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Is Attire Always Going to be Weird?

Posted on November 1, 2021


Photo Sarah Moss and Denver City and County Building

Today’s Morning Buzz is by civic dreamer and doer Sarah Moss, MPA, who has worked in local, state, and federal government. She is a strategist based in Denver who helps clients solve policy and political puzzles across the United States. Connect on LinkedIn and Twitter and read her past ELGL posts.



‘I propose business casual attire,’ I said on a video call as I presented a draft agenda for the annual retreat to the Colorado Youth Advisory Council’s two 16-year-old co-chairs.

“I just feel weird telling people what to wear,” said one of the co-chairs.

“Plus, equity,” said the other co-chair. “Like if people don’t own nicer clothes and can’t afford to go buy them?”

What followed was a lengthy, unplanned, and rambling monologue by yours truly. I think the points I covered included:

  • Yes, it can get weird, especially when it gets into policing women’s bodies.
  • My job is to advise you and prepare you so that state legislators take you and your policy ideas seriously. That ranges from teaching you research methods, to coaching you on your draft problem/solution policy statements, to supporting you in how you present yourselves. I would do you a disservice if I didn’t tell you how the legislators will dress.
  • Part of being professional is knowing how to look the part and be appropriate. You wouldn’t wear a soccer uniform to your choir concert.
  • Again, yes, attire is weird. Usually, it’s harder for women. I wish I could tell you that getting dressed each morning in my 40s is much easier than when I was 16, but I’d be lying. I hope it will get easier for you.

What I did not talk about was all of the outdated, overly-detailed dress codes I’ve witnessed (and been subjected to) in my career. I couldn’t help but wonder: Where is all this attire/dress code stuff going? What will it be like when those two 16-year-old co-chairs are in their 40s?

Does your local gov have a good, modern approach to attire and dress codes? Let me know, and I’ll post it here.

Parks and Recreation, via GIPHY

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