Style

The Hill Life: How to Tell a Staffer Her Skirt is Too Short

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the CPAC convention to watch one of my bosses speak.  I had never been before, so I didn’t really know what to expect, but nothing could have prepared me for the chaos of placing thousands of conservatives in a hotel-convention center with limited chairs.  Especially when most of the attendees are under the age of 25 and surgically attached to their wireless devices.

I’d been warned by several CPAC veterans that the young women attending the event would be dressed improperly for a professional environment.  And as they predicted, I saw my fair share of miniskirts, inappropriately high heels and halter tops.  But I also saw an equal, if not greater, number of young women in suits, pencil skirts and work dresses.

Several days after CPAC, family members, readers and colleagues started e-mailing me copies of Melissa Clouthier’s blog post: CPAC, The Jersey-shorification of Our Young People.  In it, Clouthier talks about some of the clothing choices that she saw at CPAC using words like slut and whore.  She blames parents, academia, the media and women’s lib for the prevalence of miniskirts and stilettos at CPAC.  And she speaks at length about the lascivious thoughts that men think when they see a woman dressed provocatively.

Frankly, I found her entire post to be little more than a graphic and tasteless exercise in slut shaming. If she had positive intentions (which I don’t doubt), they were lost in a pile of negativity and judgment.

Giving fashion advice to young women is a tricky mixture of encouragement, mentoring and aversion therapy.  You need to be serious enough to let them know that what they’re wearing is inappropriate, but constructive and positive enough so they don’t feel like they’re being denigrated.  It’s not always easy to strike that balance, and I’m not always successful, but that’s at least what I’m trying to do with CHS.  

Yes, the clothing you wear conveys a message.  And rightly or wrongly, people will judge you based on your appearance.  So it’s important to be mindful of the non-verbal your clothing choices are emitting and whether that message hinders or advances your professional agenda.  But getting down in the muck of calling young women tramps because they were tube dresses is beneath my dignity, not to mention that if my Mother saw a post like Clouthier’s on this site she’d take me to the woodshed for being so crude.

I can be outspoken.  I can be snarky.  I can even be a real bitch sometimes.  You may not agree with all of my advice or all of my opinions, but I hope you know that when I write something that sounds a bit harsh, it’s not because I’m judging your moral fiber or personal character.  I don’t know you, I just know the clothes you’re wearing and the message those clothes can convey in a professional setting.  So how do you tell a younger employee/staffer that what she’s wearing is inappropriate?

Have a Dress Code. You can’t expect new employees or interns to know what clothing is considered professional in your office unless you tell them.  You might assume that some edicts are universally known, but if you rely on assumptions, your office will be the one with interns who show up in minidresses and flip-flops.  So write down what you expect–no flip-flops, no spaghetti straps, skirts must be three fingers above the knee or longer–and most people will deliver for you.

Also, if you can, send the dress code before people arrive in D.C.  I’d hate for a young person to spend a few hundred dollars on “work” clothes only to show up day one and find out her new wardrobe is not appropriate for her office.

Enforce the Dress Code for Everyone.  If your SA or intern sees the LD wearing a forbidden item, she’ll think that she can wear it too.  So if flip flops are banned and a senior staffer shows up wearing them as soon as the weather warms, then, either the senior staffer needs to be brought into compliance or the dress code needs to be changed.

Never Gossip About a Staffer’s Attire.  This is a mistake that I made a few years ago.  If you talk about someone’s clothing choices behind her back, and she senses that you’re gossiping about her or what you said gets back to her, you’ve got a new problem to deal with.  So before you talk to anyone else (unless you’re simply confirming with a higher-up that the attire requires intervention), talk to the fashion offender first.

Get Out of the Office.  If you need to talk to a younger staffer about her clothing, take her for a cup of coffee.  This serves two purposes.  One, no one needs to see or hear this discussion but her.  Two, when you chastise someone within the confines of the office, it can heighten emotions and make the situation feel more serious than it is.  Getting out of the office allows for a bit of levity and gives the discussion a less official tone.  

