Monday, January 31, 2011

If the Suit Fits...

It was with great interest that I read the interview with Abby Joseph Cohen. I am always interested in women of achievement, and she sounded like an interesting person. But I was distracted from her achievements when I noticed (immediately!) that her suit didn't fit her, and that her pants were all wrinkled. If I were a partner at Goldman Sachs, I would take myself to a nice NY Designer and have some elegant understated suits made. Suits that didn't look like they were men's suits, but smaller.
I used to work in Washington, in several law firms and for lobbyists. The women in the law firms who were partners wore very conservative suits, but the women lobbyists wore dresses and jackets and suits that fit. They had a much better developed style sense. Maybe because they wanted to be noticed and listened to? Something to think about. When we wear clothes that don't fit us, it distacts those very people who we are trying to impress. It dilutes our influence, it distracts from our message. When we wear clothes that 'suit' us, that fit our bodies and project the image that we want, we feel more confident and in control
When you watch the State of the Union, it's easy to pick out some of the women members of Congress who wear bright colors and well fitting suits.
The lesson I took away was to stop dressing like a mouse if you want your voice heard. Wear a color! Stand out! And make sure your jacket fits.


Beangirl. said...

I know there is a certain type of woman who believes (often dogmatically) that making an attempt to look attractive is in some way fundamentally counter-poised to the goal of Being Taken Seriously As A Strong Woman. These woman are usually about 55 years old and attended places like George Washington or -ahem- Berkeley. They are Feminists. With a capital F.

A woman like Ms. Cohen almost certainly believes that she is much too busy Ruling The Financial World to bother with anything but the most basic corporatewear that is "comfortable" to wear. And I'm equally certain that such a woman is outrageously busy at almost any given moment of her day. But the fact is that looking attractive (and thus wearing clothes that fit and, perhaps even more importantly, are also flattering) doesn't take so very much time. It does take a focused determination to find these clothes and then to wear them. Presumably the Ruler Of The Financial World has determination to spare.

Perhaps she'll be encouraged to focus some of it on her wardrobe and wear something feminine. I mean, they're called "Feminists" for a reason, it's all about being female, right? So go ahead, look the part. Otherwise, she's just giving feminists a bad name.

tsk tsk tsk. Those Berkeley girls. What can you do with them?

Ha! I decided I should look up where Ms. Cohen attended school, on the off chance that it was, I dunno, Arizona State University or something. Nope. It was George Washington. See? I know what I'm talking about.

Beangirl. said...

BTW, I totally agree with your post. In case that wasn't clear in my little rant earlier. I'm in a MOOD today.

Marie-Christine said...

Gee, I just wanted to say that this was a very good post, that dressing too conservatively often just makes you look like you're apologizing for your very existence. And that as a woman you're going to stand out some, so you may as well make the best of it.

But this rant by beangirl seems just a bit exaggerated. I'm over 55, and went to Berkeley, and I'm pretty sure my clothes fit and reflect my personality and I don't look like a man, even though you're damn right I'm a feminist. To me that means things like comfortable shoes I can walk in, and pockets I can really keep stuff in. But then I'd bet beangirl defines feminity as crushing your feet in high heels, and freezing your ass off in miniskirts in a blizzard. More power to her if she thinks it makes her look competent to rule anything.

That said, if you're ruling the financial world you can pretty much wear anything you damn well please, clearly. That should be one of the perks anyway, and perhaps showing you know it is helpful to establishing your rule. I suppose if the men in your profession dress like they've been pickled in the last century, it behooves you to pay attention and conform to some degree. One more reason not to go to law school, as far as I'm concerned.

Beangirl. said...

I am totally adding that to my list of reasons not to go to law school (of which there are so many that I'm starting to lose track). Excellent!