Thursday, May 29, 2008

Just Wear a Potato Sack -- With a Really Cute Belt

For many people, it's always been tough deciding what to wear to work. If today's news is any indication of the confusion assaulting the workplace, I think we may be headed for real trouble.

First, we have Rachael Ray being criticized because she wore a scarf that, according to some people, resembles the traditional Arab scarf known as a kaffiyeh. Ray sported the scarf in a new commercial for Dunkin' Donuts. Conservative pundits were outraged, while the stylist, I imagine, was a bit bewildered why a black and white scarf with a paisley design is causing such an uproar. One blog commenter, obviously tongue in cheek, said that Ray isn't a terrorist, but the stylist probably is.

That brings me to the next fashion fuss: "Sex And the City" attire as featured in the new movie is possibly prompting women to wear provocative clothes to work as a way of getting ahead. Some career women howl at the notion, and even men seem dumbfounded that a woman's cleavage should be considered a way to gain career, er, leverage.

I've always had a pretty simple rule: If you can wear is clubbing, to mow the back 40 in or to sleep in, it's never appropriate for work. I may have to amend that to: or could have you be considered a terrorist or a stripper.

What do you think? Do you believe people are judged more by their looks these days and what they wear -- rather than for their abilities?


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Bob said...

Oh, come now, Anita! Surely you can't be that naive? Of course we still judge people by their looks! That's what we mean by "first impressions", and it's only natural.

You do it, I do it - everybody does it, whether they'll acknowledge it or not.

Where we get into trouble, though, is in deciding how to ACT on those impressions. The more critical the course of action, the more important it becomes to verify those assumptions you've just made!

Anita said...

Maybe I should be a bit more specific: Are people becoming harsher judges about the way other people look? I think so, and I'm not sure where it will end. And, if we are more focused on being really critical about how other people look, what does that lead to? A chance for better, more meaningful interactions? Closing off the chance to learn something new because we don't like the way a scarf looks? You're right...acting on those impressions is something we need to consider.
Thanks for posting.

Bob said...

(Anita, I just reread my comment above, and I apologize for coming across so... jerky!):-(

In answer to your second question, I think the answer is YES, and I believe it's partially being driven by television shows, particularly for young people.

Sadly, the rest of us are falling into the trap, too. I wonder, for instance, how many people will vote for President this fall based on appearance rather than substance? I bet it's more than we both think!

Anita said...

Don't worry about're too nice to be a jerk!:)
I think we all need to take a good look at ourselves. Not because of what we're wearing, but for how we've let ourselves we swayed by what is on the outside, not the inside.

Miriam Salpeter said...

I'm not sure if people are judged more harshly now than in the past, but I like your rules for how to dress (or NOT dress) at work. Isn't the adage: "Dress for the job you want?"

Miriam Salpeter
Keppie Careers

Anita said...

You know, the other day I gave a speech to a women's networking group, and some of them had never heard the adage about dressing for the job you want. I think sometimes it's the really basic things that trip us up!
Thanks for posting!

Kathryn said...

Hi, Anita, I saw that scarf on Keith Olbermann last night and I thought, "Uh-oh, very poor taste." How do I know? Because someone brought me one of those scarves back from the Middle East in the 60's and I still have it and would I wear it? No, because this is not the time and place to be wearing one. I don't think it's a "scarf with paisley". It's a well-recognized Middle Eastern scarf, I honestly think worn by MEN, and I think her stylist was just culturally naive. I speak as a professional since I am a book publicist and what my authors wear on tv is important to me. I have coached them on such matters. I was so proud of Marshall Goldsmith wearing a blue cashmere sweater on the Early Show. Classy. I don't think Rachel Ray is going for the classic look. She's pretty down-home, isn't she? Martha is classic. Rachel is girl next door. Next door to what might be a bigger question. Have you looked at her many covers at the checkout stand? I'm sure she's nice. But who is her audience?

Erika said...

Ha! This was a funny post, Anita. I think your rule is a good one but I'm certain there's no one rule that will work for every industry.

For example, at one of my jobs I work at a place that has a warehouse and it is simply a waste to wear anything nice because it will inevitably be ruined. At other jobs, it's necessary to dress up every day (I once asked an interviewer what the dress code was for her company and she replied, "Ann Taylor.")

So, in short, I think people do judge each other based on their outfits but it's important to make sure your outfit matches your industry.

Anita said...

I'll admit, when I first thought of doing this post I thought of approaching it from the "see what happens when you don't pay attention to world affairs." But since I couldn't speak for the publicist, I didn't want to do that. But, it does bring up the larger point of managing your brand carefully. Perhaps Ms. Ray has grown so fast in popularity, that's it's sort of getting out of control. Maybe this will be a chance to take a second look at how she's being managed.

Anita said...

I know what you mean. When I was a young reporter, one day I would be slogging around farm fields, and the next day I would be sitting in federal court. I always had to dress appropriately for each situation. I often advise people to imitate the dress of people who are doing well at a company, or to visit a personal shopper at a department store. The key is not having your clothes be more noticeable than your accomplishments. Thanks for posting.

Kathryn/ said...

Hi, Anita, I think you're right about Brand Management. And I would think that that would fall into her agent's domain. Dunkin' Donuts? National press is worried about what Rachel Ray wore in a Dunkin' Donuts ad?? Dunkin' Donuts must be thrilled. I thought some more about Rachel Ray and her image. When I think of Rachel Ray I think tight bodices, a little cleavage, big belts, full skirts, some plaid, red, and FAST comfort food. That's how she's been branded. It was deliberate. So, again, who is her market? See what I mean? And apparently it works.

Anita said...

You know, this is what I love about blogging. The fact that people make me think even more about something, and I learn from them. Thanks for the insight...I think you've made some terrific points (as usual).

Trisha said...

Yes, and I think it is a problem. As a society we are too superficial. We are taught as kids 'not to judge a book by its cover' and that its what's in the inside that counts - yet we tend to judge people by the superficial.

I think its even a bigger problem for women. On one hand we tend to be more judged by our appearance. And also I think many women put too much emphasis on these types of superficial things in general - with their own looks.

I've had an idea for a while now about a series of posts about this topic. I'm afraid I might offend some women though!

Anita said...

If you've been thinking about it, I encourage you to go ahead and post. There's always room for discussion about this topic, and I think that we women should be the ones to open the door. Think of what more conversation could do to help younger generations of women.