DIA director disavows fashion advice telling women to 'consider your body type'

DIA director disavows fashion advice telling women to ‘consider your body type’

‘Dress for Success’ presentation told women intelligence officers to wear makeup

Written by
Edited by Tom Nash

A fashion presentation prepared for Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) employees tells men to match their shoes to their belt and to avoid wearing jewelry. Meanwhile, women at the agency are advised that “coordinated makeup communicates that you are moving assertively toward identified goals.”

Prepared in January and shown to employees one week after women were cleared for combat duty, the presentation detailed gender-specific office apparel guidelines. Soon after its exhibition, it garnered media attention for its women’s fashion tips. While slides instructed men to evoke authority through style choices, they implied that women should blend in with the crowd and “disguise the negative” about their bodies.

A memo sent from Director Michael Flynn to DIA employees following the presentation was unsparing in its criticism, noting “Neither the agency nor I condone this briefing and I only hope the intention to execute this task was pure of heart and intended to help … but even smart people do dumb things sometimes.”

Following a request from MuckRock user Robert Delaware, the DIA recently released the full presentation, and Flynn’s note.

The slides walk women through accessorizing, makeup application and dressing for one’s body type. The presentation suggests that women should determine the base color of their outfits “according to skin, hair, and eyes,” while providing the helpful hint that “brunettes can wear more intense colors than blonds.” Donning “flamboyant, gaudy, attention-grabbing” pieces in the workplace is a DIA fashion don’t, according to another slide.

The presentation dictates the particular fabrics women should (and shouldn’t) wear and broke the news to employees that “open-toe shoes are no longer a faux-pas as long as worn with suit pants or skirt.” However, pairing such footwear with stockings is a no-go. Women were also advised to consider their body type and to “accentuate the positive/disguise the negative.”

The slides state that “makeup helps women look more attractive” and suggest that women “do not advocate the ‘Plain Jane’ look.” However, there is a caveat: “too much makeup distracts from a professional look.” Women can avoid scrutiny at the DIA office by wearing “just enough to accentuate your features.”

Tips for male employees don’t touch on attributes such as physique or facial features. Rather, they inform men that dark suits are more authoritative than light ones, pinstripes are more authoritative than solids and “suspenders = elegance.” The presentation emphasizes the importance of bold necktie choices by telling men “DO NOT BE AFRAID OF COLOR!”

The presentation provides images with captions like “What NOT to wear,” depicting individuals committing various fashion crimes, ranging from “backpacks” and “unprofessional bracelets” for women to the “popped collar” and “hands in pockets” for men.

Ending on a gender-neutral note, both men and women are told to “select the clothes that reflect your personality, position, environment, and aspirations.” Above all, employees should ask themselves, “AM I DRESSED APPROPRIATELY TO REPRESENT DIA?”

Read through the full presentation on the request page, or embedded below: