Career Corner: Dressing for Success with Elle and Glenn

By Glenn and Elle 

You may remember us from the last edition of Career Corner where we gave you tips on how to write a cover letter. That letter, along with the temporary jobs created by the US Census, have brought our country's unemployment rate back from the abyss. But before we gaze long into that abyss and George Bush looks back at us, let's take another visit to the Career Corner and discuss dressing for success.

[Note: many of our dress tips will apply only to people who identify as men or women.]

Like it or not, people judge you by your appearance, especially your outfits. They're like a tip sheet for your coworkers, who must decide within mere seconds whether to hate you, pity you, or try to sleep with you. Each of these reactions has its pros and cons. People fear and respect those they hate, but they never invite the hated to lunch. People love to hang out with people they pity, because it's a self-esteem boost, but pitied people never get promoted. And if people want to sleep with you, you will benefit from quick promotion, mentorship, inside jokes, but you'll also eventually screw it up and get fired.

From the moment you walk into the office, construction site or nuclear power plant for the first interview, you need to radiate the right image for the job. I have experience on the hiring side and on the applying side. Once I was horribly embarrassed after walking into an interview wearing a black shirt, brown pants and gray shoes. This was a fashion faux pas of the color sort and my interviewer, a woman, let me know it. Later in life I was on the hiring side of things and had people display different religious imagery. One applicant wore a cross necklace, another wore a Church of Satan t-shirt and another was of Arab descent. I ended up hiring the Muslim applicant for obvious reasons - it was a campaign to clean up Times Square in New York City - but in general you do not want to display your religious cards before you find out the religion of your interviewer.

At the same time, don't be too cautious. A lot of professional advice-givers will tell you to dress "conservatively" without saying what it means. Should I wear a cowboy hat with tea bags coming off of it? Klan robes? Or a boring suit with an American flag lapel pin? With any of these you're going to alienate the liberal half of the voting population immediately. In the same vein, we recommended doing some outrageous things in a cover letter, and you should feel comfortable to include a few elements in your dress that reveal your true character without offending Democrats or Republicans. You might try a bow-tie if you're a man or a bright-colored scarf if you're a woman. These let you stand out without forcing anyone to question his/her sexuality.

Once you get past the interview to the working world, it's clear the most successful people share a secret: no shame. People are always telling young women not to dress too sexy for the office. The people who say this are always old women who've already slept their way to the top and fear the competition. Hillary Clinton did it. So did Princess Diana. What's there to lose? Chances are, in this job market, you've already lost your dignity. The only thing holding you back is your prudery. That sting? It's shame, fucking with you. Fuck shame! Shame only hurts, it never helps.

This may not work for those of you who don't have, and thus cannot flaunt, "it." We don't all work with the same natural (and unnatural) gifts, so often times you will need to dress in a way that makes people think twice about your character. As a woman, there is nothing more powerful you can wear than a power suit. That's because you don't have a penis or broad shoulders; padding can camouflage that. Men can afford to be more subtle. The key can often be your tie or, as the case may be, tie-dye bandanna. I personally personally prefer skinny solid color ties because they are the most phallic. They exude confidence. Be sure that ties are the only thing sending that message though - taking special care to conceal the most phallic item of all: your penis. Besides the stench of death, nothing will make your co-workers more uncomfortable than seeing the outline of your genitals through too tight / too thin dress slacks.
Note from Elle: Speaking of genitals. When I was about 8 years old, I remember watching Dateline or 20/20 or something, and there was a story about sexual harassment at a big corporation. A female executive was suing the company because the top bosses allowed other executives to blatantly harass her. The only anecdote I remember is that one of the men walked around the office with some kind of fake penis on his shoulder. I don't know how much of this is true, because I was too young to have much of a concept of what offices and sex toys were. And I don't have the time, energy or skill to look this up now. But the lessons I learned then still hold true: Adults are insane. Offices are no place for penises.

Pants are a real sleeper when it comes to work-wardrobe crises. Most people think about their shirts, jackets, etc., because those things are closer to your face. But your future employers can't possibly be expected to look at your face all day. It's time to inject some hand-wringing into your trouser-related decisions. Most crucial: leggings as pants. Most of the people who rail against leggings-as-pants have larger-sized girls in mind. This is because these critics worry they themselves will gain weight someday, rendering them completely worthless to society, and that fear causes them to lash out at symbols of their future. Personally, the leggings-as-pants wearers I find most objectionable are the older ladies who diet themselves down to sizes that would fit right in at Dachau. (This is because I am afraid more of death than jelly rolls.) The other day an older lady came into the office wearing a green blouse and black leggings. I could see both her panty line and her tween-Benjamin Button-esque ass. It was hard not to stare, and impossible to concentrate. Your best bet is to wear looser slacks with a low-cut top. Cleavage is universal. You want people to think of Victoria's Secret, not the Holocaust - even though sometimes it's hard to remember which one Kathleen Parker finds more offensive.

These tips will help you whether you're picking an outfit for a first interview or want be noticed for a promotion. Fashion - not to mention its pesky class signifiers - makes everyone uncomfortable, but we have to use every tool available, including clothes, to advance our careers. If you actually work in the fashion industry, this article is completely irrelevant and probably borderline offensive to you. For that, we apologize and would like free samples of new clothes if at all possible.

Thanks for reading this edition of Career Corner. As always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions for future topics.


  1. Thanks for this guys. I just took a pair of scissors and cut my shirt in half in order to earn the respect of my coworkers.

  2. I have worn a penis on my shoulder to work everyday since I was 16, and that includes two deployments to Iraq. The only complaint I've ever received was when Frank Foer told me that the penis had a "literary finality" that he wasn't comfortable with. I take that as an admission of homosexuality.

  3. haha, glenn -- you and your "black and brown don't match" obsession. i loved this SO MUCH. elle and glenn together are more deadly a couple than adolf hitler and eva braun.

  4. Haha @ Kathleen Parker, the reference AND the idea of her. Great Career Corner GLenn & Elle, I love the logo!

  5. When I go to job interviews I always wear a t-shirt that says "GOLF-- Women Stay the Fuck Away." To be fair, all of my interviews have been at male only golf courses.