Make It a Conversation, Not a Verbal Beatdown.  No one likes to get a bad review from their Boss, but you can blunt the sting if you keep it conversational.  Say to the person, “How are you liking your internship/position?  Is there anything you’re having trouble with or anything you want to ask me?”  Give her a chance to talk to you about her possible questions or grievances before you air yours.  

Then, compliment her, “I’ve been really impressed by your phone etiquette/writing skills/how much you’re learning.”  And then, break the bad news, “There is just one area that I think needs improvement.  As an employee, you’re the face of the office and some of the clothes you’re wearing to work aren’t showing the office or your abilities in the best light.”  Lastly, tell her what you expect in the future, and if there are any pieces that she should never wear to the office again let her know.  

Soften the Blow.  No matter what you say or how you say it, you’re going to hurt her feelings a bit.  It’s inevitable.  But it will hurt her feelings less if you soften the blow by reiterating all the good work she’s done so far, and how you see a great future for her on the Hill if that is what she chooses to do.  I also like to come back a few days later and compliment her on something she’s wearing.  A simple “I like your hair like that,” or “I love the purse, who made it?” will go along way toward healing the damage.  

What If She Doesn’t Get the Picture?  If you provide the intern with a dress code and you tell her that her attire is not appropriate, and she still does not change, you need to talk to her in a more official way.  Sit her down (in the office) and say, “We talked about your attire two weeks ago, and twice this week you’ve worn dresses that were too revealing.  Is there some reason why you’re not following the dress code?”  Who knows, maybe she can’t afford to buy anything else or she didn’t realize you were serious.

Then, let her know that next time there will be consequences, “You need to dress professionally for this job because what you wear reflects on the Boss and the office.  If you don’t start dressing within the guidelines, I’ll have to send you home to change clothes.”

These conversations are never pleasant, but they need to happen, and they need to happen early on in someone’s career.  Women can earn a bad reputation based on what they wear, but instead of judging them and speaking to them harshly like the blogger mentioned earlier, let’s help them with a bit of constructive advice.  Believe me, they’ll thank you later.

LEAVE A COMMENT

    42 comments

  1. Adrienne says:

    Melissa is a friend of mine, and she's a medial professional in Houston. She's an incredible mom who balances a family (one of her kids is special need) with work and blowing up the blogosphere. She's very respected and tells it like it is.

    I read Melissa's piece. I've written extensively about CPAC. This is an on-going issue that needs to be dealt with. Melissa isn't going to mince words, and why should she? If you also read Melissa's (or my work), you'll know that she's staunchly opposed to feminism, which is frankly to blame for why girls dress promiscuously.

    I'm sure I'll be attacked for this, but when you tell two generations of girls that sexuality is power, people shouldn't judge you on your appearances, and casual sex is perfectly fine, you get slutty co-eds.

    Fashion blogs rarely delve into why women dress they way that they do, but it's because of messages that society sends us. Politics does influence fashion and in this situation, it hurt it negatively.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  2. DallasSkirtEnvy says:

    If they hadn't excommunicated GOProud, perhaps they could have done a session or rule book on proper dress?

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  3. EK says:

    It was difficult to make it all the way through that CPAC article. How tragic that someone is that unable to differentiate between judging the decision someone made one morning while dressing and judging their character. Clothing makes an impression, but it doesn't change who you are – a short skirt doesn't suddenly make you promiscuous any more than wearing a lab coat suddenly makes you a doctor. Thanks for realizing that the biggest impediments to dressing better are ignorance and budget, not a collective decline in morality.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  4. Belle says:

    Adrienne: There's a difference between mincing words and using the word slut repeatedly. Plenty of fashion bloggers, myself included, manage to get our point across tactfully without resorting to denigrating young women with name calling.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  5. DallasSkirtEnvy says:

    Ok, so on a less snarky note, thanks for this blog post. I truly thing we need to find ways to build women up having these crucial conversations in a tactful and kind way.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  6. Katie says:

    Semi off-topic, but the fact that anyone is staunchly opposed to the equality of men and women is disgusting.

