Dressing For Success: Have You Been Bitch-Slapped, Today?

Making the "right" first impression is very important to many people and, speaking from experience, learning to dress for success (especially if you're a woman) would perhaps be a lot easier, if it were graded on a curve - or, having a personal stylist ready to hand me a cup of coffee (along with my first bitch-slap of the morning) with, "Whoa, honey...that skirt is so...NOT you!"

But, what if the shoe were on the other foot and someone asked you to, "Please speak to her about the way she dresses," designating you as someone else's fashion police - like an ex-employer of mine, did - not so easy, yes?

While checking out the BlogHer blogroll, I visited with the Studious Stylist's and was once again, bitch-slapped - this time by the fashion muse in the form of Redside and her thought-provoking post, regarding a student giving her PhD and being studied perhaps a little closer than she thought:

The female graduate student being examined wore a tight shirt with a plunging neckline, which my friend found inappropriate and distracting.

Redside's friend did not feel it her place to intervene (read: "Girl...as in this is supposed to be an oral, not visual exam...what were you thinking?") and I tend to wonder, along with Redside, would you...could you...be my fashion police?

In New Women’s Dress for Success, John Molloy states that successful women do not give fashion advice to their junior colleagues. Instead, women hold fashion faux pas against others, while men tend to share their knowledge. I don’t know if this is true, but it made me wonder if clothing should be included in academic mentoring.

Why not?

To tell you the truth - since finding myself embedded with BlogHers from all walks of life - I've learned that if there's anything women are willing to share...it's their knowledge...and if there is a "clear-cut" policy or code to, in this case, professionally-appropriate attire...a woman probably wrote it!

But, then again, taking advice can be as difficult as giving it, as Redside gets right to the point...a whole lot prettier, btw:

On the other hand, when I heard this story it made me doubt the competence of the student in question. How could she have misjudged the fashion codes? What would this mean for her future in the profession? In other words, I was doing just what Molloy said that women do—thinking poorly of someone for her choices but not helping her figure out the rules.

You've heard the saying, "You are what you wear," well - look at what the person nearest to you is wearing, right now - does it fit?

In her post, "I'll wear a suit when I'm dead," Printculture's M. Massino is headed to her, "...first big-time academic conference, this year," and questions herself (as well as her readers) and makes an interesting point:

...there is much apparently at stake. Class, gender, politics, personality, investment, etc. etc. Looking too good can be just as bad as looking sloppy. To steal a turn of phrase from Matthew Schneier at the Yale Herald, if one looks too snappy one might encounter the attitude that “a night is probably better spent in the stacks than in the racks�--that if you look like you've spent much time on your appearance others might wonder if you're putting enough time into working on your brain (whatever that might mean).

She received a lot of advice - good, bad and indifferent - along with this comment:

jkcohen wrote:

I think that, if the computer science or ee people I know are any indication, they'd all go buy DNA or Escher ties. With what's left over, they would splurge on their collection of O'Reilly T-shirts — camel, lemur, python, bat. The supremo place to get this stuff on the Web is ThinkGeek (http://www.thinkgeek.com/)

[Editor's Note: my geeky pick would have to be this tie - with a binary code on it translating to "ties suck."]

Yeah, I can be very geeky and - personally, I believe that a little bit of nerdiness can be colorful - finding definition in proper attire at the workplace can prove difficult, often times leading the way for debate on whether or not there is any compensation in dressing for success.

For example, there are people involved in the hiring process who believe that the fact my SIL has three tattoos will affect her chances of compeleting a successful interview.
Chez Shoes believes otherwise:

No. No, it should not. Although I am lacking in the areas of piercings and/or body art, I am a firm believer in clothing as self expression, and a firm believer that there is no one correct way to express oneself.

Okay, so here's the thing - especially in the summer when many companies practice "casual Fridays" and "dress-down days" - is there an easy, breezy way in which we can all dress cool (and still look professional) without having to lose the BlogHer that lies beneath the clothing tag?

Good Morning America's workplace contributor, Tory Johnson has plenty of suggestions and closes her latest article with these simple rules:

Keep in mind that extra-casual attire is only for inside the office among co-workers, not clients.

For interviews, meetings and out-of-office appointments, always maintain your professionalism by upping your attire a notch or two.

If in doubt, ask. If you're going on an interview or sales calls, ask the person who has arranged the meeting for some advice. Sounds awkward, but it can be as simple as this: "Would you please tell me about the attire in your office so I can dress appropriately for our appointment?"

Following these rules ensures that you're always stylish and smart — a winning combination in any weather.

If you're like me - and it's still all a little too fuzzy for you - then, you're probably finding it uncomfortably warm in here and are having trouble deciding what (or what not) to wear.

Don't be afraid to ask, someone - a friend, a co-worker, or even that annoyingly put-together sales woman, perhaps? - anyone!

Just, don't let Gemma catch you:

Have you ever had a Fashion Police moment?

You're walking around your local town and you spot someone in an outfit so bad you have to stop yourself from taking them aside and asking them if they own a mirror.

Or you're in a usually stylish shop and spy something on the rails that you'd sooner burn than wear in public.

Well, we need you!

Next time you see a fashion nightmare in your local area, whip out your cameraphone or digicam and snap a picture of it.

Then email the picture to gem@catwalk-queen.net with your name and a note letting us know where you snapped the hellish fashion nightmare.

We'll be posting the best ones on the blog from now on, as well as our own snaps from in and around London.

So, be on the look out and remember, we're all friends here - let BlogHer in on your fashion do's and don'ts.

Then, perhaps we can all breath a sigh of relief, as we get back to work and start to consider "bitch-slapping" to be a public service!

Contributing Editor Elizabeth Thompson also writes for The Imperfect Parent.
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[Photo credit: The Catwalk Queen by David & Goliath]

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