Dressing Room Trade-Offs

Trying on clothes shouldn't take an hour!


At least it doesn't take that long to try on shoes.

Skirt: JC Penney

Tank and Cardigan: Target

Shoes: Old Navy

Necklace and Earrings: NY & Co.

Like the outfit? See more details here!


I’m going to look at a marketing and operations conundrum in today’s post, inspired by several experiences at retailer H&M. I received a gift card to the store for Christmas, but I’ve yet to make a purchase. Every time I go in there, the line for the dressing room is ridiculous! We have two locations in the Dallas area, and both of them have terrible issues with the dressing room situation. My sister dropped by an H&M recently, and she also mentioned that she had to wait in line forever to try something on. You might be thinking that this means that H&M is popular and thriving, but in reality, it’s hurting their business.

First, the obvious issue: long lines are making people completely abandon their purchase. I’ve seen women trudging toward the line carrying an armload of clothes, only to look up and down the line in dismay, and dump that armload of clothes onto a nearby table and walk out of the store! Again, some might think it’s ok, because you’ve got all these people willing to wait in line, so they’ll make up for the abandoned purchase. Except, the reason the dressing room line is so long stems from another issue that also affects purchasing.

H&M fit and quality are hit or miss at best, meaning that you have to grab 3 of every item if you want to have any shot at finding something that fits. Sure, in theory, people are carrying in loads of stuff that they’d like to purchase. The problem is that they have no intention of purchasing every item, because at least 2 of the 3 sizes they’ve brought in won’t actually fit! Now you’ve made the lines ridiculously long with no greater shot at increasing the average purchase, and you’ve made other potential buyers abandon their purchase altogether! On top of all that, they’re forced to hire extra floor personnel to handle all the re-stocking because customers are grabbing more items than they normally would if the fit were somewhat consistent.

So if trying on the outfits is such a pain due to the long line and unreliable fit, why don’t customers just buy all the items they like in several sizes, try them on in the comfort of their own home, and return the unwanted items? Because the buy/return lines are ALSO ridiculously long! Maybe people are starting to try that, but instead of reducing the time spent waiting to try on items, they’ve actually just doubled the waiting time in both places. I’ve found one or two items that fit, but I wasn’t willing to wait AGAIN to actually make the purchase, and I’m definitely not willing to make a purchase first, hope it fits, and then have to come back to wait in line.

H&M isn’t trying to sell an amazing shopping experience or the highest quality clothing, but their unreliable fit is leading to long lines in the dressing room and check-out counter, which is causing a high rate of purchase abandonment. There’s a few ways to fix this: make the fit more reliable, build more dressing rooms, or hire more employees to deal with the chaos that their operational problems have caused. This is a pretty classic case study with obvious flaws in operational and marketing execution, and I’m hoping the drop in sales will make them change their strategy in the near future… I want to spend my giftcard, after all! Like the outfit? See more details here!

Muscle Confusion

Same Inputs=Same Outputs=No Big Ideas

Dress: Target

Cardigan: Target

Scarf: Hallmark (gift from my mom from Hallmark of all places!)

Boots: Ross

Like the outfit? See more details here!


If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ll generally see a status update about how I’m heading to boot camp, ready to get my butt kicked. Sometimes you just need to sweat it out, you know? The key to continuous physical improvement is muscle confusion. You start to plateau when you go through the same motions without challenging your body. Have you ever been water skiing or snow skiing, and realized that your body hurts in places you didn’t know had muscles? What about rock climbing? I didn’t realize that my fingers and wrists could wield so much power (or, in my case, so little power!) I went through a few years with a body plateau because my gym routine was stagnate. I’d go to the gym, run 3 miles on the treadmill in just under 30 minutes, and then do free weights for another half hour. I’d spend an hour at the gym 4x per week, and my body stayed the exact same. Then I got antsy, and I started doing the elliptical, lifting heavy 2x per week, and finally, mixing up my routine between high intensity interval training and some combination of weights and cardio. At this point, you’re probably wondering what muscle confusion has to do with business.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”. Sometimes we get so entrenched in doing business they way we’ve always done business, that we just can’t move forward. We come in at exactly 7:42 am every morning, sit in the same position at our desk for exactly 8 hours, and drive home on the same road at 5:04 pm every evening. In my case, I’m even wearing the same outfits! No wonder we aren’t coming up with the next big ad campaign, the latest new gadget, or the next great company! There’s no disruption to jolt us into a great idea. I’ve been feeling antsy for the next big thing, but I’ve been going through the motions every day, so the next big thing just isn’t happening. I told my husband that I feel like the daily grind has just beaten the awesome right out of me!

