I'm pretty sure that my mother would not let me wear flip-flops to the White House to meet the president of the United States. In fact, I know she wouldn't. Yet I saw a photograph of a girls sports team meeting President Bush, and some were wearing flip-flops!
No, the picture was not taken at a swimming pool or other casual place; it was taken in the Oval Office. What happened to respectful dress?
Look at the debacle that occurred this summer when a lady was removed from an airplane because airline personnel considered her attire "too suggestive." Recently, another passenger was asked to leave an airplane because of an obscene gesture printed on his T-shirt.
Also, what's with not pulling up your pants? Call me old-fashioned, but I like to see pants with the waistband at or near the waist as opposed to halfway down the rear.
Apparently, I'm not alone. I recently read about a town that has prohibited pants being worn this way. It appears that there are billboards throughout the town that say something like "Pull 'em up ... It's the law!" That's right, folks: In that town you can be cited for rear cleavage exposure.
I am not so naive to think this issue is new. Let's face it, for eons teens have rebelled with their own counterculture through the way they dress.
Perhaps you could argue that a little rebellion is healthy. However this is not limited to teens. Those already out of their teen years committed many of the examples mentioned. It seems we have lost our compass when it comes to respectful and professional dress.
Whether you like it or not, people judge others based upon the way they choose to dress. Inappropriate dress can be interpreted as a lack of respect for yourself and others. If you dress in a tired and sloppy way, don't be surprised if you are treated accordingly.
Is it fair? No, but it happens. Human nature is hard to control. If you feel that you are being treated as a child or are having trouble getting respect, then maybe you should look in the mirror. Perhaps the way you dress gives you an air of immaturity or lack of credibility.
Impressions can be made within the first three to five seconds of meeting someone. More than half of that impression can be based upon how you are dressed. In fact, I have a saying: "How you are dressed speaks so loudly that I can't hear what you are saying."
Since it only takes seconds to make a first impression, my suggestion is, don't just make a good one, make a great one.
Much has been written about dressing for job interviews, but perhaps there should be more information about how to dress to convey professionalism especially for and during work. For example, a good suit helps to provide an unspoken air of credibility and authority, while careless attire can do the exact opposite.
Don't forget the old motto: "Dress for the job you want, not the one you have." In fact, a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, headlined "Want to be a CEO? You Have to Dress the Part," maintains that subliminal messages conveyed by the way we dress are greatly underestimated. If the dress is not appropriate, then it could be career-limiting.
Of course, the way you dress depends upon the type of work you do. Many jobs require uniforms; nonetheless, they should be clean and pressed. Conversely, you may look out of place in a suit and tie in some professions that call for more of casual attire. However, dressing in casual attire does not mean you have a ticket to be sloppy.
Author and career clothing expert Diane Pemberton-Sikes has a great way to think of dress by using the ABC acronym:
"A" stands for Appropriate. Make sure that your clothing works well with your line of work as well as the people with which you interact. No matter what your work, chances are you will have contact with the public. Make sure that you are presentable.
"B" stands for Boundaries. Avoid clothing that is distracting or exposes too much cleavage. Sheer blouses and other clothing are typically frowned upon.
"C" stands for Consistency. If you are consistent in your dress, then you create a dependable impression of credibility for those with whom you interact.
Several weeks ago, I sat down with my friend and fellow columnist, Tommie Sue Roberts, who writes on fashion for the Sunday Gazette-Mail, to discuss the meaning of "professional respectful dress."
Here's what we came up with concerning the subject: