July 27


Dress For Success

By Jana Hassett

July 27, 2021

Women In Business

What Do You Do?

Dress For Success!

Fashion in America appears to be focused on hoodies and jeans. Sloppy sweatpants or yoga pants seem to be the norm in Walmart land. Home Economics is no longer taught in our public schools and manners seem to be a forgotten art as well.

Hundreds of books and pamphlets have been written over the years to teach American women how to dress. Many were written by a remarkable group of women dubbed “The Dress Doctors”. Starting with Mary Brooks Pickens, a dressmaker, spinner, and weaver.

Joined by many others, the Goldstein sisters wrote the “Bible” of dress in 1925 and updated it three times with the final update in 1954. Born in a small town in Michigan to a Jewish couple from Poland, both sisters earned College degrees in Art. “The Art of Everyday Life” is still in print.

Fashion is ever-changing, but the Dress Doctor’s advice transcends their own time and its ow vintage looks. Their principles offer a way to achieve the art of dress today and into the future. As First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt remarked during the depth of the Great Depression, “I have seen women who spend a very small amount on their clothes but who plan them carefully, frequently look better-dressed than women who waste a great deal of money and buy foolishly without good taste.”

We’ll explore the “The Lost Art of Dress” by Linda Przybyszewski, published in 2014.

10 Piece Wardrobe

Fads and Trends do NOT make for a well-dressed businesswoman.

Mary Brooks Piken thought a businesswoman should have four or five dresses for office wear.  Those, along with one afternoon dress, one evening dress, one blouse and one skirt, were all a woman needed for her public wardrobe.

As you emerge in your profession, you’ll need a 10-piece wardrobe for Winter (browns, dark green or wine) and Summer (tans, grays, navy blue) as your basic colors.  Then add accents of scarfs or jewelry to fit.  Summer pearls or winter gold/silver chains are simple and versatile.  Winter lockets and faceted gemstones work year-round, larger silver mounted gemstones are perfect for casual summer attire.

I’ve modified my 10-piece wardrobe to 6 skirts/pants, 6 tops, one afternoon/early evening dress, one more formal evening dress and one casual dress for public events (like picnics and ball games).  If you look good in Navy, add red and white and you’ll be set from Memorial Day to Labor Day. 

Older women should think about softer colors – summer soft rose, steel blue or beige -  Winter Taupe, Olive or Citron.  Use three strands of pearls – summer or winter, and soft colored scarves.  Cover up what can no longer be flattering.

The Dress Doctors loved to say “Good taste cannot be bought with money.  Good taste requires knowledge, which sometimes we must work hard to acquire.”

The fashion industry would like you to have a room-sized walk-in closet for your wardrobe.  The marketing pushes you to feel you “need to keep up”.  Better to set your own style. With a 10-piece wardrobe you don’t have to spend vast amounts of money every year.  Just add one or two pieces each year and before you know it, you’ll have set your own style.

Some women think this is boring and they need to have flashy clothes, or the latest FAD.  Remember, fad stands for “For A Day”. “ And one of the best ways to keep a woman down is to keep her so involved with how she looks, she doesn’t think of anything else.”  Dress Doctors

Don’t buy into the marketing.  And if you think this is all too boring, think about professional men.  They wear the same suits year after year.  Shirts, ties, shoes, and belts (and maybe a pocket hankie) are all that vary. 

There are different “uniforms” for different occupations.  If you’re going to be a businesswoman, dress the part.

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Botany Suits ad 1966

Dress for Success!

Jana Hassett

About the author

Retired Congressional Aide, Coach, Mentor and Grant Writer, Jana advocates for everyone having an elevator speech. She currently serves as Business Coach for the Ms. Biz program at the Women's Business Center of Utah, Cedar City. She's been writing blogs since 2006 and enjoys journaling.
"Passing It On" is her WHY, in honor of all those that mentored and guided her journery over the years.

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