    Also, thank you Belle. I don't always agree with you, but I appreciate that you give out advice which helps women present themselves better at their jobs.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  7. Blair says:

    Belle, this post could not have been more timely. I need to explain to my intern that her wardrobe choices today aren't fitting in with the office, and I've been putting it off all day. Thanks for reading my mind!

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  8. C says:

    Belle– I've often read that 3″ heels are the absolute limit for professional dress, but I've seen higher in your work Polyvore sets. I personally think it's a worse offense to wear flats if your pants drag the ground or 2.5″ heels if you stumble all day, than it is to wear 4″ heels if you can get around gracefully. I have a long torso and short legs, and I'm average height, so I really like to wear heels to balance things out. One of my favorite pairs for work is the Stuart Weitzman Platswoon. What is your opinion on professional heel height, and what about the stilettos at CPAC looked unprofessional to you? Heel height, heel width, loud colors, strappiness? I'm really interested to know.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  9. CynthiaW says:

    Quite frankly, I felt like the blog post by Melissa said more about what kind of a person she is than it said about girls who dress inappropriately. Do those girls need mentoring and intervention? Yes, they do. But at least they aren't mean, judgmental people.

    And, no, I don't wear inappropriately short or cleavage bearing clothes to work – I just find it truly disturbing for a woman to denigrate the character of other women in that fashion. I also think that it's counter-productive – because the people you're trying to convert aren't going to listen to a message that's delivered in that manner. So, what's the point, really? To score points with people who already agree with you?

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  10. Benjamin Franklin says:

    “It is the eye of other people that ruin us.”

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  11. HollyM says:

    I'm as liberal and feminist as they come, but deplore Jersey Shore and think everyone needs to step it up in the dressing appropriately department. Saw jeans at a wedding this weekend, and not nice jeans, scrubby jeans on a guy. Gave me the vapors, it did.

    I don't know why for some people “liberal” and “feminist” equate to “slut.” I'm pretty hardcore against casual sex, too.

    Anyway, although we are probably at opposite ends of the political spectrum, I, too, want to commend Belle for her level-headed and totally useable advice about dressing appropriately for work. The example conversation with the employee who is not quite dressing up to code is brilliant and could be adapted nicely to all sorts of other situations.

    This blog is definitely one of my daily reads, even if I work in an office where the dress code is “clothing.”

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  12. EK says:

    I'll hold off on pondering the result of telling previous generations of women that they had no power (sexual or otherwise) and would be judged solely for their appearances, but as a conservative woman, I'm so disappointed that what could be a nuanced critique of certain parts of the feminist movement is so ineptly condensed into the first comment above. What a disservice to women of all ages and political affiliations.

    I don't want to make the same mistake and criticize someone I don't know for her character, rather than her work. However, I think Melissa would have been better served by a post that said, in essence, “how unfortunate that some young women were not appropriately dressed for a political conference that is supposed to be about intellectual exchange; they may not be aware that their clothing choices give the impression they don't care about being taken seriously.”

    What her piece seemed to say instead was “just looking at the fabric these young women put on their body told me everything I need to know about their intelligence, their intentions, their character, and their potential. They are morally repugnant sub-humans, and I’m so glad rappers have found so many creative words to denigrate women that I can now borrow to describe these girls.”

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  13. T says:

    Belle – just wanted to say thank you for a well-written article. It's true, on or off the Hill that women going into the workforce need someone to provide feedback/constructive criticism if they are lacking but the criticism does need to be given tactfully and the mistake does need a chance to be fixed. Sometimes, they just don't know any better.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  14. Catherine says:

    OH Adrienne. GOMI, GOMI, GOMI. That's all I can say. What a joke of a comment. The article referenced is also a joke and I'm kinda shocked to see it being mentioned at all.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  15. DCGal says:

    Belle, thanks for a level-headed analysis, as usual. In a perfect world everyone would be able to dress however they prefer without judgment, but that's certainly not the professional DC world we live in.

