Last week, I was trying to explain to my female students that “dressing professionally” did not mean “let’s go clubbing.”
Every year, at semester’s close, the kids have to do final presentations – a two-hour evening extravaganza wherein they stand in front of booths and showcase the fruits of their blood, sweat and tears for friends and family. And invariably, even though I exhort time and again that skirts need to be just so and the girls need to be locked and loaded, I will catch sixteen-year-old girls teetering precariously on too-high heels and tugging down at too-tight skirts or tugging up at too-tight tops.
I try to be a role model. I really do. But there’s no accounting for taste, time or circumstance. I can’t – and neither should I want/have to – control what happens beyond my classroom walls. And I shouldn’t judge what happens beyond my classroom walls. But perhaps I can gently indicate that one can be female and be proud of one’s femininity but still appear polished and professional and powerful at the same time.
And that being polished and professional and powerful does not mean wearing unrelieved black either.
Take this ensemble as a for instance: I like the pretty primness of a lace pencil skirt of sedate length. But I also like pairing it with a faux leather color block moto to give the look a trendy edge. Throw in the bold pop of color with both accessory and shoe, and you’ve got yourself a winning outfit, if I do say so myself. Hopefully, when I sport this tonight as I walk the booths and assess the presentations, the ladies will learn via osmosis that you don’t have to be boring or plain to be professional.
Now this look may not work for everybody. After all, I don’t work corporate America so I have the luxury of pushing the sartorial envelope. But I bet anyone can take elements of this outfit – juxtaposing tough and sweet, small doses of bold color, clever incorporation of trendy to traditional – and, as my hero Tim Gunn would say, make it work.
P.S. Don’t you just love my son’s photo bombing? More on that story tomorrow…