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Dress for Success


The Swiss village of Bubendorf has denied a family Swiss citizenship because they wore sweatpants outside of the house too often. While it seems somewhat harsh to deny one citizenship due to a fashion faux pas, I’m not entirely opposed to the sentiment.

I find sloppy dressing depressing. I know people like to be comfortable and, at times, it’s hard to muster the energy to put on something smart. But even if your life is going to hell in a handbasket, it does not mean you have to dress for it. In the heart of post-partum depression, I managed to put on a sweater and a decent pair of pants. I knew I needed to seek help when I couldn’t be bothered with jewelry. Like Clairee in Steel Magnolias, I believe “The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.” I was somewhat mortified when, in a documentary on post-partum depression, snippets of my writing were read by an actress swathed in a ratty pink bathrobe. As if!

On the weekend, we were at a charity polo match, which involved sitting in the blazing sun for hours. The highlight of the day is the divot stomp, where one leaps over piles of horse manure in exchange for a thimbleful of champagne. In spite of the obvious obstacles, the women looked fabulous. One woman strode by in six-inch heels while her four-year-old shouted, “Let’s have a race, mama!” If some are willing to wear stilettos on a field, surely others can put on a collared shirt when out for dinner, no?

I believe dressing up is part of the social contract: if you are going to be an active member of society, you need to put on a proper pair of pants.

Yoga pants are terrific when one is doing yoga. If they are worn to your local Red Lobster, however, they transform into cheap trousers that show things nobody else wants to see. This whole athleisurewear thing is of the devil as far as I’m concerned. How hard is it to slip on a cute summer dress? Even churches – the last bastion of nylons and hats – have become a sea of track pants and baseball caps. I ask you, is this one’s Utmost for His Highest?

It’s an uphill battle when it comes to my kids. If my son had his way, he’d wear the same tired, red, t-shirt 365 days a year, including at my upcoming wedding. Every once in a while I have to frogmarch the kids into Brooks Brothers and threaten them with matching tennis sweaters until they agree to smarten up.

Perhaps I should head to Switzerland to be among my people. What is considered fussy, in my neck of the woods, would make me downright moderate. Plus, there is all of that chocolate and cheese. I wonder how big a suitcase I’d need for my dresses and hats and heels?


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With an MBA in Finance, JEN LAWRENCE worked in investment banking; was Executive Director of a Children’s Museum and is a pioneer mommy blogger. Jen writes and speaks about women in business, critical thinking, strategic planning and is the author of Engage the Fox: A Business Fable About Thinking Critically and Motivating Your Team. When your world’s been blown apart, Jen Lawrence can help you pull yourself together, and pinpoint those next steps that will help you find your new normal. She can also be found at

17 thoughts on “Dress for Success”

  1. Count me in for Switzerland. I should already be in a chocolate 12 Step program, so I look forward to being closer to my dealer. Other women have told me I’m always so “put together.” In France, this spring, a woman said that like it’s a bad thing. For starters, I wasn’t dressing any differently that I do in the US, but hello! We’re in Paris! Land of chic women! No way I’m trouping around in tennis shoes and a fanny pack. xoxo, Brenda

    • Oh Brenda! You are hilarious, 12 Step programs and chocolate dealers, I’ll be giggling over that line for ages. You looked gorgeous in Paris, like you belonged there, I was super-inspired. I wish more women looked after themselves and admired the ‘put together’ look, I’d personally appreciate more women with your sense of style in my life. Essie xx

    • I am having a challenging day and needed to take a break from my work. I decided to catch up on some blog posts at 1010! Loved your needing a chocolate 12 step program! Thanks for the laugh!

  2. Hey Jen, I’ve been rather absent lately and I’ve missed your writing. I’m with you and Brenda, count me in for Switzerland too. The scruffy look is almost a badge of honour over here and I’ve decided to go in the opposite direction and rebel with gorgeous dresses and big earrings to match, regardless of the occasion! In fact, I gave a talk to almost 100 adventurer-types last Wednesday night and went with my hair curled, made up and in a maxi dress you could wear to a summer wedding. Just because they want to dress down, doesn’t mean I have to. Besides, I think you’ll need my help keeping Brenda away from the chocolate, consider it a sacrifice for the sisterhood! 🙂 Esther xx

  3. I relate to your post. Living in Southern California, the place where jeans is the state pant, I often stick out like a very fashionably dressed thumb. But I don’t care if they stare. What could they possibly say, “Dang she looks nice.” Great post!

  4. Nothing wrong with a little fashion policing. Hubs and I stopped for lunch the other day and I had never seen so many poorly dressed and barely dressed women. Don’t get me started on all the visible ink…oy…

  5. Love this, Jen! I am appalled at what I see women wearing in public. Here in Texas, I’ve even seen print leggings with cowboy boots! And most often on women who should never leave the house with leggings on. People, look at your back sides in the mirrors before you walk out the door!

  6. Well, I don’t dress too well atall and I don’t like people being affected by it. However I will try to dress well enough from now on, shopping is on my must to list for few weeks now. However denying those people citizenship because of their casual dressing is pretty unfair that’s what I feel. One should look smart, act smart true but don’t need great dressing for it, my opinion. I hate perfume and jewelry too.

  7. Jen – I can so relate to your post! I work from home but feel my most productive when I have showered and dressed. I just feel better! I can be available in a moment’s notice to meet a friend for lunch, take a client out to look at property or whatever else should arise. I am tired of seeing people in pajama bottoms on the plane or in gym clothes at church – yes, church!

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