making expectations visible

We’ve recently found some information about wardrobes and leadership on Urleaderline, a website hosted by the Executive Leadership Centre, Lamar University, a public university in Texas. So these are serious people who ought to be offering pretty sensible evidence-supported advice. Yes?

Read on and decide for yourselves.

(The following are Suggestions Provided by Female Administrators)

When Interviewing for a Job:

When dressing for an interview, the following guidelines are suggested:

  1. The key word is conservative – feminine but modest and business like.  There should be nothing that is distracting e.g. loud colors, tight fitting, too stylish, revealing, etc. *
  2. Clothes – Jacket with slacks or skirt and modest blouse/sweater.  Slacks should be trouser-like, not tight.  A skirt should be below the knee, not tight and worn with hose – no bare legs.
  3. Shoes – Medium heels to give height, but no stilettos.
  4. Jewelry – Conservative/classic style, not gaudy or trendy.
  5. Hair – It should look neat and like you didn’t have to spend much time getting it that way, i.e. no “glamour” styles.  During the interview, keep it out of your face and “still”, i.e. don’t adjust it by brushing it back with your hands, putting it behind your ears, etc.
  6. Make-up – Conservative not “glamorous” make-up you would wear out at night.

When on the Job:

  1. Looking like one of the guys is important.  If the guys at the meeting will be in a suit, wear a suit.  If they will be in a jacket and slacks, wear that.  If the men will be wearing khaki pants and a golf shirt, wear something similar.  You do not want to draw attention to yourself by your clothing.
  2. Along that same line, always avoid highly feminine clothing, short skirts and loud prints.  This encourages your male counterparts to see you more as a woman than as a professional.
  3. Never wear blouses or shirts that are tight, low cut or draw attention to your bosom.  This presents a negative image.  Our country still has a separate set of ethical and moral standards for males and females.  You may not think it is fair but it is what it is!
  4. Don’t wear dangly earrings or cheap gaudy jewelry.  This is distracting and will not project well, especially on television.
  5. But don’t sacrifice “looking good” because you are trying too hard to follow these rules.  Research continues to show that attractive, professional, appropriately dressed females are more successful than those who are not.
  6. The younger you are and the more attractive you are, the more important the attention to your outward appearance.  Your clothes should convey your professionalism, not emphasize your youth and looks.
  1. Clothes:  Conservative suit, dark solid colored or pinstripe.  A conservative sport coat and slacks are acceptable but a suit is better.
  2. Jewelry:  Watch and no more than one ring (other than wedding band).
  3. Hair Style:  Regular haircut – no razor cuts or other special effects.
  4. Facial Hair:  None is best.  A short mustache or chin whiskers might be acceptable but you can’t go wrong by being clean shaven.
  5. Shoes:  Either black or brown (depending on the color of your clothes) and they should be well polished.  Your socks must be a solid color and match your clothes.


We assume that these two lists, written in 2016, are intended to make explicit what might be taken as the usually hidden expectations of school leaders.  There’s a lot we could say about them. But for starters, here are just some of our questions:

  • We are curious about how it is possible to be feminine but not a woman.
  • We wonder whether it is possible to avoid being seen to have a bosom.
  • Why should we try to look like one of the boys? Why should they not try to look like us?
  • Why does the binary opposite of professional appear to be woman?
  • Why do you have to choose between professional and woman?
  • Why do women need to have “height”?
  • And if the principal is meant to be visible, why are women principals told not to draw attention to themselves?
  • Why are there more rules for women than men?

And we are VERY interested in whether these rules hold true even within – as well as outside –  the US, where they were generated.

What do you think?



Oh and yes, I failed these rules regularly. Too much jewellery, T shirt (mostly tight T shirts at that). No jacket. Clearly too much time at the hairdresser. Just as well I’m moderately tall as I’m pretty sure I was wearing flat shoes that day.