So, the past few days, I’ve been trying to do some brain and life confusion to get off my plateau. A group used a new software in class last week, so I decided to learn that software. If you haven’t played around with Prezi, I highly recommend it! It’s a cloud-based presentation software that zooms around the page for transitions, and it’s a nice change from traditional PowerPoint (be forewarned though, the zooming can make you a little nauseous if you work in it for too long!). Vimeo is next on my list of new software to play with, which will hopefully unlock some more creative areas of my brain. I’ve decided to direct the drama portion for a children’s musical at church. I tried a new recipe last night, which was delicious. Even the little things, like coming in to the office early, should help jog my brain. Any other blogs or activities I should try to get off my plateau?

Blog Perceptions

What is the image that I project? Is it authoritative and professional?

Pants: NY & Co.

T-shirt: Forever 21

Vest: NY & Co.

Necklace: NY & Co.

Earrings: Silpada

Heels: Alfani Step ‘n Flex

Like the outfit? Click here for more details!


Part of my New Year’s resolutions include some goals for the blog. I’ve had several experiences over the past few months that have made me consider the perception of my blog, and whether I believe it’s accurate. Fair warning, this post might get a little raw and a little ranty, but in the spirit of transparency, I decided to publish this post.

First, the obvious: I’m female. Second, more obvious: I don’t write “for women”. Initially, I started this blog to write “for marketers”, and over the course of posting, this morphed into writing “for business people”. Notice that nowhere in any of my mission statements do I say that I write “women’s content”, “for women”, “about women”, or any statement that otherwise makes it seem like my blog is written for a specific gender. And yet, from what I can tell, the perception is that my blog is a “women’s blog”. Now, I’m happy to have readers, and I don’t have a problem with all of my readers being female, as long as that’s a coincidence. But, I don’t think it is.

One of my MBA classmates landed on the blog on an outfit post, and he told me that he assumed I wrote about fashion. The post in question actually discusses marketing by retail companies, with very little discussion about actual fashion-related items. The post directly below it was a guest post written by a male, describing his corporate life as a sales rep. The post at the bottom of the page, after the other two, was about pricing and deals. Basically, NONE of the posts on that page are written exclusively for females. Sure, the inspiration for one post might have come from a “girly” topic, but there’s plenty of male marketers in the retail industry, so it’s not irrelevant. I usually give a blog a quick scroll-through on the first visit, and visit the “About” page to see if the content might be a fit. I don’t love every post by every blogger, but I’m willing to give it more than just a quick glance if they have a tagline or post title that piques my interest. I wonder how many readers come to my blog on an outfit post, and instead of giving a 2 second scroll (or actually glancing at the content of the post), just bounce, and write me off as another “woman blogger”?

I had a conversation with another classmate, who blatantly said he thinks it’s true, men won’t read a blog written by a woman. Again, this is anecdotal, but my frustration about the breadth of my audience didn’t seem outrageous to him. I debated a lot about the outfit posts, as I knew they were “girly”, but I realize that this area is a huge space for marketing success and failure, so cutting it out makes no sense. I’ve written about cars and bug repellent, both of which are more “manly” topics. I generally write on completely gender-neutral topics like branding, selling, pricing, and social media. I also realize that I generally guest post on blogs targeted at young female professionals, but most of my contribution posts are on gender-neutral topics, like extreme behaviors to avoid in the office, a business analysis of the 5 Love Languages, or making the decision to attend business school.

So, maybe I’ve unintentionally set myself up as a blog “for women”. This wouldn’t frustrate me so much if I wasn’t cutting out half the population from readership! Maybe I’m only hearing from a biased sample, which led me to explore the perception of my blog in this post. I’m not trying to insult blogs that target women, as I’ve written for several, and read many of these types of blogs. But, I’ve also expanded my readership to include a variety of topics, targeted at both genders. Part of my goal this year is to contribute to some sites that aren’t targeted specifically at women, so that I can help myself by being part of the solution. So, readers, how do you perceive my blog? Any tips for making the blog welcoming to both men and women? Like the outfit? Click here for more details!

Uniforms and Symbols

The uniform of business.

Dress: JC Penney

Blazer: NY & Co.

Boots: Ross

Necklace: Claire’s

Like the outfit? See more details here!