    Adrienne, I'm a proud feminist who owns her sexuality (outside the office, of course) and yet manages to dress appropriately for work. Imagine that! To say feminism (as if it's one monolithic evil force) is responsible for conservative young women's “slutty” dress is pretty ridiculous.

    Remember, ladies, feminism is why you all are able to have to great jobs and lives you do!

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  16. CWW says:

    FINALLY! I read Melissa's article recently…and I found her language and all-out attack on these women pretty disturbing (vs. this post, which spells out a “tough love” (emphasis on love) way to guide young women entering the profession world). I'm not particularly sure what her aim was with her approach, because from my twitter feed, it seems all she did was give many men, young and old, the license to make implications about these women's character and label them as she did. I consider myself a politically conservative feminist, which is why I love this blog…I have found over the past couple of years that it inspires an atmosphere of mutual support and guidance in the professional world, which we should all be thankful for in a sea of female written and driven blogs that seek to tear us apart as a gender.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  17. Jolie says:

    Thank you Belle for making this discussion about professionalism, not about political ideologies or pro-feminist/anti-feminist views on women's behavior. What women choose to do outside of work or a conference (in terms of clothing, sexuality, dating, etc.) is irrelevant. There's a huge difference between educating our younger mentees and colleagues about how to dress in an appropriate manner for their careers and denigrating them for displaying any remotely “provocative” attire as the CPAC post does.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  18. Meredith says:

    Belle – thank you for such an informative post. When starting my new job, my male boss was flabbergasted on how to explain the dress code to me. I think a lot of times young women are bombarded with images of “professional” women wearing clothes which would never fly in the real world – prime example the shorts suit. This post gives other women, specifically bosses, an idea of how to communicate what is appropriate in the work place, and what is not.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  19. EBT says:

    Thanks Belle for the incredibly rational response to Melissa's abhorrent article, and thanks DCGal for telling it like it is – I too am a liberal feminist who still manages to dress modestly in a professional environment.

    I really wonder where Adrienne learned about feminism; her version of it seems so dated. To me, the sexuality bit is such a tiny part of it all. Feminism is about promoting equality between the sexes, about saying that a woman is as smart and capable and worthy of opportunity as a man of the same background and qualifications. Modern feminism does not say “it's your body, sleep with everyone you can get your hands on” nor does it say “the only way you'll be taken seriously by men is if you dress and act like a man.” Modern feminism is about women being equal to men, not about women being just the same as men. So let's not blame poor dressing on feminism, Adrienne. Especially when you clearly have no idea what you're talking about.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  20. I finally get it says:

    So, I've been following your blog for a while. I too work in an a very conservative DC office and I find the posts on particular pieces of clothes and styling such as the “10th Commandment” and “Two Ways” helpful for finding new things to shop for and ways to wear them. So, Thanks for that!

    However, I also find myself complaining about this blog with my friends all time time. Honestly, sometimes i just read things you write and I'm just flabbergasted with how much I disagree with you. However, I think I figured out the main reason why that is after reading this post. It seems that your more editorial posts such as this one and many of the “Hill Life” posts, end up being really judge-y.

    Maybe, you wouldn't need the disclaimer, ” it's not because I'm judging your moral fiber or personal character” if more of your posts were about ladies who are dressing or acting in way that you thought were positive. I think that once you start extending your ideas of professionalism or appropriateness on others is just starts to seem at best subjective and at most rude. Since when is any one person the definer of what appropriate Capitol Hill style is… and even if it was written in a book somewhere – things change! Just take the White House example you used form a few posts back.

    I'm not saying that you shouldn't have an opinion on it, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that you catch more flies with honey, if you know what I mean.

