by Nancy Schneider Co Founder
“Remember ladies: the more skin you show, the more power you give away.”
The wardrobe consultant stands in the conference room with a collapsible metal clothing rack behind her. She is conducting a meeting of the Dress for Success Boston Professional Women’s Group and she has the audience in the palm of her hand.
Most folks know that we give out suits to women who are headed for an interview, accessorize her outfit, and give her all the pieces she needs to make a great first impression. What you may not know is that when the client gets the job, she is invited back to the boutique to get additional clothing–a week’s worth– depending on what we have in stock. It will be at least that long before her paychecks start to arrive, and with the extra pieces we give her, she can look professional and polished by learning a few mix and match tricks.
The professional wardrobe consultant who is conducting this meeting of newly employed clients is a savvy professional. She is looking at a group of very young women who are dressed in jeans, crop tops and mini- skirts that are very revealing. “What you are wearing tonight is great on your own time, but dressing for an office is a very different matter. You don’t want to send the wrong message.”
But I don’t want to look like an old lady!” says a young woman wearing a skin tight yellow mini skirt with a cleavage-bearing top.
“But you also want to be remembered for your capabilities, not your outfit,” returns the consultant.
This conversation often happens in our boutique when we are dressing clients. Some of the women we see have never been in offices before, nor have they had role models to guide them about presentation and behavior. Piercings, tattoos, and brightly colored hair are tools to help a person stand out from the crowd, but often they categorize a worker and eliminate her from serious consideration for advancement.
“But that isn’t fair!” claims the client in the mini skirt. “My worth shouldn’t be judged on what I’m wearing.”
“You are correct, says the consultant, “it shouldn’t, but it often is. People judge us initially by how we look. It may not be fair, but it is real. If you are not aware of this dynamic, you will be at a distinct disadvantage.”
The consultant tries to make the group focus on how to work in the system and how to be successful in a business. “You can add your personal flare to your outfits. You are an individual and no one wants to change that, but why sabotage your chances to be valued and promoted by something as silly as the length of your skirt?”
The room is silent. These young women are digesting this new information which is being presented in a non-judgemental way. And this is what we do at Dress for Success Boston. We give practical advice to folks and help them navigate a new environment. We want our clients to succeed and we do not want them to give their power away!
Sometimes it takes a bit more than a suit…….