How should you look when running for office?

I was having lunch with a friend who commented on my book saying that she agreed with everything I wrote “except for one part.” She took umbrage at the part of my book where I suggested how a candidate should dress. Specifically, my suggestions for how women should dress more conservatively when speaking in public.

My reason for this suggestion does not come from my thinking that men are superior to women and should do as I say. Rather that you have to appeal to a broad spectrum of voters. You should not want to wear clothing or look offensive to someone you are trying to get to like you. The best way to do this is to look and dress in a non-offensive manner.

For example, there are several different types of shirts for men to wear such as a t-shirt, collard polo shirt or a dress shirt. Depending on the event, the audience could be offended if a man wore the wrong type of shirt. As I stated in the book, you should dress how your audience is dressed or the expectation of dress for the event you are attending. If it is an outdoor event on a sunny day, a man could wear a polo shirt and still be perceived as looking appropriate. If he chose to wear a t-shirt, that may be perceived as too casual and people would be turned off by his message. Have you ever not listened to someone because of how they looked? Did you not put faith in their words because of how they were dressed? Acceptance of the message, I believe, is also tied to how the messenger looks.

When it comes to women, and this is solely my opinion, I feel that they should not dress sexy to appeal to their audience. Yes, commercials use sex to sell all kinds of products. You are trying to sell yourself to voters (men and women). That is why I do not suggest women wear low cut blouses and clothing revealing lots of cleavage. People’s attention will be focused elsewhere instead of listening to your message. Women should wear skirts that do not go far above the knees. If a woman chooses to wear pants to an event, that is her option. In some regions of the country, a woman wearing dress pants can be an issue. A benchmark for the correct dress could be something like you should dress like you are going to church on Sunday or a really important job interview with a Fortune 500 company.

Of course when you look good, you feel good, but there is nothing wrong with looking good without revealing too much skin. Your constituents want to see you looking the part of the office you are seeking. If you do dress inappropriately for an event, people will be talking about you and not your message. They need to remember your policy points not if you were alluring.

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