Friday, July 27, 2007

Business appropriate clothing

Growing up I never really learned anything about how to dress appropriately. I'm not sure why, I just didn't. As an adult I've always relied on the women in my life to teach me how to dress. For the most part I think they've done a pretty good job and I think I can mostly figure out what is or isn't appropriate dress for a situation on my own at this point in my life.

That wasn't always the case, and there were times when the woman in my life let me down. I got fired from a job once because I couldn't figure out how to dress appropriately.

In January 1972 I graduated from college and started graduate school. At the end of that first semester we were having a little bit of financial difficulties and I got a job offer (I didn't seek it out, they sought me out) with a local bank consulting firm. It was a pretty small operation, with 3 principles and an office manager. I was their first junior consultant level hire.

I didn't own a suit, I didn't even wear a suit to the interview. I knew I'd have to wear a suit to work though. Or maybe I didn't know, I don't really remember, maybe my wife told me I'd have to wear a suit. In any event, my wife and I went to a local department store in Baton Rouge and bought two suits. This was 1972. We bought what she thought was fashionable. What I discovered was that the style of suit that a 23 year old redneck woman in 1972 thought was a fashionable suit was not appropriate attire for a banking consultant.

I was fired the first week, part of the reason they told me I wasn't going to work out was that I didn't seem to know how to dress appropriately.

A few years later when I'd spent a few more years in graduate school (and that wife was gone) I interviewe with a money center bank in Chicago. I did get advice about what to wear from a woman, the headhunter who'd arranged the interview. On her advice I bought a grey pinstriped wool blend suit. It seemed to work out better than the psychedlic two-toned blue polyester of 1972.

I thought of this when I wrote of the new law firm hire who had to ask whether it was okay if she didn't wear a bra to the office.

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