Chad, over at Uncertain Principles, brought up dress code today. (He was pondering this weighty issue thanks to Steinn and Incoherent Ponderer.) Then he asked his readers about their academic dress code. Well, I'm not an academic but I play one on TV. Just kidding, I work for the state geological survey and the dress of myself and my coworkers varies at least as much as it does for the academics who surround us here on this lovely campus. We have people how wear fairly traditional office attire and people who never wear traditional office attire. Most of us are somewhere in between. And then there are field days.
Officially we are to present ourselves in a neat and professional manner. Actually the only place I can find where anything is actually specifically said about dress is that we are to be "professional and conservative" in appearance when traveling, because we represent both the agency and the State to the people we interact with.
At the office most people dress fairly casually. The State Geologist often wears jeans. The Deputy Director actually dress up more wearing slacks and shirts most days. In the past the Oil & Gas Board (our sister agency, housed in the same building as most of the GSA) employees had to dress up a bit for work because the attitude was that anyone including the Governor might stop by and they had to look "professional", that's relaxed some now that office dress codes have relaxed in general. My office is in the other building, so we almost never get walk-in visitors, making the need to impress the public with our professional nature pretty much non-existent.
Personally, I usually wear jeans but avoid t-shirts; wear sandals whenever possible (with socks in the winter) and kick them off under my desk most of the time; occasionally wear skirts; wear loafers some in the winter and the occasional pair of heels. When I'm presenting at a conference I dress more "professionally" in skirts and heels and such. When we are having a meeting here I will dress slightly better.
In the field I wear what ever will be practical; in the summer that usually means jeans of khakis with a tank top and long sleeved over-shirt (tucked in), pants tucked into my socks, bandanna or hat (depending on amount of shade), tennis shoes or boots depending on the location, and lots of bug spray; in winter it is basically the same out fit except I'm wearing a long sleeved t-shirt under a flannel shirt or wool sweater, plus or minus a jacket.
Something none of the guys touched on was hair. Guys don't have to worry about this as much. Mine hasn't been brushed since I combed it after my shower and probably won't be until I go to bed. I may finger comb it later and put it up. I don't blow dry my hair either, so it is often still wet when I get to the office - deal with it. I don't wear make-up to work because that is five minutes I would rather spend sleeping, besides then I'd have to worry about it all day.
I don't think people should wear lab coats unless they are actually in a lab and concerned about things spattering on them. Otherwise one just looks silly. One can be an uncausally dressed scientist without putting on a lab coat. Although I will not be joining their ranks anytime soon.
For the record, I am uncasually dressed today in a very cute outfit including heels. Although I will probably revert to my Birkenstocks before the day is out.