Rachel Bode

Too much colour? ... Rachel Bode reserves red stockings for casual Fridays.

No lip gloss, dangly earrings or opaque stockings.

These are just some of the dress requirements Sydney's young women professionals are being asked to adhere to by their prestigious companies, worried about the poor presentation of Generation Y employees and the impact on client relationships.

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 Companies including Westpac, Clayton Utz and King & Wood Mallesons have all recruited style consultants to provide sessions on dress standards for young staffers.

But the move has angered some younger workers and workplace experts.

The bright red stockings Sydney accountant Rachel Bode wore to work on Friday would fail such a style test, despite her participation in a fashion seminar at work.

"They said to wear a suit every day, including a skirt, stockings and a belt," Ms Bode, 25, said. "We did a make-up course as well. I didn't like that. I think it's personal choice whether you wear make-up."

Ms Bode said men were also invited to the session, but were only advised to wear a tie and to make sure their shoes were always clean.

"In a way it was discrimination," she said. "As long as you're wearing clothes in a professional manner that's all that should matter. I don't think they would approve of my red stockings, but oh well, it's casual Friday. I usually wear colourful things and dresses. Everyone else is wearing greys and blacks and I like wearing colourful things, especially in winter. It's nice to have some colour."

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Lawyer Allira Swick, 27, who works in the CBD, said she was aware of friends being offered presentations at work, brought in under the guise of providing "assistance" to women. "I think it's a little degrading and women usually know what to do," she said.

Style consultant Alex Frampton said she was regularly hired by major firms to present style advice that they were too afraid to give to employees.

"They're probably not going to promote you and ... take you up to meet a client if you're wearing a mini-skirt or if your boobs are on show," she said. "If the companies are going to send out people to meet their clients, they need to be completely professional."

During her corporate sessions, however, Ms Frampton has received a backlash from younger women. "The legal girls were particularly focused on their rights and what they should wear," she said.

Fairfax Media understands that, after a presentation by Ms Frampton at the law firm Clayton Utz, the firm was forced to apologise after several complaints were made by female employees relating to advice about the preference of skirts over pants.

A spokeswoman from Clayton Utz last week said: "My understanding is that Alex [Frampton] came in as an independent presenter many years ago, and the views she expressed were her own, not the firm's. Our female employees are certainly free to wear trousers as part of their corporate attire."

A personal stylist, Chris Rewell, who runs her own company, created a prescriptive style document that has been presented at many firms. The 11–page document, obtained by Fairfax Media, lists do's and don'ts for women's presentation in the workplace.

Ms Rewell said Generation Y were leading a "casualisation" of dress codes in the workplace. "We are a visual species and the way we present ourselves needs to be appropriate," she said.

One of the firms that used the Rewell presentation, investment bank Barclays, said the two-hour session, run in December 2010, was designed only for women in its women's network.

"It wasn't a Barclays initiative for the presentation, the women's initiative network thought they should put on the program for the women," a spokesman said.

A professor of employment relations at the University of Sydney, Marian Baird, said companies were outsourcing such presentations as "risk minimisation strategies". When a third party comes into the office, the company can then distance itself from "sensitive issues" or the risk of facing legal action, she said.

"It's a very difficult area to police and you have to be very careful," Professor Bairdsaid.

Professor Baird said she had also heard of young women in corporate workplaces being told they were not wearing enough make-up or their heels were not high enough. "I think it's abhorrent," she said.