Update: I’ve now deleted seven comments off of the blog (and three emails) that had no discursive value, no points to be made, no arguments or positions taken, but were just pointed name calling and insults. I’m all for open and free commenting, but what you write has to fit the two simple guidelines listed on the site: No spam, personal attacks, or rude or intolerant comments AND Comments need to actually relate to the blog post topic.
An interesting discussion happened today on Twitter about clothing and librarianship. It all started with Jaime Corris Hammond (@jaimebc) posting the following:
“Let’s talk about perceptions of leaders. How did you change your appearance when you became a manager/director?”
My response was a truthful:
“Bwa ha ha ha ha….ha ha ha ha ha….*gasp*sputter* I DIDN’T ”
A smattering of conversation involving a dozen people then followed, with some themes coming out that I feel are worth commenting on.
Style counts: Above all, stay true to who you are. Don’t dress a certain way because you think someone else expects it or you believe it will somehow make you seem more authoritative. Dress in a way that’s appropriate for work but comfortable. For me that includes some combination of funky tights, high heels, spikes, velvet, lace, satin, vinyl, 50s style dresses, chokers, straps, ruffles, corsets, and cardigans (I know…yes, cardigans–they’re practical and comfortable so shut it). For you it will be something else. But *be you*. A velvet suit jacket is just as dressy as a polyester one. I dressed this way when I got the job…so I figure why change? I think my look is part of what helps people remember me in the community – and being remembered isn’t a bad thing (usually).
Dress codes: If your workplace has a dress code, by all means adhere to it. Several libraries I’ve worked at required closed-toe shoes. Others said no shorts and no bra straps could not be showing (e.g. under a tank top). Adhere to the rules.
Dress and gender: Some commenters purported that there’s a double standard for men and women on dress. Men can get away with dressing more casually and be thought of as “cutely sloppy” but a similarly dressed woman would be looked at as “frumpy.” True? Probably. Can we control how other people react to our appearances? Nope. Stop trying.
Who do you dress to match?: This is a great question. If you’re in a position of leadership, do you dress to fit in with other library staff or to fit in with on-par colleagues in other departments? My answer is “Don’t dress to match anyone; weren’t you listening before?” But if I had to vote for one, I’d say dress to match the “dressiness level” of your on-par colleagues.
Dressing seriously so people take you seriously: I expect people to take me seriously because of my ideas and professionalism. If they’re not going to listen (and some haven’t) because I’m wearing tights with stars on them or a skirt with unnecessary zippers then their opinion isn’t worth worrying about. Some people are not going to like me and that’s just dandy. If you’re in a position of leadership realize there are going to be a fair number of people who don’t like you for all sorts of reasons. You’re not in this to be liked; you’re doing a job.
Combating looking young with dressing old: This one I understand. I was a manager in a library when I was 28. I looked 21. I understand the desire to look older, at least your age, so that people will stop with the “Are you old enough to blah blah blah…” comments. As I joked on Twitter, what made those comments stop coming at me was the plethora of wrinkles I’ve developed after being a library director for a year and a half. So–get more stress in your life and continue to dress like a rock star.
Dressing up for certain events: Dress a little more seriously for City Council? Sure. For a job interview? Yep. Wear skinny jeans, combat boots, and a sparkly tank top on a Friday when you’re going to be at your desk all day writing reports? Yep. Speaking of which, I’m gonna go finish up those reports.