So here it is. Let’s break it down, first, checking to make sure it meets the professional dress criteria:

  1. Two things on top? There are three. Check.
  2. Focus on the face? The face is the only skin that shows. Check.
  3. Equal power? It all looks respectable, nothing looks cheap, tired or dingy. Check.

This was an experiment in dressing according to the old standards. Let’s look at each element.

Jacket: Gray, because it’s softer on the face than black. It’s very nice wool with a soft hand and that shows in the photo. I like that but other than that, it’s like a man’s suit jacket in every way except for the cut and I’m tired of my mansuits.

Shirt: White cotton, pressed, with a bit of a standup collar to give it more gravitas. I like it except for two things. One, it’s a little floppy on the right side of the photo (left side of my body). That happened because it was coming untucked. I had checked it twice in the photographer’s hand mirror but it must have shifted. The other part I don’t like doesn’t show in this photo, but it’s the buttons. When men are in full business attire, you never see their shirt buttons because they are hidden by the tie. I don’t like seeing buttons. They are a point of vulnerability.

Scarf: I bought this the day before the photo shoot, when I realized the scarf I had packed (I was in Cincinnati) had a yellow cast and didn’t look right with the white shirt. Macy’s had about 30 different scarves but most wouldn’t work. They were too floral, too sparkly, too fringy, too thick. This was the only one. This one was perfect. It had enough heft to stand up without falling down my neck and enough softness to tie nicely. It has hints of gray that echo the suit and white that echoes the shirt. It also has blue, which is most people’s favorite color. It’s the perfect scarf. It is the best thing about this outfit.

Jewelry: Silver necklace resting on scarf, silver company pin (mandatory!), silver earrings. I like this jewelry a lot. It has presence. It’s not old fashioned, it’s not foo-foo. The line of the necklace echoes the neckline of the shirt. It’s perfect.

So I now have a new corporate photo with appropriate clothes and my new hair. The next task will be harder. I plan to create a new, more contemporary work wardrobe. The hard part is that no one makes the kind of clothing I have in mind. The good news is that I’m resourceful.




 25 June 2016

The purpose of this blog was to educate on how to dress for the C-suite in the conservative workplace. However, I was recently adrift with that idea, recognizing that the conservative workplace is a dying breed.

I knew this was a shrinking breed as evidenced by the lack of suits for women and the disappearance of many of the brands that produced them. However, the Wall Street Journal informed the world earlier this month that the core, the heart, the belly-of-the-beast bastion of suit-wearing power dressing—Goldman Sachs—has eliminated their requirement that all employees wear suits at all times.

Although sweatpants and flip-flops are still prohibited, sweaters, polo shirts, and capri pants are allowed. PricewaterhouseCoopers beat Goldman to the punch by a few weeks and did them one better, permitting jeans as long as there are no client meetings.

According to the WSJ of June 4-5, “It also reflects the ever-changing world of banking, in which big financial institutions are constantly evolving to stay relevant as financial technology firms attempt to take away business and as many bank clients, including in Silicon Valley, continue to shun formal wear.”

This is why I didn’t post last week… I wasn’t sure what the purpose was anymore. So I sat with it. And in the meantime I returned to reading What Works: Gender Equality by Design, by Iris Bohnet. Normally I finish a book in a day or two, but this is one I’ve been reading off and on for a month or two. The problem is that every few pages I read something that makes me really angry. I put the book down and stomp away.

For example:

“A fascinating experiment entitled “The Emergence of Male Leadership in Competitive Environments” supports the notion that stereotyping of the self and others interact in intricate ways. A group of researches showed that female MBA students at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business* were selected as leaders much less often than their established skills warranted—because women as well as men conformed to what we expect of their genders. Male MBA students behaved in a more overconfident manner than their female classmates and were thus more likely to be chosen as leaders. In the experiment, before having to select a leader, everyone participated in a math task, learned about how well he or she did, and was paid based on his or her individual performance. Fifteen months later, the students were randomly assigned to groups, and each group selected a leader who would perform another math task on the group’s behalf. His or her performance would determine every group member’s earnings.

Group members had five minutes to consult each other and decide who would be the representative to compete with other group leaders on their behalf. People could talk freely but had to state and record on a piece of paper how well each of them thought they would perform in the upcoming math task. It turns out that the men were more optimistic about their future performance than their female counterparts because they misremembered how well they had done in the past by a larger extent than women. Men had an inflated recollection of their past performance, overestimating it by about 30 percent; women also remembered their past performance as higher than it actually was, but by only about 14 percent. Based on these self-assessments, men were more likely to be chosen by their groups. Choosing the wrong leader had consequences. As you might expect, actual past performance was a much better predictor of future performance than the students’ memories, most especially the male students’ inflated recollection.”

While my initial reaction was anger, that anger has metamorphosed into fuel.

This blog is going to take a slightly different tack, no different than what a good navigator does when the winds around her boat change. Forget the C-suite of the conservative workplace. Or rather, keep it and include much more. Make it about power, and expressing power through how you dress.

The rules are the same—two things on top, focus on the face, equal power—but the rules are expressed differently in different environments. It’s like houses. If you live in the southwest you have a flat thick roof because you are more concerned with temperature control than shedding rain or snow. In the north, you have a pitched roof, unless you’re into modernism and think you can, over the long haul, beat Mother Nature. In that case I wish you well but I digress. The point of the roofs is that the principle is the same—you want a roof over your head that will protect you from the elements, whatever your local elements happen to be. In the workplace you want clothes on your body that support your efforts, whatever your local dress code happens to be.

You want everything, right down to the clothes on your back, to serve your purposes. You want everything, especially the clothes on your back, to serve your purposes.

*The average GMAT score of a Booth student is 726; students at Harvard’s B-school average 725. So we know they’re smart, no matter what their gender.


351: Powering Down

June 11, 2016

11 June 2016 This past Monday I intentionally used dress to my disadvantage. Here’s why and how: I was attending an annual meeting that I’ve been running for the past five years. The dress code is business casual. This year, due to a change in job responsibilities, I wasn’t going to be leading but assisting. […]

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350: Inside Out

June 4, 2016

5 June 2016 On the wall of my office that has the flipcharts covered with yellow post-its with topics for this blog, there is one post-it that says, ‘Dressing from the inside out.’ I had planned to write about posture and how we project who we are through how we stand. The ideal posture is head […]

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