Dress Code

“In my own city, my name procures me respect; in a strange city, my clothes.” – Hebrew Proverb

I recently attended a market analytics conference. Various market research companies were presenting a range of analyses designed ostensibly to inform, hopefully to titillate and, ultimately, to stimulate attendees to pay heavily for their services.

This was a gathering of C-level managers, all of whom looked the part. They were all attired in suits and tinged with just the right amount of grey. As an aggregate, they were natty and sophisticated. They looked like a million dollars, even if in well used notes, to use the words of author Angela Carter.

I have been to several such conferences over the years. Dress is always business casual and that is how I packed. As I entered the large hall with a screen the size of Iowa, I noticed all the suits. My heart sank a couple of inches. I guess I should have looked more closely at the dress code on the invitation. I leaned over to a hostess and asked her if I had missed something. She assured me that there was no requirement to wear a suit and that I should relax and enjoy myself. With no alternative, I resolved to do just that.

It was as if I had stumbled onto the set of the Thomas Crown Affair.

So there I was in dress pants and a merino blend v-neck sweater over a Ted Baker London classic fit check sport shirt. Presentable, I would say. After the first Power Point, which lasted a very long 60 minutes, I noticed that most of the jackets were hung over seat backs. By the mid-morning break, most of the ties followed suit. When the conference resumed after lunch, open collars and sweaters were out in force.

It was all so very gratifying. When I first walked in, it was as if I had stumbled onto the set of the Thomas Crown Affair bowler hat scene. These people had originally chosen conformity over comfort. And then, given a viable option, they quickly opted for the relaxed fit. Good on them.

The Cats in the Hats

“It is our responsibilities, not ourselves, that we should take seriously.” – Peter Ustinov

Helen is the secretary/receptionist in our Tech Center. She is tall. Very tall. A cornstalk in a field of alfalfa. And it’s not like she slouches to be less conspicuous. She stands straight as a lighthouse on a promontory, a beacon for ships lost at sea. If Helen were a ship, she’d be… uh… a tall ship.

Late Friday afternoon, her daughter Nancy came to pick her up at work. They were going out for a night on the town. Or perhaps tea at Downton Abbey. Nancy is an impossible inch or two taller than Helen. The twin towers still stand… and glide in tandem down the Small Office corridors. Except on this day, they were going to meet up with their sisters in the Red Hat Society. They were appropriately attired for the occasion.

A cornstalk in a field of alfalfa.

To be sure, they would be easy to spot in their red hats and purple dresses even if they were not so statuesque. It should be added that their hats were exquisite with their Sinamay fascinators, tall feathers and hair combs. If I were a cardinal in flight, I would have found them impossible to resist.

They are vivacious, curvaceous, in equal measure buoyant and flamboyant, no longer young and not the least bit worried about it. I stared without shame and admired them without reservation.