Archive for February 10th, 2011

February 10, 2011

Dressing for the occassion, part 1

One of the eternally confusing things to me when I first moved to the US was the dress code. I expected people in business school to wear dresses and suits only to realize that wearing anything other than jeans/shorts, a t-shirt and sneakers would invariably result in the comment “wow, you dressed up today.”

I was shocked to see people in pink sweat suits at the symphony and unprepared for the first formal event I attended where everybody – other than me – knew that that meant long evening gown for the ladies.

Business casual for (pretty, young) women, pic:

Even the language around dress codes is somewhat confusing, especially when it comes to very formal events – which most people rarely or never attend.  So let’s look at the different dress codes in a somewhat systematic way starting with the ubiquitous “business casual”.

Many companies, even the once stodgy banks, these days expect business casual attire.  As the name indicates this is in the middle between casual (jeans, short, t-shirts, etc.) and business (suit).  Business casual is classic rather than trendy, neat, clean clothing, not too baggy, not too tight, definitely not revealing too much cleavage or a bare mid-riff.

Guy in business casual, pic:

For guys it is rather simple: khaki or dark pants, a pressed shirt, if you need it a sports coat or maybe even a nice sweater.  Leather belt and decent shoes – sneakers stay home – but so do neck-ties.

The how-to and how-not-to quick guide for men, pic:

Women can dress pretty much the same.  sounds sort of boring and is but business casual is not about excitement.  Skirts shouldn’t be too short (forget what you see on TV, lawyers don’t prance around in micro-minis), tops not too tight, shoes not to high, wheels not to spiky, everything in solid colors, the clothing should not be too bright (bright accessories can be okay).  Pantyhose is mostly optimal.  Jewelry shouldn’t be too big and flashy – you get the idea.

Since pictures say more than a 1000 words I included several pics in this blog.

February 10, 2011

Cutting mustard

… no, nobody is actually cutting any mustard here.  This is not a blog about table manners.  Cut the mustard is an idiom that means to succeed, to live up to the expectations,  to have the adequate skills to perform a task.

A very literal take on "cut the mustard", pic:

The idiom is often used in the negative form “he didn’t cut the mustard” to indicate that somebody did not live up to the expectations that where set into him or her.  As such it is a fairly mild way of saying that somebody failed.  The expression can therefore be used in conversations as long as they aren’t very formal.  The idiom is not particularly frequently used and certainly not hip – but even if you don’t ever use it, it is important to understand it.

The origin of the idiom is unclear and there is speculation abound what mustard has to do with performing at the expected level.  The most reasonable – and least interesting – explanation I found was that simply a mistaken version of the military term cut the muster.    It looks like we might never know – and that is okay.

Here is an example:

“They had to let Phillipe go.  He just didn’t cut the mustard.”