive. Lawyers, on the other hand, generally have to show up in proper business attire: that means a suit and tie with proper shoes and socks for men, and a pants suit or skirt suit for women. Failure to follow these rules can result in getting chewed out by the judge; many judges will refuse to hear argument from an improperly attired attorney (unless the attorney has a very good excusenote ), and some even keep stores of commonly-forgotten items (e.g. ties) ready in the courtroom for the use of errant lawyers. On one widely-reported occasion, a judge in Indiana got into a tiff with a lawyer about the lawyer's habit of dressing down--including not wearing socks--in court, and even went to the trouble of writing a proper, official court order, with a legal memorandum, ordering the lawyer to wear socks.
- Historically, the restrictions were even tighter; it used to be that many courts required counsel to appear in morning dress. American courts generally dropped this requirement over the 20th century; however, there are some traces, particularly the tradition where the U.S. Solicitor General and his/her deputies (the lawyers responsible for arguing cases in the Supreme Court for the U.S. government) continue to appear for oral argument in morning dress to this day.
- In Brazil, you cannot enter a public building without long pants.
- In Vatican City, the guards enforce a strict dress code for entry to St. Peter's Basilica: No bare shoulders or skirts/shorts above the knee for either men or for women◊. (It's also considered respectful for women to cover their hair.)
- Formal parties have general dress codes depending on the type. If you see terms like "White tie dinner", "Black tie dinner", or "Cocktail party", those are all in descending degrees of formality and dress.
- There is a 100 year old law in Paris that makes it illegal for women to wear trousers. Repeal has been proposed several times, but officials and law officers find it is simply much easier and cheaper to ignore it.
- Law enacted: November 7, 1800. Law declared null and void: February 4, 2013.
- Similarly, in collections of "ridiculous old laws still on the books", you can find places in the USA where women may not wear patent leather shoes, because they might reflect their underwear.
- The Technology Student Association has multiple levels of dress code for conferences. All true TSA'ers know exactly what constitutes Official Dress and what doesn't.
- The WNBA and NBA have rules governing what coaches and players wear when representing their teams, both on and off court. Players usually wear team warmups or shirts to community appearances.
- Coaches wear suits and ties. Female coaches wear pantsuits.
- When players are injured and cannot play, they have to dress formally. In the WNBA, this sometimes leads to the exhibition of a Pimped-Out Dress.
- Most American public schools have a dress code, though usually more about prohibiting certain things than requiring a particular dress (e.g., no obscene shirts, no underwear showing, or no hats). The schools vary in how strictly they enforce it, however. Private and parochial schools, of course, often have much stricter dress codes up to and including uniforms.
- Often subverted by the students, who despite being required to wear their skirts knee-length, hem them into mini-skirts.
- Some girls who really want to piss off a teacher will wear an ankle-length skirt, follow the rest of the dress code to the letter, and then dare a teacher to tell her she's violating the dress code. Telling a girl her skirt is too long will not end well for a school district. An expensive lawsuit plus a shitload of bad publicity is where things start.
- Recent high profile incidents have hit the headlines with parents and pupils fighting back against arbitrary, archaic and just plain sexist dress codes including:
- Failing to account for different builds - sanctioning some girls because they are bustier and fill out the same top more than others or the fingertip rule on shorts making an identical pair ok on a shorter girl but a violation on a taller one.
- Reinforcing toxic gender roles by putting the onus on girls to avoid wearing anything too revealing rather than teaching boys to behave respectfully regardless of how girls are dressed and by implication putting boys education above girls in importance.
- Blatantly sexist double standards in dress code enforcement, usually aimed at girls. For example making girls stretch their arms above their heads and sanctioning them for bare midriff if their top and bottom show a gap even if normally it wouldnt when boys can walk around in shirts open to the navel.
- Complete lack of common sense in relation to the temperature and weather and the dress code - either forcing pupils to wear hot and restrictive clothing during hot weather or refusing to let them wear more in the cold.
- IBM had one of the most stringent dress codes, requiring men to wear garters, among other things. One bit of humor in Clifford Stoll's non-fiction book Cuckoos Egg is that the computer science nerds he works with mistake federal agents for IBM sales reps, because nobody else coming into the server room would ever wear a dress shirt or a tie, let alone a suit.
- Any job that requires workers to wear uniforms, oftentimes to make employees easily identified according to their job, affiliation with the company, or rank.
- Even without a formal uniform, most workplaces have a dress code much like a school, which regulates appropriate clothing. If employees are found in violation of the dress code, they'll be sent home to change.
- In some cases, such as military personnel, the dress code also serves to give the wearer some protection under law: A soldier fighting without a certain minimal degree of uniform could be considered an unlawful combatant or a spy if encountered or captured by the enemy. This is incidentally why the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has uniforms at all: One of their duties is surveying and creating navigational charts for ships to use. Doing so during time of war can be considered spying if done wearing civilian attire.
- Journalists, such as those who work for CNN, will sometimes wear station or network-branded jackets or hats in severe weather to let other people know that they're trying to do a job and are not to be disrupted.
- Service dogs wear vests which usually say something to the effect of "Don't distract me! I'm working!" When they're not working, they can take the vest off and basically live as pets.
- Workplaces with an element of physical risk, such as building sites or warehouses, typically have a dress code that sets out what personal protective equipment employees and site visitors are required to wear. High-vis vests, work gloves, hard-toed boots, hard hats and harnesses are often the most common features of these. These items are mandated by OSHA (or equivalent) standards, so ignoring or circumventing the dress code on these jobs is a good way to be permanently sent home.
- Businesses can enforce dress codes on the customers, but it's usually something along the lines of "must be wearing a shirt, pants, and shoes", which mostly everyone follows anyway. The rule is more for the benefit of other customers so they aren't weirded or grossed out by someone who is too revealing or could be spreading germs around. Nice restaurants can also have dress codes for guests, such as a suit jacket and tie, though this has been downplayed as American dress standards have gotten more casual. What restaurant would want to risk turning away the CEO of a major tech company, after all?
- Nightclubs often enforce a dress code to attract a certain clientele, though these codes tend to be vague, such as "dress to impress."