    But If you're feeling like keeping the status quo, I suppose I can just adjust my reader settings. Its the internets after all.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  21. e-liz says:

    I don't think Melissa or Adrienne have a clue what 'feminism' means. She's “staunchly opposed to feminism, which is frankly to blame for why girls dress promiscuously”? I'm sorry. I had to cover my mouth when I read that so my coworkers wouldn't hear my guffaws. Scary and sad how misinformed these women are. But “all [we] want is to get married and have babies” right, Melissa? Yikes.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  22. Ms. B says:

    When women (regardless of age by year – be it 20 or 50) dress in a provocative way in the work environment and in some cases, at social events, they “give away their power”. They render themselves, their opinions and potential contributions insignificant in the eyes of their peers and bosses. While such a response isn't their intent (the intent is to be noticed and in the short term this is accomplished) in the long term the result is a dismissal of what they can contribute. It may not be fair, but it is reality. Women are harder on their own gender by a long shot, therefore…this is perhaps one area where “playing by the rules” is a benefit. Play well so you can break new ground where it matters.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  23. Belle says:

    I finally get it: I don't expect everyone to agree with me. Nor do I think that I'm the final arbiter on what Capitol Hill should be. A blog, by definition, reflects the authors opinions.

    Why should I change that or give up my perspective just so that more people will agree with me? I reject the notion that I need try to please everyone or even most people. I try to acknowledge when I am wrong, when a commenter changes my mind about something or when someone points out that I might be being unfair. Sometimes I am wrong, and sometimes I am unfair, but aren't we all on occasion?

    There are number of commenters who don't agree, or who have their own ideas based on their own unique circumstances. As my opinions are based on my unique circumstances. As long as you express those opinions without being a total jackass, these comments are open to all. Perspective can be valuable, this blog reflects mine, I'm happy to hear yours but you won't always change my mind and I won't always change yours. Nor do I expect to.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  24. Belle says:

    I finally get it: Though I will say that I like your idea about doing some more posts on dressing and acting in a way that should be emulated. I'll see if I can dig up some examples. That's a valuable suggestion.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  25. KC says:

    I finally get it –I believe Belle's intent is being “judge-y” is to protect as many people as possible from people like Melissa who are even more judge-y. Like it or not, those people are out there. You can either have a female mentor in your office sit you down and nicely explain the situation to you, or you can have someone else from another office call you a slut on her blog behind your back. Take your pick. Professionalism and appropriateness are in the eye of the beholder.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  26. Megan R. says:

    It's worth noting that Melissa's post was written as a follow-up to a piece on another conservative blog by a man calling out other men for their poor treatment of women, particularly as he'd just seen exhibited at CPAC.

    Chalk me up as one woman who is completely balls-out tired of being accused of “slut-shaming” whenever we suggest to other women that their behavior might be detrimental in the short AND long terms to both the images they wish to project and the lives they wish to lead – and if you have to be a little crude to get the attention of an increasingly callow generation, well, I'm not losing sleep over it.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  27. jen says:

    Belle: Have you ever considered doing a little “how to” for young professionals? Maybe you've got that elsewhere on the blog…a relink might be nice. I'm happy that I had parents who raised me to have my own style while staying appropriate, but not every gal is so lucky. And this definitely is not a skill taught for women in many colleges/law schools/MBA programs.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  28. Belle says:

    Megan R: I don't know that you have to be crude. Most of the young women I spoke with, who read her post, dismissed it off hand because she was so negative. I don't think telling someone her skirt is too short and not appropriate is slut-shaming, but telling her she's a slut because she wears a short skirt is.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  29. Ashley says:

    Belle,

    Thank you so much for this post. When I read CPAC in the opening line, I thought for sure I would disagree with you. That couldn't be further from the truth! I think your critique of Ms. Clouthier's post is spot-on and fair, and that your advice for talking about appropriate work attire is both firm and kind.

