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1        Clothes Sabotaging Your Career?

Ruining your vacation? The stories you are about to read are true. Only the names have been changed. This book helps you avoid joining the list of fashion victims. It contains comprehensive information on choosing your best colors and styles for different occupations and destinations throughout the world.

Sam flew cross-country to give a seminar in front of a large audience, and hoped to sell many copies of his book to attendees. He checked his suitcase and books, and wore casual clothes on the plane to be comfortable. His baggage did not arrive, he had to wear his casual clothing, and he had no books to sell.

Clint and Claudia, a clueless couple, booked a cruise vacation with shore excursions. For a hot and humid climate, they packed mostly shorts and sleeveless shirts. At many excursion sites, they were turned away because their clothing did not provide the required coverage.

Marian (the librarian) attended her first library conference and exhibit. She hadn´t known that the exhibit hall would be so cold. The second day, she put a sweater over her blouse and slacks, but the colors clashed. Not that it mattered much. Her basic outfits didn´t fit well since she had gained weight. She hadn´t tried them on while preparing for the trip. Diana had a bout with diarrhea while on a bus tour of China. She did not have a change of clothing in small, hand luggage with her on the bus. Her luggage was stashed in the lower section of the bus, along with all the large luggage of 50 other bus passengers. She had to wait until they arrived at the hotel for the night and all the luggage was unloaded. As my reporter wrote: "This is one of those 'It won´t happen to me' type of accidents that can happen to anyone."

Sally, a TV reporter, changed from brunette to light blond. Now her hair does not go with her skin and wardrobe. Rina, another reporter, straightened her extra-curly hair and now it is breaking, giving a chewed-off appearance.

Robin Jay, author of The Art of the Business Lunch, tells this story. A sales rep used to participate in casual Fridays. He had dropped off a proposal to a friend/client at a bank earlier in the week. On Friday, his client called him to see if he could stop by the bank to review the proposal. No problem. The rep was dressed in what has become quite acceptable dress for the desert climate in which he lived: A golf shirt and khakis. Once at the bank, he was ushered into the conference room where the entire Board of Directors was waiting, in suits and ties. The sales rep knew he was at a distinct disadvantage the moment he walked into the room. He decided on his own, then and there, to do away with casual Fridays. Even without shorts or a bare-midriff top with pierced belly button showing, casual Fridays will almost always do more harm than good. Over the decades, I´ve advised many people on choosing their travel wardrobes and I continue to consult. The first book in this series is It´s In The Bag: The Complete Guide to Lightweight Travel. Although it contains five chapters just on wardrobes, some people wanted more specific recommendations for their individual coloring. Others wanted advice for certain destinations. That´s how this book started, but during the research and writing, it became clear that a practical, travel wardrobe, with all its constraints, could also serve people for their general clothing needs. The list of people who could benefit includes everyone who ventures outside his or her home.

Business people might need to travel on very short notice. Why not make the work wardrobe travel-ready? Wouldn´t that save money and stress? Even if you never travel on business, you´ll learn how to create a work wardrobe to flatter you and convey the image you want. It may even help you get a promotion.

Human Resources professionals can use this book to help employees project the desired image. The author is also available to help develop corporate dress codes, but sometimes HR is part of the problem. One woman wrote me: "Last week, I had a job interview with an HR person who was wearing flip flops with her business attire! Shocking! She was aware of it, and did apologize for her informality. Her excuse? She was hugely pregnant and it was a Friday."

Students preparing to enter the workforce must make a good impression in job interviews and their first months on the job. They need help creating wardrobes without wasting money on items that aren´t worth the cost, or worse, give a bad impression. Career Counselors have here the tools to help students land jobs.

Those going away to school will learn how to make their wardrobes easy-care, thus saving them much laundry time and dry-cleaning money, which could be better spent on pizza. I wish I´d had this book when I was young.

