Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bad Day 302--Do you know fashion?

Two of my favorite things collided today with a big bang--diplomacy and fashion. OK, not really. There was no actual collision, but someone started a conversation at work who clearly knows nothing about fashion. The problem is that the dress code for the Foreign Service Institute for most long-term training classes is "business casual," but no one has ever defined exactly what that means. To some people (the same people probably who think "no food" means it's OK to eat a bowl of cereal in class. With milk. And slurp it.) this means scruffy jeans and flip-flops and hoodies. Some people think that business casual means you remove your tie, or wear a sport-coat. Then someone said it means your shirt has a collar--even women's shirts. Well, if that's the case then I will have to go out and buy some new shirts because unless a turtle neck counts as a collar, I don't own any. Really. I hate shirts that button up because of the gapping problem, so most of my shirts look like this which is completely business/diplomacy appropriate. It's even under Banana Republic's "stylish at work" section.

One of the fuddy duddies self appointed dress code police employees, complained about the flip-flops and said they were only appropriate for the beach. Someone else claimed that a hoodie could never be business casual. And obviously these were men because I have bronze, jeweled flip flops that I would never, ever wear to the beach and look awesome with a wrap dress and here is a picture of a hoodie that would be perfect for business casual especially at FSI where they keep the thermostat set somewhere around 45 degrees. Fahrenheit. I'm not kidding. I always need a sweater.

So obviously the complainers are either men, or women who don't know fashion. I'm going to go for men because of the following comment. Someone suggested that people look to GQ for advice on what is appropriate business casual for men. And women should look at fashion magazines and they would have us looking spiffy in a jiffy. So, you know what's coming, don't you? Let's actually look at fashion magazines and put up pictures from their websites to look for advice on how to dress like a diplomat in language training. First GQ.


OK. That's a little dressy and the dinner jacket might get ink or pencil dust or cafeteria food on it, but no one could say you were under-dressed. Still, it's a nice look and is exactly what everyone thinks diplomats wear, so why not?

OK. Now for the women. Here is what is on Vogue's website currently. It's a John Galliano, in case you were wondering.

While I love the boots and the deconstructed skirt is awesome, the pink body stocking would be hard to go to the bathroom in. Also the train might get caught in my office chair, but the hat could be great for bad hair days. You could put somebody's eye out with those metal stick things on her shoulder, but it could be a new tool for "defensive diplomacy." Plus, after six hours of language training, sometimes you want to put your classmate's eyes out.

Now Elle.

While Kerry Washington has great cleavage and is in fabulous shape and stars in a show set in DC, I think it might be appropriate to wear a bra to work. Also, she is wearing denim cut-offs which I'm pretty sure are the exact opposite of what the fuddy duddies/dress code police want us to wear. So this picture is not very helpful.

Marie Claire.

Perfect! I always wanted to dress like Hannah Montana. And I could still put someone's eye out with that hair.

So, as you can see, women's fashion mags are not so helpful about showing what exactly is business casual. I love them, and I love fashion, but a glamazon from New York has a very different idea about what to wear than most people in the Department. I wish we were a more fashion forward Foreign Service, but we're really quite conservative at heart. I will still do my best to push the envelope and stay away from the black-pantsuit-plus-flag-pin brigade. And I will proudly wear my bright pink wrap dress to seminars and speeches. But I draw the line at shirts with collars. No. Way. I don't care if they ever do write a dress-code. That is one rule I would refuse to follow. Also, I like flip-flops. And hoodies.

Emily Bazelon of Slate magazine is one of my favorite writers and she put up this article about Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild who is definitely having a worse day than me. 


See, he is in jail for assault and false imprisonment for what he did to a college co-ed that he coerced back to his home. Since Ms. Bazelon is such a great writer, let me quote her directly:
May Joe Francis get the maximum five years he now faces for the assault and false imprisonment convictions. And you’ll forgive me if I don’t cry over the demise of his company:Girls Gone Wild went bankrupt in February. Also not making me sad: The error message I get when I click on
Well said, Ms. Bazelon. You've given me a lot to be grateful for right there.

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