The matter of personal appearance is of paramount importance to the private secretary. Peekaboo blouses, skintight sweaters, or fluffy afternoon gowns do not befit her position. She should dress with her boss's position in mind. After all, clients see her as his representative. A frivolous-looking secretary . . can do her boss more harm than she realizes. Every effort should be made to dress in a smart, well-groomed manner. Let simplicity be the keynote. Guard against overdoing the make-up or hairdo."
Since reading these words as printed in Carolyn Hagner Shaw's newspaper column recently, I haven't been able to forget them—"dress with her boss's position in mind. . . Clients see her as his representative."
And when our boss is a Christian minister and we are employed by a Christian organization known for its high standards, then what of the secretary's position? What a responsibility! Yes, and what a privilege!
Have I ever been guilty of doing harm—to my boss, to my church, to God's cause, because of my appearance? Perhaps I have.
If there is proper office dress for the world, it follows that standards for proper office dress for a Christian organization would be yet a little higher, especially when that organization has different dress standards for other occasions. And then to think a little further along that line—when that office is the denomination's world headquarters and people look to us as the example! Yes, with position goes responsibility.
An ambassador represents his country. A Christian represents his God. An ambassador must always be perfectly dressed in public in appropriate clothing for the occasion, nothing offensive, wearing neither too much nor too little. So with the Christian—too much would be adornment; too little would be immodest.
John Robert Powers, in his book Secrets of Charm, says, "Simply cut and simply adorned clothes are smart and appropriate the world over."
Ellen G. White writes of "the grace, the beauty, the appropriateness of natural simplicity." And, "A refined taste, a cultivated mind, will be revealed in the choice of simple and appropriate attire."
Again she counsels, "It is always right to be neat and to be clad appropriately, in a manner becoming to your age and station in life."
Appropriateness—for the Christian office secretary. Evidently it would encompass even more than that mentioned by Mrs. Shaw. Alice Haas, wife of Dr. George Haas of Los Angeles, an authority on fashion, good grooming, and personality improvement, counsels that we "make sure all office dresses have sleeves. Bare arms and low necklines do not go to the office. They are just as out of place there as shorts or a bathing suit would be."
Veronica Dengel, author of Personality Unlimited, published by John C. Winston Company, says, "Good taste in clothes starts with simplicity, proceeds to becomingness, and culminates in appropriateness for the occasion. No matter how beautiful any article of clothing may be, unless it suits the wearer, unless it is functional and right for the specific purpose and time it is worn, it is not in good taste." And with regard to the business girl she writes,
"Although you may have to wear severely simple things for the office, you can indulge your love of gay colors or soft fabrics in your 'at-home' clothes."
Appropriateness! May we all strive to cultivate that special sense of what it means. May our bosses never be embarrassed because we have missed knowing, and may God's work never be hindered because we fail.
This week I read for the first time what the Seventh-day Adventist Information File, published by our Bureau of Public Relations, tells the newspaper and business world about the personal appearance of Seventh-day Adventists. They are told that "Seventh-day Adventists believe that they should use every natural means to present as pleasant an appearance as possible. The principles of good grooming are advocated," Then it goes on to say, "Women do not resort to the overuse of cosmetics. Any use of cosmetics that becomes apparent is considered an overuse. The ideal is the naturally healthy glow."
I like that. I hope that naturally healthy glow is always in evidence when visitors call here. And may it be a Christian glow flowing naturally from our kindness, courtesy, and desire to be of any service possible.
1 Peter 3:3, 4 as translated by J. B. Phillips says, "Your beauty should not be dependent on an elaborate coiffure, or on the wearing of jewelry or fine clothes, but on the inner personality—the unfading loveliness of a calm and gentle spirit, a thing very precious in the eyes of God."