Thursday, June 17, 2010

Heard: A PSA to the Ladies

I am a midlevel attorney sending this public service announcement in for the female interns, in the hopes that they'll take it as kind advice, not judgment (although failure to follow it will almost certainly result in their being judged by people in a position to hire them).

I went to a policy conference last week. As at most conferences, there were a few interns and students present. All of the male interns/students managed to dress like adults – slacks, button-front, maybe a tie and jacket. Similarly, all of the male professionals were in suits and the women professionals were in suits or cardigans/skirts, with the exception of a few Africans, men and women, who chose to wear their national dress. What were nearly all of the women interns/students wearing? Sundresses, gladiator sandals, chunky wedge sandals, tank tops, all kinds of beach and club wear with nary a jacket or cardigan in sight. Visible bra straps abounded. One young woman wore a leopard-print tank top, multiple earrings and four-inch heels (her male cohort wore a gray suit). A graduate student seated in the row in front of me was dressed reasonably, but she took her shoes off (!!!) and left them off for about an hour (and then proceeded to ask me about job opportunities at my organization).

Ladies, PSA: Do not dress like this at professional events, even if it’s somehow OK in your office or at your university. A sundress is not professional attire, even on Friday. Jersey is not an appropriate fabric for a business dress, even in June. And for the love of God, wear a slip if you must wear jersey or other unlined skirts, because they cling in places no one wants to see. No one should ever, ever see your bra straps, your cleavage or your thighs at a professional event. You need to brush your hair in the morning and your hairstyle should be something more elegant than how you wear it at the gym. Any shoe that can be construed as trendy is not a professional shoe, and if you must wear sandals, make sure they are conservative. And no one wants to see your blisters, calluses or your bare feet, ever, period.

Yes, it's hot out, and yes, it's unfair that it's easy for men to figure out what to wear and hard for us women, and yes, I know that women's dress shoes are uncomfortable. I understand you want people to judge you for your ideas and not your clothes. But your clothes indicate a lack of decorum and professionalism, and until you've paid your dues, once someone sees your clothes they're not going to care about your ideas. Your sundress tells me as much about your judgment as it does about the color of your bra. Since you're presumably attending these events to make connections and maybe even get a job, do yourself a favor and dress like an adult.