I spent some time with a friend and her military buddies this past weekend, and they started talking about the new uniform requirements for new members in the squadron. This conversation, combined with discussions about power and influence during my Organizational Behavior classes, made me think about how clothes help you be “in” the group.

The military members commented that there wasn’t much to be exicted about when they first joined a squardron, but they were really excited to wear the orange shirt. To them, the orange shirt signified that they were part of the squadron, and everyone knew what an orange shirt meant. I feel this way about my badge to enter the building, particularly when I’m out in the world. People may not know my role in the company, but when they see that badge during the workday, they know I’m employed at a place that is doing something important enough to identify and screen outsiders. It makes me feel important to wear my badge, and makes me feel like I’m part of something special.

Having something to make your employees feel “in” is a huge motivator, and contributors to overall work satisfaction. And, it can be something as simple as a company shirt! We talk a lot about group dynamics in my OB classes, and the fact that feeling “out” makes people look for other opportunities. Companies need to make their employees feel like they belong, like they’re valued, and like they have some skin in the game. I know some people dislike dress codes, but I think having a high standard of dress or uniform makes people feel like the company cares. It also demonstrates to customers that you care about all the details of professionalism, not just selling your product. What uniforms or symbols make you feel like part of the team? Like the outfit? See more details here!

Masks and Brand Authenticity

Your brand is captured in your clothes, actions, and words.

Blazer: NY & Co.

Pants: JC Penney

Boots: Ross

Like the outfit? See more details here!


Forbes had an article during the holiday season about drinking at the office holiday party, and a quick mention at the end of the article about cleaning up your Facebook profile. The author mentions the concept of a Work Identity and a Party Identity, and discusses how much those two intermingle when you’re in a professional setting. This got me thinking about masks and brand authenticity, particularly as it relates to our personal brands.

We’re whole humans, with whole lives, not just corporate drones with a “professional” persona. During my Organizational Behavior class, we had to take surveys about stress, life satisfaction, and behavior, and nearly every student wanted to clarify if we were to take the assessment based on how we would act in a professional setting or a personal setting. I wear different clothes to work than I wear on the weekends, and I behave differently on weekends (waking up at 6:30 am on a Saturday? I don’t think so!). So, am I two-faced, or multi-faceted? Is my professional brand just a facade that I drop when I’m at home?

I think there’s a strong distinction between wearing different clothes and sleeping in on Saturday, and “character flaws” that could creep into my workday. Being a hard worker is one aspect of my professional brand that I think is highly important, and I feel like my behavior outside the office affects this brand perception inside the office. Would you believe that I’m really a hard worker if I lounged around in my PJs on the evenings and weekends, or would you assume that I’m just going through the daily grind for a paycheck? Many people view private actions as a reflection of your commitment to your public actions, and that if the two don’t match, eventually, the truth of your private actions will permeate your professional life. This brings me back to the holiday party mentioned earlier in this post. If you are a loud, rude, embarrassing drunk at the office party (which, in theory, is a perfect place to “mix” personal and professional), what’s the likelihood that you will eventually show such characteristics during the workday? Most of the time, these concerns aren’t necessarily about the actual behavior at the party, but rather about the lack of judgement in getting into a situation to behave inappropriately (ie: drinking too much). Going beyond acceptable boundaries in one area of your life indicates a possibility that you may do the same thing in another area of your life.

I think brand authenticity is about consistency and congruency. Do you regularly act in accordance with your professional brand by displaying characteristics like hard work, loyalty, and creativity? Would your friends, family, and co-workers say similar things about you at your core (literally everyone I know would describe me as energetic and a talker!)? Eventually, the masks come off, and it’s what’s beneath the mask that counts. Like the outfit? See more details here!

First Impressions

This outfit garnered comments like, "cute" and "trendy" when I wore it to the office.

Dress: Target

Cardigan: Target

Bracelet: Target

Tights: Target

Scarf: NY & Co.

Earrings: NY & Co.

Boots: Charlotte Russe

Belt: Forever21

Like the outfit? See more details here!


With the New Year, my gym has been particularly crowded with people trying to improve their appearance. And, my workplace is on a “spring cleaning and updating” mission, so I’ve got first impressions on the brain.

I’m working on another office decor project, which includes paint and furniture to improve the look of our conference rooms. We’re setting up a coffee bar in our big conference room, and we’re getting nice mugs with our logo on them. We want our guests (ie: future customers or potential investors) to feel like we’re put together, welcoming, and that we have superb attention to detail. The first impression is crucial, from the moment they walk into our office, not just when they tour the shop.

