My granddaughter wants to be a princess when she grows up. Today, it’s specifically Princess Elsa, but on other days she wants to be Rapunzel or Ariel or Aurora. I don’t have the heart to tell her that those slots are already taken and that real-live princess positions don’t always turn out to be magical.
In pursuit of her princess dream, my granddaughter gets up every morning, dons a frilly princess costume and goes forth to benevolently rule her preschool and her little brother, who took it upon himself to snap all the combs off her tiaras and drop them into the air conditioning vent in my living room. I haven’t asked, but it appears that he intends to grow up to be Wreck It Ralph.
If my granddaughter continues her princess pursuits, the high school guidance counselor might suggest she widen her scope on career day, but the idea of dressing for the job you want is usually good advice. In the business world, wear- ing a tasteful pantsuit or freshly pressed khakis is a good idea no matter where you are on the ladder. If the higher-ups are continually presented with this upwardly mobile visual, they would be subconsciously disposed to move you higher up as well.
In other situations, however, dressing the part can get you in a heap of trouble. Wearing a police uniform before you have those credentials could get you an interview in handcuffs. (Don’t worry. The officers will bring their own.) If you wear unearned scrubs out in public, someone might look to you to do an emergency tracheotomy with a penknife and a drinking straw, and unless you have watched a lot of M*A*S*H reruns, you’d be completely lost…and so would your hapless patient.
I don’t believe that clothes actually make the man (or woman), but it’s all the uninformed public has to go on. Your get-up sets up expectations. A fluorescent vest signals that you are capable of directing traffic. A Harvard T-shirt leads people to believe that you might know the square root of 3,450. If your T-shirt says, “I’m With Stupid,” they might not expect you to know anything at all.
Workout clothes indicate that you are headed to the gym. A camouflage jumpsuit suggests that you are on your way to your deer camp. If you pop into the grocery store on a Saturday night wearing a tuxedo, people will assume you are picking up a corsage for a special date. Wearing a tuxedo on a Saturday morning pushing a cart filled with random daisies and carnations tells people you were in charge of flowers for the wedding and you flat out forgot.
The premise of “Dress for the job you want” is that the way you dress has an effect, not only on the way people see you, but on the way you behave. When I need to get some serious work done, I put on sneakers. I don’t really need the traction when I’m working at the computer, but it makes me feel like I mean business.
Right now, I am wearing slippers, so I hope that
doesn’t show in what I’ve written, but my sneakers are in the wash because they got muddy while I was out filling the bird feeders.
My granddaughter will not have to worry about these things because she is going to be a princess. She just needs to find a prince who is not really a
toad. Here’s a tip, my darling: Look for someone wearing freshly pressed khakis and sneakers. He’ll mean business. ❖