19 September 2015
Is This Book for You?
1. You work for a conservatively dressed organization and you want to move up.
2. You sell to such organizations and you want their leaders to take you seriously, to view you as confident, competent, and worthy of their business.
3. You coach others who work for such businesses.
4. You are a woman and you’d like to know if there are principles that would make it easier for you to figure out what to wear to work.
1. You don’t work for a conservatively dressed organization and have no need or interest in understanding how to dress for one.
2. You sell to such organizations but you are expected to be creative and to demonstrate creativity through your dress. You may be in marketing, design, innovation, or similar field.
3. You do work for a conservative organization but you have no interest in moving up and no need to dress to gain the high regard of executives.
4. You are a man and you are already very clear about what to wear to work and you do not coach women for whom this information would be helpful.
But what if you’re not sure if your organization is on the conservative side of the unconventional to conservative spectrum?
Is My Organization Conservative in Dress?
This can be tricky if you just take a general glance around the office, so we won’t do that. Instead, we’ll take a sharp look at the people who sit on top floor or wherever it is that your highest executives sit, the C-suite.
First, gather in your mind your CEO, COO, CAO, CLO and any other C-suite members you can think of. Next, remove all the women, not because they don’t belong (we do!) but because women’s dress can be more complicated. For this purpose, it’s clearest to consider only the men.
Now that you’ve got all those men gathered together in your mind, look at what they are wearing. Look for the telltale markers of conservatism:
- Dark suits, typically charcoal gray, or navy blue. Because they are executives, the cloth will be wool or cashmere, exceptionally well made and perfectly tailored.
- Light shirts, generally white or pale blue. The cloth will be 100% cotton, perfectly pressed. There may be a monogram on the cuff or shirt pocket.
- Silk ties, generally red or blue, either solid or with a small stripe or pattern.
- Black oxford shoes for the charcoal suit and brown wingtips for the navy suit, highly polished.
If a woman in this environment shows up to meet with executives in her best twin set, she has just put herself at a significant disadvantage. Doesn’t she deserve every advantage?
Of course she does and it would be nice if you could help her. And we’re going to start with you permitting me a brief rant about why not knowing what to wear in these conditions isn’t her fault.