Dress for Success, Because Others are Watching

Today I’m going to dish out some tough love. Know that everything is said with the best intentions, even though I know that a lot of people will wholeheartedly dislike what I have to say. 

Are you ready? Here it is:

It has been scientifically proven that people judge others based on outward appearances.

This is not exactly good, and it is not right, but it is reality, and we need to get used to it.

It is reality that, if you choose to pair your brown ’90s broomstick skirt with your black, mid-’80s velvet opera blouse, a Mickey Mouse fanny pack, and those old running shoes that you got from your sister that are falling apart, you will be judged as being messy, at best, and homeless, at worst. It is reality that, should you choose to wear an impeccably-tailored red suit, along with the required proper shoes and hose, you will be perceived as high-powered and put-together. It is most certainly a reality that, if you are a naturally-attractive female, and you choose to capitalize on that, most people will judge you more harshly than anyone else they come across, and they will even feel entitled to do so vocally and publicly. On the other hand, if you are naturally “plain,” people will also make assumptions about your character, especially if you do not work extra-hard to take care of your outward appearance.

Yes, this hurts, and yes, it’s absolutely wrong. However, that does not mean that it is not a reality. Remember,

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”
-Flannery O’Connor

I am not saying that we should go out of our way to try and please everyone through what we wear–quite the opposite. After all, I’ve tried that before. It never works. There will always be someone kvetching about what you do or don’t do, what you wear or don’t wear, and, indeed, what you think or don’t think. It is impossible to please everyone, and anyway, why would you want to? These people are only invested in serving their own interests. To these people, nobody is ever “good enough,” anyway, so ignore them.

I also do not mean that we should shun looking nice, in hopes that, somehow, society will magically stop caring about what we wear. People have been trying this method for thousands of years. Historically, it has never worked; it will not work in the future, and it does not work currently. People will always judge others, largely based on appearances. It’s an evergreen situation.

What I am saying is simple. We need to prioritize taking care of ourselves, and to dress appropriately for the way we wish to be viewed. We each need to decide what we want out of life, and then we need to become it. In addition to studying or working very hard to attain what we want, it is very important to dress in a way that states “I am ready to be the person I want to be,” without sacrificing our personal style preferences.

As an example, if you are studying to become a lawyer, you shouldn’t show up to class in a sequined mini-dress and leftover makeup from last night’s wild party. You never know when you’re going to need a reference from that class’ professor, and, as we have discussed, people judge based on your outward appearance. Instead, go ahead and wear a fitted dress or trendy top in your favorite color, but make sure that dress is long enough to sit in without showing everything, and keep the hair and makeup done, yet clean and professional. There is a time and a place for sparkly green eyeshadow, but it’s not your law class. If you really did fall asleep that way, and have no time to redo your entire look, at least wipe off the crazy eyeshadow, touch up with powder, and change your clothes.

Conversely, if you want to be a bikini model, get used to wearing bikinis in strange situations,and being judged on how fit you are by everyone–and I do mean everyone. Additionally, if you’re interested in posing for Playboy, get used to wearing very little, apart from a metaphorically thick skin and an unusually confident sense-of-self, and, unfortunately, having your character assassinated by many non-industry people.

Yes, clothing matters–a lot. However, people also judge based on the behavior that they see, so be sure to treat everyone with respect, regardless of how they look. (In other words, don’t be part of the problem.) You are being watched, and are judged as harshly as you judge others. At the end of the day, regardless of your own life ambitions and style preferences, please remember that it is not your place to judge others based on what they are wearing, regardless of whether or not you yourself would wear it. Everyone deserves the same amount of respect, from Orthodox women to business women to Playboy Bunnies. Dress to make yourself happy and to pursue your own goals, and in turn, respect those who are doing the same, but along a different path. Again: Be the solution, not the problem.

Be sure to dress appropriately (and act appropriately) for where you want to go in life. Then, go ahead and wow people with a personality trait they’d never have guessed, based on your appearance–like the Playboy bunnies I know who also have Masters’ degrees, or the high-powered business women who enjoy hiking and camping in their spare time.

Happy dressing!

About the Author
Rachel-Elise Cotter moved to Israel from the USA in 2009. She's a lifelong dancer, a published model, and a professional in the beauty industry. In 2011 she represented Israel in the International Look Swimwear Bikini Contest, and was 4th runner up overall, out of hundreds of entrants. She loves making people feel beautiful, inside and out!