she who keeps this diary

08 September 2006 - 3:35 PM

Fabulous, Inside the Beltway


In yesterday's Washington Post appeared an article titled A Published Dress Code Is Dressed Down in Furor. The article dealt specifically with a dressing-room tempest at the Office of the Special Counsel, but made reference to a wider 'trend' (if you can call it that) in government agencies to offer dress advice.

Among the items quoted in the piece was the following:

Women, the July 21 issue of Treasury Notes advised, should take "your every day suit, find a fabulous and outlandish oxford, and pair it with glamorous sunglasses and colorful bag and shoes to match."

A fabulous and outlandish oxford?!

I'm sorry, those words don't belong in the same sentence.

There is nothing fabulous or outlandish about any oxford cloth shirt. At any time, in any place, or in anyway. Are oxford shirts perfectly appropriate business attire? Certainly. But fabulous and outlandish? No.

I am not going to step into the 'dress codes are reasonable/of the devil' debate because I had to hear it too many times when I was teaching at Our Lady of Perpetual Aggravation. The ugly truth is that people do judge us by how we look, and when how we look also reflects on our employers, you can expect our employers to care about how we look. Or to put it another way, people are going to pay attention to what your fashion statement is actually saying.

If the Treasury Department would like its employees looking a little snappier, that's quite fine. If they'd like them dressed conservatively but well, that's also fine. Does it tell us something about the people behind the dress code that they think oxford shirts can be fabulous and outlandish?

Perhaps it does.

verso - recto

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