Studying abroad brings another set of problems. In addition to the logistics of designing a compact wardrobe for a long stay, you have cultural differences to consider. Program directors will find this book to be excellent preparation.

During many decades of traveling and studying design and the fashion industry, I've read many books in those fields. Some are in the Bibliography if you want to go into more depth. Included are books on finding your best colors or styles, or dressing to impress at work. Most people today are too busy to read a stack of books, so I've covered all those subjects and more in this book. I don't always agree with what others have written and those authors don't always agree with each other. Most people will find this book sufficient for their needs, and the concepts easy to understand and implement. Following are some general ideas to get you started. The other chapters will go into much greater detail.

Dress for Success and Safety

It's a cartoon icon: The tourist wearing shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and a camera. The truth is that other outfits can also mark you as a tourist, and there are many reasons why you might want to avoid them, and keep a low profile instead. For the record, North American tourists are not the only ones whose clothing often sets them apart from the locals at their destination, but let's begin with what can happen at the airport.

At one end of the spectrum, there are the people in sweat suits, or tank tops and shorts. They can never expect a free upgrade to business or first class if their flight is overbooked in coach. The airline will choose people who are nicely dressed, such as a man wearing dark slacks, a blazer and a subdued shirt. A woman doesn't have to wear a designer outfit; if it looks as though it might have come from a designer boutique, but isn't flashy, that can help. The jacket and pants or skirt should look like a set, and a matching hat is a plus. My husband and I have been moved to first class wearing inexpensive but very neat clothing. A radio-travel-program host told me he missed a first-class upgrade to Europe, and an airline employee even told him that it was because he was wearing a sweat suit! I'll show some comfortable alternatives.

At the other end of the spectrum is the woman I saw (in first class, natch) wearing a Chanel suit and lots of what appeared to be solid gold jewelry. Maybe she travels with several bodyguards. Otherwise, she's asking to get rolled. When traveling, if you've got it, don't flaunt it. Actually, it's better if you don't even have it. A businessman was in a Russian elevator with two other men when one of them asked "Amerikanski?" When he smiled and said "Yes," they took his pricey watch and wallet. I advise leaving the gold in the vault and wearing a "drugstore" watch. Another gentleman told me he was mugged, with serious injuries, for his expensive camera. I take the downright cheap camera that you turn in for processing, or an inexpensive digital. It is also a good idea to choose luggage which does not call attention to itself, or to thieves, with a bright color or complex pattern. Pick a dark color that doesn't clash with your travel wardrobe. Some people choose distinctive luggage so someone else won't accidentally grab it from the baggage carousel but that is another in a long list of problems you won't have if you stick with carry-on luggage.

OK, now you know some things you shouldn't do. How about some positive suggestions? People wear those sweat suits on the airplane because they don't want to wear something tight around the waist, but men can buy conventional dress and casual slacks which have elastic in the waist or other means of adjustment. Women can do the same, and there are sewing instructions in this book if you want to make your own. You can undo the top button on your sport or dress shirt, put the tie in the pocket of your blazer or sport coat and stow it in the overhead bin. You can remove your shoes and put your feet on that soft carry-on you put under the seat in front of yours. Now you are comfortable, but for safety and sanitation, do wear shoes to walk around and visit the restroom!

At your destination, you will encounter fewer problems if you can blend in with the middle-class local population. In some places, that means dark slacks and white shirt for men. In others, any long-sleeve shirt in a "quiet" color will do. Avoid mixing bright colors such as brick with royal. Try to stay in one color family (Chapter 3.) You don't want to stand out in a crowd. Although people may wear polo shirts or even tank tops to museums in your town, residents of Paris and Vienna do not. Locals are less likely than tourists to wear waist packs, but I find that a shoulder purse can get uncomfortable. You'll need to make your own choice in that regard. See Chapter 8.

