March 3, 2004

Dress Well, Cheaply

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Students can dress for success on a tight budget — that was the message of Monday’s Attire for Hire fashion show, coordinated by Cornell Urban Scholars, the Office of Minority Educational Affairs and the Cornell Career Center.

The show, held in Kennedy Hall’s Call Auditorium, sought to educate students on where to shop for professional clothes, according to Craig Jones, program coordinator.

The show developed from two similar shows presented last year, one of which was sponsored by Aramark Corporation and entitled Dress For Success. Price was not a major concern of that show, however, and focused more on business work place environments. This year’s show not only broadened its theme to shopping for less, but also displayed clothing acceptable in a variety of job-related settings, ranging from non-profit to retail, business attire to casual.

“You do only get one chance to make an impression. 80 percent of that chance is based on appearance. The way you dress shows your attention to detail … your level of maturity,” said Jennifer DeRosa, assistant director for employer and alumni relations, and the show’s host.

Whether dressed for a casual or business setting, DeRosa deemed professionalism and neatness two of the most important factors when entering the work place. She related a story about a manager she worked for who would not hire applicants based on their choice of lipstick or nail polish color, demonstrating the importance of appearance.

Male students sporting appropriate business attire modeled workplace “do’s” for the audience, although they were not without a comparison, a workplace “don’t” modeled by an unshaven Nate Abbott ’05. Lawrence Bremner ’06, an audience member chosen to critique Abbott’s outfit, commented that “there are some extreme wrinkles. Is that a stain? Oh, that’s your shirt.”

After Abbott’s appearance, models wearing women’s business attire “do’s” walked out before the audience. This presentation also had its fashion “don’t,” however, as Yiwei Wang ’04 came in out in a miniskirt, platform sandals and carrying a huge umbrella. Regarding her outfit, Demetra Dentes ’70, senior associate director of employer and alumni relations and the fashion commentator, said, ” I was going to ask Yiwei to sit down and see how this would look to an interviewer, but I think I will skip that part.”

The low costs of appropriate interview attire shocked the audience almost as much as the over-the-top “don’ts” — model Tamir Lance’s ’04 Oscar De La Renta cashmere and wool sports coat retailed at $395, but was purchased for only $6.99. According to the presentation, students can save money by shopping at discount stores.

DeRosa also had some specific tips for women in the workplace: Bring small bags rather than large totes, dresses are not always considered professional, keep skirts knee length or longer and “stay away from those capri pants! … You should be doing the talking, not your outfit.” She added that even in casual dress settings, one should avoid wearing sneakers, sweatpants and flip-flops.

“After attending Attire for Hire, I realized I had been dressing inappropriately for all my interviews. The brown belt does not go with the black shoes!” said Diana Cartwright ’06.

Between the different categories of clothing, members of the audience were chosen to participate in a game of The Price is Right and guess the retail or purchase price of some of the clothing. As it turned out, Lance’s Oscar De La Renta sports coat cost the same amount as his socks, a fact that surprised many audience members including the game’s participants. In the showcase showdown, Price is Right contestants were asked to guess the total purchase or retail price of ten previously-modeled outfits. The answer for the retail price was $2,380.38, but the clothes were purchased for $289.81, proving Dentes’ introductory, ” We can dress to impress while spending less.”

DeRosa’s invited students to visit her office in their interview clothing if they would like an opinion on their impression.

Archived article by Ikea Hamilton