And the man, but let’s face it, men’s clothing is so much easier. Let’s demonstrate by listing proper male attire for the following events:
Funeral: Dark suit
Wedding: Dark suit
Job Interview: Dark suit
Meeting future inlaws: Dark suit
Dinner with the President: Dark suit
Testifying before Congress: Dark suit
Opera: Dark Suit
Sports: golf shirt and jeans or shorts
All other occassions: Khaki pants and a colored or patterned button down shirt
Women, of course are not quite so easy. But clothes do make a statement about who you are. The Ask Annie column at Fortune.com addresses women’s clothing (or the lack thereof). She writes:
In Glick’s experiment, both male and female businesspeople were shown a series of videos of a woman discussing her background and hobbies. The scripts and the actress were the same in all the videos, but the woman’s dress and job description changed. When the actress was dressed in revealing clothing and claimed to be a receptionist, her attire “had no effect” on how she was perceived. By contrast, when the scantily clad actress described herself as a manager, the people watching the tape saw her as less competent than “her typically professionally dressed counterpart (wearing flat shoes, slacks, and a turtleneck),” and even estimated that she had earned a lower GPA at a less selective college.
I learned the importance of proper attire early on. (Not that I ever dressed in a “scantily clad manner.” Let’s face it, I’m fine from the neck up and the knees down, but no one really wants to see anything in between.)
My senior year in college, I did an internship for the Utah State Legislature. At our first meeting where we were introduced to the Senators, Representatives and the secretaries it became obvious who everyone was without a single person opening his or her mouth. All the male elected officials wore (what else?) dark suits. The females were split into two groups. The first group was wearing flowered print dresses. The second group was wearing straight skirts with jackets–business attire.
I probably don’t need to say anything else and you know who the elected women were and who their secretaries were. Now, there is nothing wrong with being a secretary (and I think after this past election who-ha you could make a strong argument that secretaries are extremely preferable to elected officials, but I promised no more politics). But, it was easy to spot: flowered dress–secretary; suit–senator or representative.
So, when you pick your outfit out of the closet this morning, think about what image you want to portray. It will guide your career path.