S: Our current vignette starts off talking about A&A's new dress code. Does your office have anything like that, Heather?

H: No, not at all. We're a highly diverse bunch when it comes to clothes, especially among the women. We range from a few people who are considered our fashion leaders, always very stylishly dressed, to people on the other end of the spectrum like me. My fashion philosophy these days is "Hey, this fits!" I pretty much wear jeans and sweaters every day. Of course that's in the office just interacting with other staffers at the paper. When I have a visitor or go out to meet someone I make more of an effort.

S: So what are your fashion guidelines at times like that?

H: Keep it professional and keep it simple would be my motto. A good rule of thumb might be "Would I feel comfortable wearing this to a first meeting with a boyfriend or a girlfriend's parents?" So not too big or flashy with the accessories, for example, and not too many of them.
When I was a girl, my mother used to advise me "When in doubt, take something away." So usually one or two focal points of an outfit are enough, like nice earrings and an interesting patten on a skirt, or a colorful scarf and a bracelet. Not standout earrings, big necklace, firery colored blouse, patterned skirt.

S: Well, as mentioned in the vignette, there are different standards for different industries, of course.

H: Oh, certainly. A banker should always be thinking look responsible, look like an island of calm in all storms at sea. But someone in interior design or fashion would want to emphasize creativity, individual style. So daring is probably a better look for them. But even then I think you can be bold or unique without being overdone.

S: What do you think about the financial company's ultra-strict rules?

H: They do sound over the top at first hearing but I can understand the company wanting to avoid certain faux pas. There are a lot of people out there, for example, who could use advice about how much perfume to put on. I have sat on the train just dying at times because the person next to me had on so much my eyes were watering and my nose was running.

S: The vignette also mentions how standards have changed over the years. It's hard to believe pants were once scandalous for women, isn't it?

H: It is. I've mentioned the etiquette columnist that I'd admire in the States. She once got a letter from a reader who was complaining about that very thing. He didn't like the pantsuits being worn by some of his female employees. He called them "close to indecent." Then he mentioned that some others were wearing nice skirts and blouses and asked how he could encourage others to do the same. Pretty sexist, right? His concern should be how well they do their jobs, not wether their fashion choices meet his personal preferences. The columnist answered "Appoint the women in skirts to executive positions where they can serve as role models for the others." She wasn't trying to get the women out of pants. She was just tongue-in-cheek trying to get him to treat his female employees like employees, not decorations in his office.