Women today are increasingly rejecting the oppressive standards of beauty and dressing that have plagued the workplace since eternity. Matching steps with their male counterparts, working women are shifting to more comfortable, flexible clothing options. The millennial woman also believes that there is more to work ethics than what she chooses to wear.
Dressing for success means different things in today’s work culture. Workplaces have become more diverse, and a lot less constructing.
In 1975, John T. Molloy wrote his bestseller Dress For Success. Sales exploded as soon as the book hit the racks. Molloy penned a second book two years later, specifically for working women. These books would go on to not only shape generations’ mindset towards working women but also popularise the saying “dressing for success”. They promoted ideas about workwear that remained influential for several years. Only now are these ideas beginning to change slowly and “dressing for success” seems to be outdated advice today.
What Did Dressing For Success Mean?
Molloy’s books were based on 15 years of extensive research. At the time, his work was ground-breaking. He wrote about the kind of professionalism that clothes brought into the workplace. Moreover, his work talked about the relation between the kind of clothes one chose to wear, and his professional skill and attitude. It was suggested that the clothes you wore could, and would, influence other’s perceptions of you. Additionally, your appearance could even result in promotions and greater success, compared to a co-worker who dressed less professionally. That is what dressing for success meant.
Much of Molly’s advice for women, however, was laced with undertones of misogyny. “Most men find women in pants very sexy…If you are under 35, wear lipstick and little else,” he wrote. His advice to women above 45 was that make-up is essential for them. When it came to women, it seemed like dressing for success was harder – and full of rules.
Dressing For Success In Today’s World
A lot has changed since 1975, especially in the last ten years. Dressing for success means different things in today’s work culture. Workplaces have become more diverse, and a lot less constructing. Casual Fridays are now not only restricted to Fridays, and millennials actually see it as a perk if the company they’re working for allows casual dressing. In today’s workplace culture, many (but not all) industries have adopted a less formal approach. For instance, women in pantsuits and pencil skirts are less likely to be seen inside the office of a digital media outlet, or a start-up.
Working women are shifting to more comfortable, flexible clothing options. The millennial woman also believes that her work ethic must be reflected in her actions and not her clothing.
Today’s women are increasingly rejecting the oppressive standards of beauty and dressing that have long since plagued the workplace. Working women are shifting to more comfortable, flexible clothing options. The millennial woman also believes that her work ethic must be reflected in her actions and not her clothing. Manisha Jain, a 30-year-old teacher believes, “A person’s professionalism and skills shouldn’t be judged by their clothing choices. What matters, at the end of the day, is their attitude and passion towards what they do.”
Shruti Agarwal, who is an entrepreneur handling multiple businesses based in Kolkata, however, feels that professional dressing is subjective to the requirements of each field. Says she, “It definitely depends on your profession, because some jobs require specialized dressing codes. However, for most jobs, whether you’re in a suit or in jeans, it doesn’t and shouldn’t affect your performance at work. Neither should your co-workers judge you based on which you decide to wear.”
A Long Way To Go
Having said this, it is also true that we still live in a world of first impressions. And clothing goes a long way when it comes to first impressions. This is precisely the reason why, whether we believe in dressing for success or not, we will still suit up for an interview. Presentability matters. As Caroline Dowd-Higgins, executive director of career and professional development at the Indiana University Alumni Association told Success Magazine, “If I come to work in yoga pants, the perception might be that I’m laid-back and casual, so maybe my work ethic is, too. I want to be able to set a tone, establish myself as a promotable player.”
Changing work environments and perceptions about clothing mean that young people are pushing the envelope when it comes to their workwear. However, there is still a long way to go before we can truly give up on the idea of dressing for success.
Prapti is an intern at SheThePeople.TV