The same is true for candidate or new business meetings. It’s said that people will make a judgement about you in the first 10 seconds of meeting you, so every aspect of your appearance and demeanor need to be perfect, the moment you walk in the door. Your hair, clothes, posture, and tone of voice are all taken into consideration before the interview even starts!

The first impression is a double-edged sword though, as you can’t tell everything about a person or a place just by looking at it. Here’s a few reasons why things aren’t always as they seem:

– We’re trying to make everything top quality in the office, so that our customers and investors will think that everything we do is top quality. But, we offer significant cost-savings as our main value proposition in the marketplace. So, isn’t it somewhat counter-intuitive to spend top dollar are centerpieces and coffee mugs? Maybe we spend less on our appearance so that we can spend that money on higher quality tooling and more experienced technicians?

– There are many physical components of my job, and in my interview suit and heels, I may not look like I can bend and move in ways that allow me to lift heavy boxes or assemble a booth. But don’t be fooled! I can put on jeans and flats with the best of ’em, and I’m quite strong for my size.

– Does the “flashy” approach make people question your authenticity and competence? When you’re so stunned by the beauty of the office, or the quality of the suit material, does it make you wonder if the man behind the mask lives up to the facade? Sometimes perfection makes people look harder to find something wrong, so maybe we shouldn’t try so hard to hide “flaws” that don’t impact the quality of the work? For example, many career coaches would probably tell me to cut and straighten my hair, since this would make me appear more “professional”. Licensed decorators would tell me to buy bigger, thicker, more ornate frames for the office, instead of the simple, reasonable quality that I chose to maximize the value.

First impressions can make or break a deal, and I do think that we need to put our best foot (or table) forward. But, I think there’s a lot that goes into creating a first impression, and the reasons behind one choice or another may actually make a candidate or business more attractive. As the old cliche says, “You can’t judge a book by its cover”… and I’ll add, try to take a look past the facade before making your decision! Like the outfit? Click here for more details!

A False Dichotomy

Boots+belt+necklace = trendy and fashionable
Boots are "in" this season, and so are brains!

Black pants: JC Penney

Ruffle Tank: Old Navy

Cardigan/Bracelet: Target

Necklace/Earrings: NY & Co.

Belt/Boots: Charlotte Russe

Like the outfit? Click here for more details!


Do you want to competent or fashionable? I feel caught in this false dichotomy sometimes, and I think it’s possible to be both competent and fashionable.

I wore several “cute” outfits to work last week, and a couple of my co-workers commented that I looked trendy, fashionable, and otherwise “cute”. Now, “cute” is not what I’m going for in the workplace, I’m going for smart, hard-working professional. It’s interesting, because I think my colleagues were trying to give me a compliment, but it made me wonder if I was dressed appropriately.

And, that’s the problem! I’m still the same smart, hard-working professional in trendy clothes as I am in boring clothes. I’ve talked before about my style always leaning toward function over form, but I recognize that many women are able to combine the two. I can dress up a plain gray dress with something other than a plain black cardigan. I can wear a necklace without it meaning that I’m too “girly” to do my job. I think it’s all about the perception that trendy equals incompetent. Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, but it’s also partly due to my experience. In high school and college, all the people that dressed in trendy clothes were not nearly as smart or hard-working in academics as all of us dressed in boring clothes. And yet, I see plenty of smart and successful women in trendy clothes all over the web!

I think I’m changing my mind about the dichotomy. I can show up to work in a colored dress, instead of a black dress. I can wear fashionable boots, instead of plain black pumps. Do you ever feel constrained by this false dichotomy? Like the outfit? Click here for more details!

Because You Have To

A practical outfit for a practical day.

Pants: Express

Tank: Charming Charlie

Jacket: Target

Necklace: NY &. Co.

Earrings: Silpada

Like the outfit? See more details here!

Sometimes, you get up because you have to.

Sometimes, you get dressed because you have to.

Sometimes, you complete the project because you have to.

This is one of those weeks. I just HAVE TO. Yesterday, my husband decided to get up early and make breakfast. While scarfing down this breakfast, I felt like it was wrong for me to sit still, that surely everyone else was out in the world being productive, and I should also be moving around, being productive. I did the dine-n-dash from breakfast yesterday, feeling that I just had to.

