Image vs. Hard Work?

27 Oct

Pretty much everyone has probably read about the McCain campaign using just under $200k to dress the Palins and then put makeup on Sarah Palin herself for a few weeks. $150k towards clothes for her and her family, and almost $23k in fees for a makeup artist for two weeks. The first thing that goes through my head is my goodness, is she really that bad looking that she needs all that to make her look good? My next thought is wow, she really does look good!

Without getting into the political side of things and discussing whether that sort of spending is appropriate in any campaign, let’s discuss the idea of image in the workplace and whether the right clothes, the right accessories, and the right hair and makeup really do lead to better careers. Nataly from Work It Mom has a great post on this topic. She reminds women that, unfortunately, appearance matters. It is not all about hard work and smarts. Unfortunately image plays a big part in your potential success.

I tend to agree – to a point. I think it is important to understand that people judge. They always have and always will. If you don’t look professional, people will judge you. That being said — I think that you also have to embrace who you are, what your company does, and where you come from. Think about Mario Batali and his trademark orange Crocs. If you are running a high-tech company, vs. a financial-services company, your wardrobe will be different. As the CEO of a high-tech company, I know that I can get away with being a little less formal – in certain situations. If I am going to a business meeting in the Silicon Valley I can wear khakis and a nice shirt. But if I am speaking to a partner in Salt Lake City whose focus is education and training in financial services, I need to wear my more formal business suits. When I was younger and in business development at a Silicon Valley start-up, I would ONLY dress up when I had a meeting. And for that meeting I would usually wear one of my white or blue button-down shirts with khakis and not a suit. So I am not saying you must always be very dressed up or wear ultra conservative business clothes. I am just saying that you need to dress appropriately.

So, let’s get back to Sarah Palin. I am sure that Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have spent campaign money on their wardrobes. But we have not heard about it because there is probably not much to hear. John and Cindy McCain are ultra wealthy, so they probably already had a lot of nice clothes, and if they needed more it made sense to not use campaign money and buy their own clothes. I think Sarah Palin has looked great (especially considering she gave birth very recently), BUT she has not dressed appropriately for her image. She touts the working woman, hockey mom, regular gal image. Pretty hard to keep touting that when you have just spent more than most families make in three years on your wardrobe.

So, when you get up to go to work — think about who you are, what you do, and what image you are trying to portray. And then suck it up and buy the appropriate clothes.


6 Responses to “Image vs. Hard Work?”

  1. Red October 28, 2008 at 2:22 pm #

    Good point about having to dress for success and the crowd that you’re addressing. And I’ll give you the point that she talks about being a normal “hockey mom” but dresses up. The problem is, if she came out on the stage in slacks and a sweater or in jeans and a t-shirt, the media and all the pundits would be eating her alive for that as well..

    Just for full disclosure, you might want to mention that the bulk of the wardrobe was purchased by the RNC, not the McCain Campaign and the intent has always been to donate the clothing to charity after Governor Palin uses them for the campaign.


  2. Mommy CEO October 28, 2008 at 3:16 pm #

    Thanks for your comments. I have nice business clothes – but I didn’t spend that much money (I don’t think over the 15 years I have been in business I have spent even 1/5 the amount.) I think most people’s objections are not what she will do with the clothes later — but that you can look good without spending a Hollywood budget. Whether McCain or the RNC bought the clothes is really just an inconsequential detail for me. The bigger picture is what I am concerned about. If McCain ans Palin win, will they really donate all those clothes to charity? Won’t Sarah Palin still need to look professional?

  3. Red October 30, 2008 at 9:28 pm #

    All the stories I’ve read about this issue, and I can’t believe it’s even vaguely considered an issue with everything else in this race, says that the RNC had some staffer go shopping to get her the clothes. Yes, it’s a lot of money and I think the RNC went overboard. They have about 1/3 of the wardrobe on the plane for her, 1/3 on the bus and 1/3 being sent ahead to locations. Far too many clothes in my opinion.

    All reports of Mrs. Palin are that she normally shops at a Consignment Store in Alaska for her clothes. She can buy nice clothes there but at a fraction of the price one would pay for the clothes at a high end retail shop. I’m certain that she has a lot of nice professional clothes at home but that the RNC or Campaign Mgrs didn’t think she had enough selections for the events scheduled. I’m sure there isn’t a lot of time for laundry in the event hopping they’ve all had to do lately.

    If they win will they really donate the clothes? I’d like to believe they would have in either case. However, now that it’s a news media hit piece, I can be certain they will or it will be Front Page of every news paper and Top Story on every main stream media news feed.

    I think that’s the thing that bugs me the most over this “issue”. We don’t see the press digging into where anyone else’s wardrobe comes from. Doesn’t it disturb anyone how much the main stream media is behind Obama/Biden? What will he get away with if he makes it in office if the press isn’t there to watch him?
    Guess we’ll have to count on FNC or CNN to guard the hen house unless McCain/Palin can pull off a miracle.

    Much respect – Red

  4. Bihter November 3, 2008 at 6:53 am #

    Hi Sabrina,

    Just wanted to say that I’ve started reading your blog. I’m wondering if you have heard about the book, “What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business”. I heard the guy (Chris Flett) on the Today Show and thought you probably have already heard of him. I’m wondering what your thoughts were. He seems to be really taking on the ‘Old Boys Club”. I just emailed him, but haven’t heard back.

    Anyway, keep up the great writing.



  5. Bihter November 11, 2008 at 2:07 am #

    Hi Sabrina,

    I’ve been doing some additional research on the author, Chris Flett, that I talked about on my last comment. His company is “GhostCEO” ( and his book is a bestseller. I found it on Amazon here. Anyway, he was in the NY Times last Sunday under the “Career Couch” and he makes reference to women’s blogs like yours so I thought you might like to connect. I’d like to see you interview him and see what he’s all about. I saw on another blog he was a guest blogger. His email is:

    Best wishes,



  1. Planning, Startups, Stories - November 5, 2008

    Image vs. Hard Work…

    Now that the election is over, I can do this post. Before today it would have been too easy to interpret it as an electioneering post — not that I didn’t have my opinions, and not that I wasn’t sharing……

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