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Date: September 2022
Subject: Sartorial advice from the grave of Vogue’s greatest fashion editor of the 20th century
Copy: ACE FELLOWS (all classes)

Not enough new presidents’ academies and leadership programs focus on self-presentation beyond the importance of a well-made suit and comfortable shoes. Should all presidents wear the trappings of centuries-old power and privilege? No. I loathe nostalgia. Anyone can be a president today; let’s not be snobs regarding attire and expression of self. Design the self; design your leadership.

You’ll want plenty of pizzazz and something a little extra as a president today. Don’t be boring! You must stand out if you’re going to make it! There is no uniform except good grooming and style that suits your body, skin tone, hair and of course, point of view and identity.

Banish …

As for colors … banish the black, burn the blue and bury the beige.

Shoes with tassels (a.k.a. “poodle shoes”). Even Cary Grant, as John Robie in the movie To Catch a Thief only wore them around his villa pruning roses, and you are no Cary Grant! The level of unnecessary frivolity should be self-evident.

Shoes costing more than a week’s salary of your institution’s lowest-paid employee: in a word … wrong!

Wedge flip-flops with rhinestones (or any flip-flops and shower shoes). Your presidency isn’t a rerun of The Real World: Cancun. One word … ghastly! You can be simply mad about everything happening with the students without looking ridiculous.

Acetate ties and scarves sporting the university logo (with stretched logo and wrong PMS colors) procured from the campus bookstore. They aren’t even flame retardant! How can you seriously talk about a sustainable campus wearing those accessories?

Knock-off Chanel jackets with metallic threads woven throughout. No need to look like a smug mademoiselle. Black-and-white photo of Diana Vreeland, a white woman with short dark hair wearing a long necklace and holding a cigarette.

Faux gold or silver metal logo lapel pins. My dear, everyone already knows where you work. You’re not the grand master of a secret society. You’re president, for heaven’s sake! Acquire a vintage brooch instead.

Glitter-infused makeup, body lotion, hairspray, nail polish and fabric – not even for fundraising galas. Now, if you’re impersonating Cher, Bob Mackie designed your ensemble and you are about to sing “Believe” to the alums, perhaps it can be done. No? Ridiculous!

Full-length puffy coats. Unless required for the secondary purpose of soundproofing your conference room, then, by all means, a full-length puffy coat!

What’s a Must …

Manicures and pedicures. I love a good red lacquer. Note: French manicures are so 2010, and I had the privilege of being born in Paris during La Belle Époque!

Regular attention to hair and skin. Just say no to helmet hair. Just because Queen Elizabeth has held on to the same coiffure for more than a half century doesn’t mean it’s a model of leadership countenance. Is your hair curly? Free it from relaxers and curling irons. Is it thinning? Shave it short.

Socks. No amount of dusting powder or Poo-Pourri spray can ward off unpleasant odors emanating from sweat-saturated leather loafers. Such a scent can derail the most serious of cabinet meetings.

Underwear and general comportment. Not to be indelicate, but we are vastly uninterested in becoming aware if you’re riding a wire while hosting a panel discussion on stage.

Regular (often) dry cleaning and washing of your clothes. Don’t forget to remove the bran muffin from your coat pocket.

Why Not Just …

Try a cotton trapeze dress from Zuri with layer upon layer of vintage beads. Simply divine!

Wear a chiffon or silk caftan with sequins and silk brocade slippers for that formal. Channeling Endora from Bewitched, not Mrs. Roper from Three’s Company, will have you commanding your audience. Bonus: Say goodbye to shapewear and tired feet, too.

Sport colors that compliment (I think this should be complement) your skin tones rather than wearing the school’s colors. Very few people look their best in orange and aqua or even gold and navy. If you would never buy that color frock before you were president, don’t start now! The average tenure of presidents today is only three to five years. Be thoughtful of such a wardrobe investment. Buy a tasteful school pennant made of felt to wave at games if you must.

Slip on some brightly colored socks and jaunty Cole Haan suede oxfords. That says, “I believe in creative problem-solving!” far better than the re-soled Bass Weeguns you’ve owned since graduate school.

Be yourself, and don’t try to dress like you think a president should dress. Remember, it’s not the dress but how you live in the dress that matters.

—The Ghost of DV

*This is completely fictitious.

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