While this seems like an entirely simple concept, you'd be surprised how often it floats over people's heads. No, believe it or not, I am not going to tell you to dress professional if you feel you are attending a high-class event - I have heard this quite a few times already, and you know what? I really dislike this idea, and I have an actual reason why I do.
"But Nicole!" I can already hear people shouting out, especially my mother, "If you're meeting with a very upperclass client, you have to dress appropriately, that's just what you do, it's how it's done, you have to be 'professional'." Well, I'm sorry to say that while some of your potential peers or clients might believe that's true, I don't. I aruge that what is more important is a 'professional' (i.e. Confident) attitude.
Let me explain. You could be in the prettiest, most expensive clothes in the world - maybe they were even hand crafted by a famous textile artist that you happen to have an in with - but if you aren't feeling the clothes, if it feels wrong because you're only in them due to people's expectations, then I doubt you're going to be giving off the right vibes. Agree?
Does this mean dress like a slob? Of course not. It means dress in what feels right to you. So if high-class, sophisticated clothing makes you feel professional and like you belong with the big hitters that you're mingling with, then go ahead and wear it! But if you're content in jeans and paint splattered shoes, then just be yourself and wear that. For god sakes you're an artist, quirky behavior has long been synonymous with our career. And before you protest, let me just point out that Dale Chihuly always, and I mean always, wears paint splattered shoes out wherever he goes. It has been said that it is even part of his image as an artist and that he splatters every pair of brand new shoes with paint, so that he will always have that 'fresh out of the studio' look. I don't know whether or not this is true, but clearly his career has been rather successful, and I think that's proof enough that a pair of rough shoes or quirky wear will not be the cement to end your career.
To anyone who knows me and reads this thinking, "This is a built up excuse on why she thinks she can justify wearing her cat ear headband, her hairstyle, her clothes - " just stop yourself right there, please. (I assume) We're all aritsts here, and what about the term artist is synonymous with the idea of being so judgmental about things that do not matter? The great artists break the rules, so why do I always see people trying to set nonfunctioning rules and put walls up?
I remember last year after a large commission for the new Sheridan campus, there was a black tie opening that the glass students were invited to. We happened to be passing through the area before hand on a field trip that day, I was in a skull t-shirt and paint stained jeans. When my teacher asked, I explained to him that I had not been planning on attending the event, and that I clearly lacked the proper eveningwear. He insisted that I should go, that I was an art student and people would understand. So after a failed search for a last minute dress at the mall, I went to the event in my ill suited clothing. I know that some fellow peers hold that against me, that they judge me for being 'unprofessional' at a classy event, but I am also 100% sure that I had a better evening than any other student there.
I stood out in a sea of well dressed alumni in black suits and fancy dresses and should have been the most awkward person there (I'm actually surprised they let me in at all), but instead of hanging on to my fellow classmates, I socialized with these 'highclass' strangers. I had wonderful conversations, they gave me pointers on business and life (relevant to their field of work), we taste tested the odd dishes together (like caramlized duck), and I think we even spoke of wines and desserts. So if you cannot tell, I am really thankful that my teacher insisted I attend the event, because I had forgotten how well I can socialize with strangers (I swear, I'm wonderful with strangers, just horrible with classmates and family), that evening he indirectly helped me regain a great stroke of confidence.
That is not to say, of course, that I would condemn myself to paint stained jeans. There are moments when I would like to wear fancy clothing and expensive outerwear, but these choices are based on my personal taste, not fear of anyone's judgment, nor fear for lack of confidence.