Ever had the urge to indulge your inner Anna Wintour and act as the fashion police? Reader M has a question along these lines…
Can we do a story on the extent to which permanent hires (i.e. me) can give unsolicited fashion advice to interns? I have worked in private practice for a number of years and am now at a government agency. Many of our female interns are taking the casual dress code here to the next level – “jeans Friday” does not mean your favorite yard work jeans, a sleeveless plaid tank, and Old Navy flipflops (I’m wearing dark wash trouser jeans, a Calvin Klein polo with bloused sleeves, and Cole Haan suede/patent skimmers). Many of our interns, let’s face it, would rather be in private practice but are spending their summer with us due to the economy. It’s more painful because the male interns are appropriately dressed (although I know it’s easier to pick out golf attire than a female jeans Friday outfit). Can I / should I say anything in the way of career advice?
How do you tell someone their outfit isn’t working — or worse, that their entire style needs to be rethought? It’s a difficult question — and i think we’ve all been on both sides of the issue. This blog partly grew from my frustration over this — both a) realizing belatedly that I’d been wearing completely inappropriate things, and b) not feeling able to say anything when I saw other women making fashion gaffes and wearing the “are you kidding me?” kind of outfits I saw at various points in my career. With summer, the flood of interns from colleges, law schools, and grad schools makes the problem only more magnified. When should you tell someone that their outfit is totally inappropriate?
In this blog’s early days we tried to run a poll on it, and of the whopping 35 people who voted (hey, we were barely a month old!), 51% said they would only tell her if you were good friends, 37% said you’d tell her if it was something she wouldn’t realize, and 3% said you’d tell her only if she’d embarrass the company.
What are your thoughts on what to do when someone’s dressing totally inappropriately for the office, either in the moment or on a systematic basis? (And, for the sake of a focused discussion, let’s set aside those times when it’s something the person didn’t realize, perhaps, until too late — a shirt that gapes open, a skirt that needs a slip, an unfortunate skirt-tucked-into-underpants moment — because there, we think, a piece of friendly advice or two (double-sided tape! you can borrow the slip I keep in my office! psst, your skirt is tucked into your underpants!) is always going to be welcome. )