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.