I don’t really like doing things because I have to. Who does? But, I think that’s the difference between success and failure. The people who can be productive because they have to, even when they don’t particularly WANT to! It may not be inspiring, passionate, or energizing, but at the end of the day, productivity during “the grind” is make or break. This is one of those hard realities that “adults” talk about… well, now I’m an adult, so I officially have to do things sometimes. There’s no magic in it, until you look back a few weeks later, and realize that, in spite of “having to”, you came out with some pretty great work. Like the outfit? See more details here!

The Rut


Trusty black skirt + silver and teal accents = predictable outfit!

Skirt: Ann Taylor LOFT

Cardigan: Target

Ruffle Tank: Target

Belt: Target

Necklace: NY & Co.

Earrings: Silpada

Flats: Payless

Like the outfit? See more details here!

You ever get in a rut? I feel like this outfit, though I love it, is kind of a rut. The silver+black+teal pairing works well for me, but I wear it all the time! Sometimes I feel like that in my designs at work, too. I’ll beat my head against my desk staring at a white screen, and every configuration I come up with just looks terrible. That was how I felt yesterday afternoon while working on a design for an ad. I flipped through an industry magazine and saw so many great, inspiring, ads, but when I sat down to make my own, it just fell flat.

I think sometimes the rut happens because doing what you’ve always done has shown good results. I get compliments on this type of outfit, and I feel good in this type of outfit, so what’s the harm in wearing the same combination over and over again? This ad style has been approved by management, so why not keep putting out the same ad? I think the rut is the place where you settle for “good enough”, and never push beyond it to get to “great”.

I’ve found that getting out of your usual physical space helps you get out of your mental rut. My husband and I really enjoy different types of art, and I’ve found that live music or a museum can really jump-start my creativity. Outside stimulation increases the inputs into the brain, and more inputs usually means a different output. That’s also kind of the point about the community around style blogging. By getting the outside stimulation from other bloggers, you effectively get out of your style rut. I’ve had a few ideas recently for some creative outfits (again, for me, but still pretty tame by most standards!), so I’ll be posting those up in the coming weeks.

How do you get out of your ruts? Any recommendations for inspiration? Like the outfit? See more details here!

Buttoned Up

Company culture gives me a casual Friday at the office.
Jeans and a knit jacket are perfectly appropriate for me.

Shirt: NY & Co.

Knit Jacket: Target

Jeans: TJ Maxx

Boots: Ross

Necklace: Forever 21

Earrings: NY & Co.

Like the outfit? See more details here!

We talked about company culture in my technology class last night, particularly as it related to Perot Systems, mentioned in one of our case studies. The discussion centered around my group presentation about vendor evaluation and selection, and we mentioned that the culture of the vendor was important when making a selection.

We found that Perot Systems, at the time, was run by a lot of ex-military personnel, so the culture was extremely hierarchical, structured, and detail-oriented. Imagine if you were an open organization, with a flat structure and “loose” dress code. How well do you think your relationship would be with such a buttoned up company? IBM used to be the same way, with a suit-and-tie-everyday mentality. Silicon Valley is the complete opposite, where engineers and business people wear shorts, flip-flops, and t-shirts to the office daily. It’s a pretty humorous movie stand-by: the scene where the start-up genius tries to meet with investors, and they tell him that surely his million-dollar idea can buy him a decent pair of shoes!

But culture is more than just the dress code, it’s also the mentality about doing business. Are you blunt and to-the-point, or ambiguous and beating-around-the-bush? Do you have flexible scheduling or a 9-5 day? These types of attitudes have been changing, and my generation is particularly interested in company culture. I would say that more job postings boast “a cool workplace” than ever before, and higher value is placed on cultural “fit” when interviewing candidates. It’s interesting, because I’m still not sure how a dress code influences success, but I think there’s a strong case for flexible scheduling and open communication. My brain shuts down around 10 pm, but my husband comes alive at the time of night. Thus, it works much better for me to perform during the standard 9-5, and for him to perform from 10 pm to 4 am. But does it really matter if I show up in a suit or jeans? Does it really improve his performance if he is in shorts or khakis? The buttoned up cultures at IBM and Perot Systems seem to think so, but Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs disagree.

I think it all goes back to whether your client is buying into the illusion. If you’re in a client-facing environment, you’ve got to match their culture. If that culture says, “suits”, then suits it is! Today’s outfit works perfectly for a casual Friday in my current office culture. How does dress code factor into your company culture? Does it change based on your meetings for the day? Like the outfit? See more details here!