Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Power Suit

A few days ago, I heard about a St. Jude event after work and volunteered to go on behalf of the company. I am a huge supporter of organizations like St. Jude, and was eager to go and show my support. The event turned out to be pretty low key with a great food selection, a full silent auction and a reasonable ticket price for the public. One of the big guests of the events, was a very well known business woman in the area. After years of great community service, and smart business decisions she and her husband have created a bit of an empire here and are well known for their willingness to always give back. Even in her old age, you will often find her at charity events in a great dress and some fun shoes. As I wandered up to the bar to get myself a water on the rocks, I realized that this amazing lady was in front of me. On either side of her was a girl, about my age. Their outfits were almost identical, black mid-calf length pencil skirts, tucked in sheer tops over a matching color Cami. One did opt for a bit of identity with beige kitten heels while the other wore black. They were complimenting said business woman on her shoes, her hair, her rings, offering to buy her a drink, laughing at her jokes like she was our very own Jim Carey. I walked back to our table with my drink and a smile. Apparently these girls thought this would be their opportunity to make it big.

A power suit, a la Murphy Brown, seemed to be necessary during the 80's if women wanted to prove their abilities in most companies. Women were fighting to earn their wings in both the work force and at home, and most seemed to agree that shoulder pads and matching tops and bottoms were the way to go. I think that slowly women started to feel as though the height of their shoulders, and the black stockings weren't what would get them recognized at work. It started to be more about our abilities, and with that the power suit seemed to slip down the list of necessary clothing.
That's not to say that there are not people who still require suits for work. Lawyers, some doctors, officers of the law, there are lots of women who wake up each morning and put a suit on before heading to work, but I think it's more out of a need to adhere to dress code policy, and less because they feel as though the suit will get them ahead. I couldn't help but wonder as I stood watching these young women, have pencil skirts, flowy tucked in blouses and kitten heels replaced the bold shoulder pad power suits of the 80s?

I think women have come more than far in the work force. Different offices now come with different dress codes, and expectations. I'm lucky enough to work in an office with a very casual dress code. I am judged more on my work ethic and my talent, and less on my shoe choice for the day. That's not to say that there are some offices in which one must be a bit more cautious of getting dressed each morning. I wonder what these girls thought as they put on their pencil skirts, kitten heels and sheer blouses the other day. Did she choose her coral top and matching tank because she knew that it would impress our local business celebrity? Did her friend think that adding some beige shoes would change up the look a bit making her stand out? Did they both think that this lovely elderly lady would be impressed by their skills at sucking up? I can't help but to think that at a certain point in business, after years of running companies, and managing employees that a boss will stop looking at a person's tie choice, or shoe options and will instead make their judgments based on their abilities. Maybe I'm living in a bit of a dream work over here in upstate New York. What I am sure of however, is that laughing at your boss when they haven't even told a real joke, and complimenting every stitch of fabric will get you no-where. Offering to buy their drink will probably get you further, but if you decide to go with the ' power suit' let the suit do some of the talking for you. That's why you chose it isn't it?

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