“Do not judge a book by its cover”, we all are familiar with that saying.
Even though it is perceived as a very noble way of being, we judge all the time whether it is positively or negatively. It is a normal human behavior, and part of it stems from our cognitive biases.
During a conference I did for my community in Hoboken, I talked about the importance of a first impression. According to a NYU research conducted by Dr. Michael Solomon, we make 11 critical decisions in the first 7 seconds of meeting someone new.
1. Education Level
2. Economic Level
3. Perceived Credibility, Believably, Competence and Honesty
5. Level of Sophistication
6. Sex Role Identification
7. Level of Success
8. Political Background
9. Religious Background
10. Ethnic Background
11. Social/ Professional / Sexual Desirability
Whoever decided that wearing a suit meant looking professional had a good idea, but they completely left out the importance of style, fit, culture, body type, silhouette, comfort, personality and what one projects. And, the only reasons why jeans are still not allowed in some companies except for casual Fridays, is because we are not thought about which fits makes you look like a million bucks and how to dress them up like a boss.
Let me tell you a story.
While I was studying fashion in college, I worked as a medical secretary for seven doctors. You can imagine the flow of patients that were coming in daily to see them. My love of fashion was also accompanied with dressing sexy. I never shied away from any types of clothing I liked and was judged a lot for it. However, I was at least smart enough (thank you mom!) to know there was a place for certain things and adapt my style, until that day…
Me: “Setting up for my shift”
Doctor: Jennifer – can you come to my office?”
Me: … yes
Doctor: We are not in a club here
Me: “Swallowing my pride, turning beet read and knowing too well I pushed it too far that day.” Yes, you are right and I am really sorry.
Now, she did not make me go back home and change, probably because not showing skin was better than having everything too tight and shiny like that day, combined with seeing how embarrassed I was. I think she knew this would translate into an important lesson…or prayed it would.
The next day, I went out shopping for suits. Stiff cotton blouses and polyester suits. Never would I push the limits and embarrass myself again. I wanted to dress the part, and look professional. I was 19 years old, and this was the first time in my life I felt really uncomfortable in clothes. I had freshly signed up to wear a costume for the rest of my professional life.
After working in suits for two years, my first job in the fashion merchandising industry opened my eyes. I saw and learned about how you can look both professional AND fabulous, without compromising comfort, femininity, sass, fit and personal style. Can you hear the angels singing? I know I did!
This experience had me develop a huge appreciation to dress with class and sass in a very professional and tasteful way.
What I have learned later in life is that sexiness and classiness can co-exists, is actually about who you are being and not what you wear or what you do. Your attitude is what oozes out of you no matter how much you “dress it up”… or down. It is not something you can hide… at least not under my gaze.
You do not need to sacrifice your stylish feminine beauty in the name of professionalism.
It is proven that what you wear influences your mood, so it is imperative you feel good in your outfits. Most importantly, it is imperative you feel confident in your mind and skin your clothes are designed to enhance.
Now as far as not pushing the limits and never embarrassing myself again, I failed in other areas of my life at various times and surely will again, but those experiences always make you learn and build you stronger, wiser and more confident than yesterday.