When visiting religious sites, follow the local customs in terms of covering your head, arms and legs, and removing your shoes. Wear clean sox (old and valid plural of sock, not modern slang.) Women might consider wearing long skirts and head scarves in areas where all the local women do. Shorts and short skirts are illegal in some places. Except for resort areas, it is best to avoid wearing them. Study Chapter 4 and research your destination beforehand.

If you are traveling on business, there is a chance that an associate or client will pick you up at the airport. If your flight arrives late, you may have to go directly to an important meeting. These are both excellent reasons for wearing business attire on the plane. Your clothing will affect how you are treated elsewhere too. Ruth Reichl is a former restaurant critic for the New York Times. In order to experience the same service as other customers, she disguised herself. At one upscale restaurant, she was well-dressed on one visit and clean but frumpy on another. The difference in service was remarkable (suspicions confirmed) and the restaurant was very embarrassed when she exposed it.

Do not carry your passport, credit cards and other valuables in your purse, pocket or day pack. Use a money belt under your clothing for these things. I carry only a little money in the purse or waist pack for bus fare, museum admission, etc. If you go out at night, it might be wise to leave your passport and extra cash in the hotel safe. Hotels often keep your passport the first night anyway, and the authorities are accustomed to this.

It is an advantage to be able to move quickly away from an unpleasant or dangerous situation. Wear shoes that are comfortable and won't slow you down. I often get by with just one pair of moccasins with cushion soles. Traveling with just one carry-on bag is another security measure. You can move quickly through transportation terminals and be a lot less vulnerable to thieves and scam artists. It isn't easy to squeeze into a telephone booth or restroom stall with a lot of luggage. You can travel well-dressed, even on long, overseas trips, with just one carry-on bag. My Lightweight Travel book shows how.

Getting the Most from this Book

Many people will buy this book because their trips are imminent, and they will try to implement at least some of the advice in the short time available to them. That's certainly better than doing nothing, but if you've ever tried to put together a travel wardrobe quickly, you know how difficult it is to achieve a practical and coordinated wardrobe in just a week or two. Inevitably, you will have to make some compromises, which means you won't be totally happy with the results. Building a wardrobe that works for you, instead of the reverse, takes a lot of time and effort up front, but makes your life easier downstream.

Color is very important in our lives. It affects how we feel and how we look to ourselves and others. Many people take the path of least resistance. They wear what their family members buy for them or whatever looks appealing in the store. It's unlikely that your family has ever tried to figure out which colors are the most flattering for you. My mother and I have similar appearances except for one crucial difference. Her skin has a golden tone that tans and I have a very pale, cool complexion that burns. If an item looked good on her, she figured it would look good on me, but the beige, brown and warm-red clothes looked wrong with my skin and I hated them. Gradually I realized that my most flattering colors were all the cool colors and black. When I became a teenager, I started pushing for these colors on shopping trips. I still received errant colors as gifts but most of my wardrobe was headed in the right direction.

Chapter 2 is very technical. If pressed for time, skip the RGB section but the other sections will help you to understand Chapter 3. Then spend some quality time in fabric stores until you find the colors that are right for you. Develop your personal color schemes and stay with them. Some people think that having clothing in every possible color gives them more variety, but they end up with a closet full of items that cannot be mixed, and actually have fewer usable outfits than those who stick to the plan. Travel makes this even more important. In the ideal travel wardrobe, every top goes with every bottom. You may not achieve that completely, but you can come close.

Next, read the sections for your possible destinations in Chapter 4 to learn what clothing restrictions you may encounter, and any relevant sections of Chapter 6. Then you will have a good idea of the types of clothing you will need, and can proceed to Chapter 5. That chapter is designed to be fun. Instead of including photographs, I've included line drawings of people in various outfits that you can modify according to whim. You may make copies of those pages for your personal use. Then you can add your own details and color to the sketches. You can also send those little people to PhotoShop or a similar program and change them in innumerable ways. You can even paste a photo of your face on them! Be creative and have fun! Then read the remaining chapters and learn how to implement your designs.

 

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