Preparing Graduates for Future Faux Pas

The photo above is from the website of Washington State University’s Dept. of Apparel, Merchandising and Textiles.  It appears, that in an effort to help their graduates find good jobs, the school created a site to teach their students how to dress for job interviews.  A worthwhile service no doubt, unless of course, you are arguing that your students should dress like dowdy, color-blind East German housewives who enjoy synthetic fabrics. 

First off, please do not wear any of the outfits in the photo above.  Ever.  This is not a guide for how to dress, so much as it is a manual for how not to dress. 

Second, in addition to the full outfits, there are many pieces in this photo that should be burned immediately.  These include:

  • Three-button leather (or in this case faux-leather) jackets,
  • Square-toed shoes with block heels,
  • Plaid separates meant to be worn together,
  • Boxy, untailored jackets,
  • ¾ length blazers (This photo is proof that they don’t look good on anyone.  It just looks like you forgot to take off your coat.)
  • Sheer pantyhose
  • Maxi-dresses that hit above the ankle bone.
  • Clogs

Third, What the Hell?  I mean, What The HELL?!?!? I pray that this was done in the early nineties, but it looks more much more recent than that.  So I will shed a tear for the poor women who live in Pullman because with the exception of the statement necklace on the woman in the middle, there is not one item of clothing on this page that I would wear.

Fourth, tailoring.  Between the gaping shirt seams, the awkward sleeve-lengths, the poorly shaped jackets and the pants hemmed way too short, these outfits are a professional tailor’s worst nightmare.  Hell, they’re my worst nightmare. 

Five, people often ask me why I started this blog.   The answer is that professional women in America need to start being honest with ourselves and with each other about how we look.  Too often, we fall into a style rut and no one comes to save us because they don’t want to hurt our feelings. 

As Roll Call put it, my advice can be a little bit “honest” because that is what women need.  I consider this blog a sartorial Come to Jesus.  I want to help people gain the confidence that comes with knowing you look good.  Not because appearance is the most important thing, but because looking good allows you to physically evoke the professionalism and charisma that you have inside of you. 

Think about it, when you walk through the door for a job interview, any potential employer will judge your appearance first.  Then you will talk about your qualifications, your potential and your ideas.  If you are dressed badly, you will have to overcome that unfavorable first impression.  And in this job market, who needs an extra mountain to climb?

The outfits above are terrible.  They are only “professional” because most women believe that being work-appropriate means checking color, style and femininity at the door.  And I don’t believe that our forebears smashed that glass ceiling so women would have to mask their sexuality and sense of style in order to be taken seriously at work.  We do not need to trade our femininity for respect in the workplace, we can look good and be a good employee.  So let’s stop selling ourselves short, this is not a zero sum game.


    leave a comment

  1. Sarah says:

    Sad thing is. . . those outfits are DECENT compared to what I see here in Eugene, OR. tears

    May 28, 2010/Reply
  2. GreenyPeeny says:

    The site has comments on each outfit; my favorite is about the woman in the middle: “Conjures up an image of human billboard or a vertical sofa.”

    I wish we knew when this was created – it just CAN’T be recent. I peeked at the html code & there’s no date in there ­čÖü

    May 28, 2010/Reply
  3. Shawna says:

    Amen sister!

    May 28, 2010/Reply
  4. Suburban Sweetheart says:

    If I’m being honest, I almost always love your fashion sense, Belle, but often dislike what I read as an unnecessarily snooty attitude. But this time… well, this time I’m totally on board. You’re 100% right, and those outfits are all truly, truly terrible. No excuses for ANY of them, especially not as a professional service. That bullshit scale is a total disservice!

    May 29, 2010/Reply
  5. Rory says:

    Were these pictures taken in 1994? I swear that’s the last time I saw anyone wearing that sailor-inspired dress third from the right.

    I have a minor in fashion merchandising, and you wouldn’t be taken seriously wearing anything close to those outfits to an interview. If Washington St. is trying to prepare its students for a fairly cut-throat industry, what are they smoking?

    May 31, 2010/Reply
  6. stephanie says:

    Ewww those are terrible!! I didn’t follow any of those rules and I found a job.

    May 31, 2010/Reply
  7. Tracy R says:

    I see that “Sheer Pantyhose” is on your list.

    Funny that you refer to the “Slobbification of America” in other posts, and don't consider going bare-legged to be just that.

    Bare legs in the professional world? You are out of your mind. Perhaps you mean to refer to very-adly matched stockings that do not compliment your natural legs. Bare legs are absolutely UNPROFESSIONAL. Categoricaly stating that they are wrong will invariably lead to women going bare, when they really shouldn't be doing so. Your legs are not as good looking as you think. Trust me, you will look more professional ALWAYS if you wear a properly matched pair of stockings.

    Besides, who are you trying to impress here? This is still a man's world on Capitol Hill, and they are going to notice you more, and think you are more professional (e.g. not a fashion-LAZY) woman who cares enough to dress conservatively, and like it or not this means NO Bare Legs.

    Want to really be noticed? Wear them even in the summer. Always. You will always be noticed more, and noticed as someone who goes out of her way to remain conservative.

    Bare legs and flip-flops are for the beach, and while at home on the back deck.

    May 13, 2012/Reply
  8. Belle says:

    Tracy R: I work in one of the most conservative work environments on planet Earth. No one under 40, unless they have issues with the skin on their legs wears nylons. No one. Wearin bare lotioned legs with high heels is not slob by.

    So that may be your opinion but it is not shared by the majority of women I work with some of whom are Congresswomen.

    May 13, 2012/Reply