The Importance of Dressing Appropriately
(and you don’t have to be less feminine to do it)

First impressions can be effective OR disastrous, BUT either way they are long lasting.

If a woman is dressed inappropriately, regardless if she is an excellent candidate, you can nearly hear a death knell.

Even when a woman dresses for success it does not necessarily guarantee a key to the executive’s washroom.

Sadly, though not surprisingly, there are different standards for men and women in the business world.

Now, if a man dresses poorly, but is good at what he does, he’s referred to as a “diamond in the rough”.

Not only will he be able to get in the door, but he will advance as well.

Dress is far more important for:
1. Short men,
2. Minorities,
3. Heavy,
4. Voluptuous,
5. Beautiful, and
6. Older women than it is for the average man.

Dressing well is the symbol of women managers, therefore women who dress in an unbecoming way rarely get to the management level at all.

Dressing for Failure

The main reason that women “dress for unsuccess” is that their superiors don’t tell them their wardrobe is inappropriate.

Women managers don’t mention anything because they feel it’s not their place, and male managers don’t say anything for fear of being charged with sexual harassment or crossing the line of what is politically correct.

Why change if you’re not aware of a problem?

Hence, their careers are truncated.

Apparently, men have very different experiences.

In one case, a male manager called a young man on his staff to his office.
“I’ve got good news and bad news,” the manager said.
“The good news is you are getting a raise. The bad news is I want you to use that extra money to buy a decent suit and tie, and then add to your wardrobe accordingly.”

He then proceeded to tell the young man where to shop, whom to ask for at each establishment and what colors were deemed appropriate.

Again, if no one tells you otherwise, how would you know you should change?

Were there an “Old Girl’s Network” these topics would be addressed. But we ain’t there yet.

The Job Dictates the Dress

According to various studies, women who dress in muted feminine colors have higher sales than their counterparts who dressed in conservative, traditional, menswear colors.

This did not include just suits, but dresses and jacket outfits as well.

It becomes what makes the difference in massive direct mail marketing.

Even if the product is the same, an ad on optic yellow is going to stand apart from plain white paper every time.

John T. Molloy, author of New Women’s Dress for Success, the update from his original bestseller, Dress for Success is most commonly asked by companies, How their salespeople should dress.

Molloy’s answer?
“The job dictates the dress.”

The general rule of thumb is to dress in a way that reflects the product or service for sale.

For example, in industries such as repair and delivery, the person needs to be clad in an easily identifiable uniform.

Accountants’ and bankers’ clothing should be in tune with the company they represent.

Conservative dress with accentuating colors that mimic the company’s logo or letterhead.

Molloy researched how clients and witnesses should dress for a group of lawyers.

For whatever reason, a person accused of a crime dressed in blue suit with white and maroon detailing more often curried an air and look of innocence to jurors.*

OVER-Dressing Can Kill Too.

A woman is moved to a more prestigious job and wants to be dressed to a “T” for her new position.

After shopping at some very high-end clothiers, she walked into her new office looking like a million bucks.
Heads turned as she strolled in wearing her new magenta Christian Lacroix suit, but for all the wrong reasons.

Everyone at her new office dressed down, and felt that this interloper was rubbing their noses in her position.

In one fell swoop, she’d alienated her new office.

Next time you interview, look around to see how everyone is dressed.

Ask the person who hires you, if there is a dress code, or what women in upper management wear even if you’re not there yet.

Who knew there was such a science to getting dressed in the morning?
Here is a test you can try.

Keep a record for two months in the same season.

Wear the outfit you are testing, and then wear the suggested outfit.

Try to work with similar styles and colors, and record the success or failure you have in connecting with clients.

As I stated earlier, first impressions can be either positive or negative, but they are ultimately lasting.

General Suggestions

1. Choose neutral colors for suits or appropriate dresses such as

navy, grey, camel, black, or brown.

2. Accent the neutrality with a colorful blouse, scarf, twin set,
or blazer.

3. Keep jewelry tasteful and to a minimum. “Too much bling
is NOT a good thing.”

4. Shoes should be polished at the heels as well as the toe.
Heels get especially scuffed when driving.

5. Purses should be leather, match your shoes, and be polished.

6. Carry an extra pair of hose.

Classy vs. Sexy

While looking and feeling good is always suggested, a particular mistake can ruin your credibility.

Leaving sex appeal at home should be a priority.

Skirts with revealing slits, shoes with very high heels and/or ankle straps do not belong in the business world.

Does this mean you should downplay your looks?

Not necessarily, however they should not be put on display.

You should dress in a manner that exudes confidence.

Let’s say you are knock down, drop dead, gorgeous.

How much confidence are you going to convey dressed in a burlap sack?

Not only will you feel uncomfortable, but your own lack of self-belief will resonate through to your client.

When I worked at home and phoned to arrange appointments, I wore heels.

Wearing heels gave me a feeling of power, and that self- assurance came right through the phone.

In sales especially, you Must use everything at your disposal.

My mother always told me, “Your looks may get you in the door, but your brain has to take you from there”.

Have I used my looks to get attention?

You bet.

Do I rely on them? NEVER.

By no means have I Ever gone to a meeting thinking “pretty” will get the job done.

Knowledge, Listening, Communication and Research get the job done.

Pretty may only help you Get to the part Where you can show your hard work and intelligence.

When Your Sex Works Against You

There is not a woman in the world that has not been talked down to for the mere reason that she has breasts.