    Even though I suspect our politics are radically different, your commentaries such as “The Hill Life” and “Discuss” are some of the features I enjoy the most. Props too, for engaging with your commenters and considering their opinions, but not feeling forced to change yours.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  30. Kit says:

    Belle,

    Thank you so much for this post and for your focus on guiding professional women's sartorial choices in general. I got a job straight out of college a few years ago and trying to figure out how to dress professionally on a shoe-string budget was hard enough. The fact that I wasn't really sure what constituted “professional” and that many of my coworkers seemed to have given up in that regard made it that much harder. This sort of advice is invaluable and I only wish someone had been there to lend me a helping hand when I was just getting started. Specific, focused suggestions are always better than name-calling and humiliation.

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  31. KP says:

    Jen: http://www.caphillstyle.com/capitol/2010/3/31/intern-style-15-easy-pieces.html

    http://www.caphillstyle.com/capitol/2011/10/19/ask-belle-conservative-office-attire.html

    Belle thank you for putting together outfits and items that are stylish with consideration for different budget levels and for providing advice about what types of outfits work best in different office environments.

    Please continue expressing your own opinions. Everyone should be allowed to (especially on their own blog!)

    February 22, 2012/Reply
  32. L says:

    Great article Belle! Professionalism in the office is not optional. This is a great opportunity to be a mentor to the younger women in the office as well.

    February 23, 2012/Reply
  33. Maharani says:

    I found Belle's article helpful. This issue needs addressing and we managers need to know how to do it well and provide mentoring where it is needed. Adrienne's remark leaves me gasping. I'm 57 and have been a feminist since I was 15 and have never done the things she says feminism leads to including dressing like a slut. Her understanding of feminism is obviously totally off base. In my opinion, this “slut” dressing trend seems to have been increasing in the last 10-15 years, I think directly encouraged by the fashion industry, not feminism. I have always had a high powered career and dressed in a professionally appropriate way. As for the clouthier piece, I wasnt impressed-it was badly written, inconsecutive, and these people strike me as living in a hermetically sealed universe of their own. I understand clouthier's exasperation, but otherwise had a hard time taking her seriously.

    February 23, 2012/Reply
  34. Shannon says:

    If there's one thing I've learned about the blogosphere, is that when a woman is “staunchly opposed” to feminism, she is generally also the career-minded, outspoken sort who has benefited most from the feminist movement. Adrienne's been posting laughable nonsense for years, and it's best to see her views as entertainment, vs. something to become riled up about.

    Dressing professionally is not optional, for men or women. Where it gets tricky is that there are so many more options for women, and the fashion industry is virtually useless in helping us sort things out. Magazines claim that a shorts suit is appropriate for work, because at a fashion magazine, it IS appropriate attire. Anywhere else it's just plain silly. And stores far too often sell “suits” made of cheap material with high hemlines.

    So the best course is for profesional women to guide one another – not via slut-shaming or blaming feminism (seriously, WTF?), but by providing guidance to younger generations in the respectful and kind way that Belle lays out in this article.

    One of the best things to happen in my career was at my first “real job.” My colleague, a woman who was about 5-6 years older than me, gave me tips about how to dress professionally on a budget (darker clothes look more expensive, simple dresses with a cardigan look better than cheap suits, etc). She also gave me a tip that has served me best of all: if it requires a special bra or thong panties, don't EVER wear it to work.

    February 23, 2012/Reply
  35. jen says:

    KP, thanks!! I will definitely be reccommending these links to younger women I know who are just starting out in the professional world:)

    February 23, 2012/Reply
  36. VA says:

    First of all, feminism = the belief that men and women should have equal rights. Period. It transcends fashion choices, sexual conduct, political ideology, even gender. If you're a feminism, you think that men and women should be treated equally under the law.

