Reporting from Los Angeles and Orlando, Fla. — Chalk one up for women who work at Disney theme parks: They don't have to wear pantyhose anymore.
In the biggest change to the company's appearance code in a decade, the Walt Disney Co. has decided to let most female employees at Disney theme parks worldwide, including the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, forgo pantyhose when wearing skirts.
Although it may seem a trivial change in any other business, the relaxing of dress codes at Disneyland is a significant move considering that founder Walt Disney was adamant about making sure all employees maintained a well-groomed, all-American look.
"That clean-cut look never went out of style as far as Walt Disney was concerned," said David Koenig, the author of four books on Disneyland and a regular writer for http://www.mouseplanet.com, a website about the Disney parks.
Koenig recounts a time in the 1970s when some Disneyland managers brandished rulers to ensure that employees' sideburns and hair length met strict grooming standards.
But since then, the company has regularly revisited and relaxed its appearance and dress codes. The last major change to the policy came in 2000 when the company let male employees wear mustaches. Disney tweaked its guidelines again a few years later by allowing male employees to style their hair in cornrows.
Disney officials said the latest change, announced companywide May 28, was prompted by a routine review of company guidelines and a comparison with the dress codes of other Fortune 500 corporations.
"We continuously evaluate our appearances," Disneyland spokeswoman Betsy Sanchez said. "We are trying to stay relevant."
The decision to permit female employees to forgo pantyhose applies to most Disney employees, except where the leg wear is part of a particular costume, such as the outfit for characters such as Tinker Bell or Alice from Alice in Wonderland.
Among the 20,000 or so employees at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, the changes will apply mostly to staff who work in offices or behind the scenes at the park.
Among other changes to the code, women will for the first time be permitted to wear sleeveless tops — though in typically restrictive Disney fashion, only if the shoulder straps are at least 3 inches wide. Female employees also will be allowed to wear Capri pants and sling-back shoes that also have open toes.
Men, meanwhile, will now be allowed to wear untucked, casual shirts.