This is why women have to work Twice as hard,

Dress more carefully And be more “professional” than any man with the exact same job.

The day that you Don’t change out of your sneakers into heels Is the day you will be asked to take out clients.

Always be prepared with the correct attire.

Over your working lifetime You Will lose between $700,000 and $2,000,000 simply because you are female.*

Plainly put, We earn 77 cents Per every Full Time Male Dollar according to a 2005 study.

In fact, Women have earned 23 cents LESS on the male dollar since 1994!!

A dozen years have passed And the gap is not narrowing.

Blue collar or white collar, it doesn’t make any difference.

Women Are underpaid And underrated.

Beauty and the Obesity- or
The Attitude About Fattitude

It has long been my belief that, Consciously or UNconsciously, we think the universe evens things out.

If you’re pretty------ you’re dumb
ugly = smart
fat = lazy
skinny = neurotic
tall = basketball

the list goes on.

Therefore, attractive women are Forced to prove repeatedly that They are, In fact, Intelligent.

Still, Even today, When a slender and attractive woman gets promoted,

You’d be hard pressed not to hear Someone say, “Oh well, she slept her way to the top”.

Make No Mistake,

The casting couch rumor May have new slipcovers, But it remains a prevalent belief.

Am I going to tell you that it’s just as difficult to be thin than obese?


Women who are overweight are perceived as a Type rather than an Individual.

What are some of the adjectives we think of when seeing a fat woman?

Fill in the sentence.

She is:
1. lazy
2. sloppy
3. lacking in willpower
4. self-indulgent

We might even go so far as to Diagnose that this woman is Hiding behind her flesh; Clearly she was abused.

Fat stereotypes Tend to include character flaws.

In some Perverse fashion these Moral shortcomings are considered To Be Within the person’s Own control.

Hence, fat women Are Not Only deficient But Also responsible for the Very prejudice they endure.

Think of Hollywood. Name some overweight actresses:
1. Kirstie Alley
2. Camryn Manheim
3. Queen Latifah
4. Starr Jones
5. Roseanne
6. Oprah

All of these women have lost considerable amounts of weight in the last five years.

Now actors:
1. Jack Nicholson
2. Denis Franz
3. Jack Black
4. Jim Belushi
5. John Belushi
6. James Gandolfini and practically every man on “The Sopranos”
7. Jason Alexander
8. Drew Carey
9. Ian Gomez
10. Chris Farley
11. John Goodman
12. William Shatner
13. Marlon Brando

The main difference is that there are far more heavy men WORKING in Hollywood.

Fat male actors will Still be cast as romantic leads. “As Good As it Gets” starred Jack Nicholson who was in his 60’s and fat, and Helen Hunt who was 34!, thin, and gorgeous.

This is a standard formula, but its reverse is Never seen.

We are Inundated with thin women in Print Ads,


News Shows,

Billboards etc.

There is even a size zero. If that’s not oxymoronic, I don’t know what is.

By no account does a carnival have a “Thin Woman” tent, But

they’d be derelict in their freakdom duty were there no “Fat Lady” on display.

So, does a business, any business, Want an obese front woman?


From Secretary to Anchorwoman,

No industry wants to Perpetuate the Sloppy, Lazy Stigma that attaches itself to a fat woman.

No matter how Intelligent and Experienced a woman is,

NO company or client will be able to get Past the weight issue.

WE all say we don’t discriminate based on looks,

But We all do.

Not Only is it more difficult for a fat woman to find work,

But obese people Earn $4,480-$12,720* less a year.

Our Overwhelming emphasis on a Particular AND Unachievable

beauty standard is partly to blame for the Alienating and Hostile environments that Obese People face Each and Every day.

In 2003 I was on the cover of People magazines’ “Half Their Size” issue having lost about 60 pounds. In 2004, People called again for a follow up article.

During the photo session there was not One shot taken Without

someone’s Smoothing my clothing,

Fixing my hair, or

Adjusting the lights.

To put it bluntly, even I didn’t look like me.

When I was 14 my mother and I were at the beach.

Tired of hearing me complain that I’d never have a perfect body, she took me for a walk.

“GO AHEAD. Pick me out a Perfect body” she said.

I looked all over,

There weren’t any.

There weren’t any Because There is No Such Thing,

but that’s not what we’re shown in life.

We’ve all been on job interviews

And we’ve hidden something unpleasant from our potential employer.

Perhaps it is omitting a Particularly heinous job experience from our resume,

Or a disease like Cancer or Depression.

There Is No Way to Hide obesity.

It’s there for Everyone to see,

But Nowhere is it more Evident than in the Eyes of the


Books used in research:

Molloy, John T., New Women’s Dress for Success. New York City: Time Warner Inc., 1996.

Goodman, W. Charisse, The Invisible Woman. Carlsbad, Ca: Gurze Books, 1995.

Solovay, Sondra, J.D., Tipping the Scales of Justice. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2000.

Lavington, Camille and Stephanie Losee, You’ve Only Got Three Seconds. New York City: Broadway Books, 2001.

Murphy, Evelyn and E.J. Graff, Getting Even. New York City: Touchstone, 2005.

Libal, Autumn, Social Discrimination and Body Size. Vestal, NY: Mason Crest Publishers, 2006.

Geering, Deborah, ”Half Their Size,” People, Jan. 2006, page 106.

Author's Bio: 

Loretta Collins has been in all forms of sales for over 20 years. She now coaches. Please contact her at:
Primary Phone: (301) 320-1181
Fax: (301) 320-7747