Posted October 22, 2012 by Sarah-Ann Harnick 

Dressing for the Job

Jeff’s recent post took me back to a more-rigid fashion code.

Back in the mid-1970s when I finished graduate school, there was a “fashion consultant” named John Malloy. I don’t remember all of his advice, but I cannot forget this one: dress like the people in power. There were thousands and thousands of young women beginning our professional careers wearing suits with skirts, button-down shirts, and string ties. We also wore medium-height, neutral-color heels and hose. Always hose—even if it was hot. Jewelry was to be kept to a minimum: small earrings, a discreet wristwatch. Nail polish in muted colors was allowed on short fingernails. We didn’t need advice on how to handle tattoos—it was in a much later edition of his book. We looked like “Office Worker Barbie.” I felt appropriately dressed but never powerful.

And so, my younger female colleagues, here’s what I learned over my first five years in the field:

  • If you look good but have an outstanding monthly balance with Macy's, you do not have power.
  • Just because you keep receiving 20% off coupons doesn’t mean you have to use every single one of them.
  • Most people won’t remember if you wore the same outfit the previous week.
  • It’s more important to do your job well than to try to mimic the president’s outfits.
  • The president makes much more money than you do, and her clothing reflects her income.
  • You can never have too many white tops/shirts/blouses.
  • There was a point in my career when I owned three weeks worth of underwear—a little excessive, but I didn’t always have time to do laundry.
  • Spend money on well-made shoes.
  • Create a comfortable, polished style that matches what seems to be the university’s style.
  • Stop stressing over this!
  • And Jeff is correct: no leggings.


Sarah-Ann Harnick

Sarah-Ann Harnick is the Assistant Director- Campus Life at New Jersey City University.

Sarah Harnick became active in ACUI with her first job in student activities of Rider then-College. After earning her master’s in fine arts from the University of Texas, she relocated to New Jersey and just never left the state. Intrigued by how things work, she accepted an operations position at New Jersey City now-University where she has learned more about elevators, revolving doors, and roof leaks than most people should ever know. The real reason she has stayed in this field is the pure joy of watching students learn and grow.


Great advice Sarah, and the bulleted list of tips all apply to young male colleagues too!
Jeff Pelletier
Comment posted 10/22/2012 2:37 PM
I'm starting to really wish we had the "like" function within the Commons. There have been some really great posts lately. Well said!
Gillian Thiebe
Comment posted 10/22/2012 4:05 PM
Men wear leggings to work?! Seriously, thanks for the kind words.
Sarah-Ann Harnick
Comment posted 10/23/2012 8:50 AM
And, Gillian, the graphic you chose is so reminiscent (sp?) of my closet when I was younger. Now, most of my shirts are anything but white!
Sarah-Ann Harnick
Comment posted 10/23/2012 8:52 AM
I love and agree with this statement "Create a comfortable, polished style that matches what seems to be the university’s style." That's the bottom line.
Patrick Connelly
Comment posted 10/23/2012 9:01 AM
"Create a comfortable, polished style that matches what seems to be the university’s style." - We are musicians, we are comfortable and style means something else to us - very personal. But be aware of paternalistic and/or maternalistic rules that the university may overtly or subtly espouse. Challenge them.
Elizabeth Jane Stachowiak
Comment posted 10/24/2012 8:52 AM
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