    Second, I don't think most young women dress inappropriately to shove it in the faces of their older colleagues, or to look hot. They're getting some bad information. Unless your college had a “professional skills” course, or your parents had a good grasp of business attire, or your first job did an A+ job of spelling out the dress code, young women don't have a lot of templates for what professional attire looks like. They're reading fashion magazines and street style blogs, watching TV/movies in which the “businesswoman” character is inevitably dressed in a Vogue-worthy designer outfit and Louboutins (or else she's frumpy, a la most women on “The Office”). When The Glamourai is saying that the one professional item you must have is a Helmut Lang blazer, while The Daybook girl is writing for Washingtonian and saying a tight leopard-print skirt and platform pumps is perfect for the office, it's not surprising that some young professionals aren't getting it right on the first try.

    And if your office is anything like mine, there are plenty of long-time employees who don't really understand the dress code, or interpret it fairly loosely, so even the people in your own office can send mixed signals about what's appropriate.

    While I sometimes disagree with Belle, I think she's filling a really important niche here for young women who frequently don't have the first clue about what professional attire looks like because they've never seen a good example of it. Most people want to do the right thing and present themselves in a professional way, they just need a little training.

    February 23, 2012/Reply
  37. Kate says:

    How you dress has nothing to do with your politics, your ideals, etc. It has to do with your education. Specifically, were you educated on how to dress for the occasion? I was educated passively by seeing my parents go to work each day in suits and I was educated actively by my Mom not allowing us to leave the house for nice dinners, concerts, church, school pictures, etc. without being properly dressed. Sure, she was definitely what we considered “old-fashioned” as we were growing up and her standards relaxed over time, but the idea that people will judge you based on what you wear and that will either open or close doors of opportunity still stands true. I could chop my hair off, dye it purple, get multiple piercings, tattoos, and wear a lot of ripped and torn stuff. That's my choice but I acknowledge that then I have to be realistic about my chances of working in a lobbying office versus a non-profit theater versus an alternative music shop. Which is why my tattoo can be hidden, my non-traditional piercing is not obvious, and when I'm in the office I wear business casual clothing. However trying to shame people is not educating them, it is not advancing the conversation. Thank you Belle for doing the opposite.

    February 23, 2012/Reply
  38. Katie says:

    @VA- Anyone asking The Daybook for professional wardobe advice is barking up the wrong tree. The woman is a stay at home mom (nothing wrong with that!). She doesn't work in an office, so she has no idea how to dress for that. She only recently moved to DC, so she has no idea what office culture in DC is like.

    February 24, 2012/Reply
  39. VA says:

    @Katie – Totally agree. I don't know why the editors of the Washingtonian posted her “professional” outfit (not to mention her “black tie” disaster of a poofy skirt and an old gray cardigan that I could see the pills on). I think she's got cute street style but nary a clue about what to wear on the first day of your new job. That's why Belle is doing something pretty cool with her focus on professional style for young women.

    February 24, 2012/Reply
  40. It's not that says:

    It's not that I don't know what professional attire is. It's that professional attire is expensive and sized quite large! At 4'10 and 85 pounds, even companies that made double zeros were too big. Try finding something suitable for the office in the children's section of a department store.

    My first internship, I found myself self-conscious — hoping that no one would notice that I tried to press khakis to make them look more like slacks, or putting on a brooch to cover up a Abercrombie, American Eagle, or worse, glittered butterfly logo on a button up. It really put a damper on myself esteem. When I wasn't faking junior/children's clothes to look more professional, I bought the smallest thirfted suits I could find and not only were they still 3 sizes too big, they were dated.

    While it's inappropriate to wear a too short and small suit, it's just very frumpy when you wear one 3 sizes too big, and people don't really give you a talk about being frumpy. Thank god I started getting a real pay check and can pay for alterations now.

    February 25, 2012/Reply
  41. Belle says:

    It's Not That: You should start reading the blog Extra Petite.com. She has no trouble finding cute work clothes for a 5ft tall woman.

    February 25, 2012/Reply
  42. The Slapdash Sewist says:

    Great post, Belle, thank you. And your wording suggestions are great for that difficult conversation.

    March 3, 2012/Reply