Arguments over campus dress codes heat up when we focus on details. They resolve when we ask a different question: What is the student's major objective?
If a female aims for a position as a Las Vegas showgirl, her placement of bling may impress an agent. If she hopes for a career as a negligee model, the size and shape of her anatomy may also determine the catalogues in which she appears. If she is planning on becoming a celebrity, her body may well showcase her on-screen image.
If her interest is medicine, however, she must decide whether she wants patients and colleagues staring at her breasts. Does she also want infants and toddlers grabbing for her chest? Does she want to treat men-or wrestle them? If a resume provides an introduction, so do dress codes-the visible signals of our intentions. What we place front and center means: Start Here.
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But skin is a delicate medium. Show too much, and customers never get past it. Show too little, and supervisors may wonder why individuals cannot leave home without taking their whole wardrobe with them. Costume dressing can provide enormous entertainment. It can also carry this message: Unemployed actor.
Theater is a major all by itself. Enter as a bizarre character, and soon someone may ask for your script and credits. By contrast, the corporate world dictates that its workers reflect a company's values, including dress codes. These often start with the color blue for idealism; they may also emphasize natural and neutral colors to put customers at ease. Tweeds and blazers usually smack of financial success.
Even dress down days in corporate America may beget competition for whose sports togs are classiest. "Dressing down" rarely means baring chests and abdomens-unless an employer franchises fitness centers. Gauge every choice as a match to a poster of you as Employee of the Year. Ten years from now, will you be proud of your advertising?
All these considerations begin in the classroom. Every student talks about a future career. Dedicated instructors know that bare flesh provokes flattery and stares. You will show the seriousness of your intentions by sending the carefully chosen signals of dress codes. You can choose to be an employee or a wannabe. Which will it be? Thank you, Meg Sonata!