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A few years ago a 24-year-old woman was evicted from a large mall in Newport News, Virginia because other mall shoppers complained that the shorts she was wearing were too short. Local residents were surprised, because even though the Mall has a dress code, no one had ever been evicted. Just how scanty the woman's shorts were may never be known, but the guard who asked her to leave reported that a small area of the woman's derriere was visible. Obviously, they were not Bermuda shorts; they were probably closer to "Daisy Dukes." Fine for a Hollywood movie, but not so appropriate for your average Mall. More recently the same thing happened on an airline flight.

Inappropriate or provocative dressing has become a serious problem throughout the country, and Hollywood deserves a portion of the blame. Young film stars dress provocatively because they benefit from it. They get photographed and receive publicity. Unfortunately, young women outside the Hollywood milieu copy their dress mode, but instead of benefiting, they lose. In the working environment, they lose credibility, they lose respect.  

It might be worth re-considering the attire you wear out in public, if you care about your reputation. Paris Hilton, the Queen of provocative "cheesecake" attire, has been shunned by her "old money" socialite friends. They find her behavior and her dress unacceptable.  

Interestingly enough, the young woman evicted from the Virginia mall didn't believe the way she was dressed was inappropriate. Other shoppers did, and they were offended by her manner of dress. So offended that they asked that action be taken. It reminds me of an incident that occurred at a very large oceanfront grocery store about three years ago. As I entered the premises, I encountered a plumpish woman in her 50s traipsing around the store in a scanty bikini. I confess to being shocked and came close to asking the store manager to ask her to drape a towel around herself. I didn't, but now I wish I had. Inappropriate behavior as well as inappropriate dress is simply unacceptable in public.  

Last week I was interviewed by a prominent newspaper whose fashion editor wanted to know my position about men going shirtless in malls and other public places. It seems that this is a phenomenon that has cropped up recently in some large East Coast cities. While it's not quite the same as a woman going topless in public, it is still not appropriate dress for the mall or a restaurant. If you want to brand yourself as a classy person, save the bare chest for the boardwalk not the mall.  

In July I spoke at a prestigious conference in Orlando, and one of the participants asked the question I always get. It's asked nearly every time I'm interviewed. "Do you have to wear stockings in hot climates – and can you wear open-toed shoes to the office in hot weather?" The answer:  if you cannot tell whether or not you have stocking on, you may go without them. In other words, if we are not distracted by bulging veins at the instep, broken blood vessels, calloused heels, dirty or ugly toes or toenails, or by discolored or too-pale skin, then you may not need to wear stockings. Stockings are the equivalent of makeup for the legs. They cover up or disguise a multitude of things that might otherwise prove distracting. .  

When it comes to open-toed shoes, we are still in transition. In New York City and Hollywood, it's a go, but most of my corporate clients tell me they do not want to strappy shoes and toes. They are considered by many to be for resort wear only, not for office wear. So, the answer at this moment in time is that each individual firm sets its requirements and standards. Even in South Florida, most financial institutions in a competitive market will not permit open-toed shoes. They know that every single element of image conveys a message and is powerful. And they leave nothing to chance.  

Sandy Dumont is an internationally-recognized leader in the field of image and color. She has written and published 5 eBooks on image and you can get two of them free by visiting her website:  www.theimagearchitect.com. Contact her at 757/627-6669.



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