Mail is still pouring in from folks commenting on the dress habits of civil servants. It was prompted by a letter two weeks ago from a fed who wrote the Monday Morning Quarterback taking his colleagues to task for failing to dress for success.
Washington, he said, is a polyester "schlep" city. He said feds are treated like bums because of the image they project to the public and their political bosses in three-piece suits and wing-tip shoes.
At the risk of beating a dead (clothes) horse, here are more reader comments on the world of high (and not so high) federal fashion:
* "The uproar over how feds dress is a 'chicken and egg, which-came-first?' argument . . . . Are feds treated like bums because they act like bums . . . or do they dress like bums because they are treated like bums as most of us 'bum dressers' believe? Why should I invest lots in a work wardrobe when a considerable portion of the clientele which I serve are going to think badly of me, no matter what I wear?" R.B., Gaithersburg.
* "Could the federal office environment (political, psychological, poor working conditions) be the cause for the development of the fed who dresses like a schlep? Is it an occupational hazard?
" . . . The boss who said he only takes 'properly dressed' employes to important meetings and events is playing games. If he hasn't told his staff the 'game plan' and has no work-related purpose taking them to such activities, he is not contributing to the situation in a positive way by leaving the poor dressers back at the office . He is only satisfying his sadistic urges." M.R., wife of a dedicated fed in Alexandria.
* "Supervisors who judge employes by their neckties contribute to a dangerous syndrome. The less competent (but sharp) dresser gets promoted. The promotions they make are based on dress, not competence. For the 99 percent of feds whose jobs don't put them in contact with the public the question is, whom are they expected to impress? Each other? I don't recall ever seeing a picture of Albert Einstein wearing a tuxedo to his office." B.E.L., Rockville.
* "Most civil servants don't meet the public. Unlike car salesmen or political appointees, they are buried away all day in dingy, cramped spots. What windows there are haven't been washed in years, so no one can see in or out. If civil servants appear too sharply dressed . . . people will think they are overpaid. So where's the incentive for pin stripes and wingtips?" S.M., Falls Church.
* "In my 30 years in government I've noticed that if you dress in good wools and cottons you are singled out as an oddity . . . by a very tacky, jealous group of schleps in Hawaiian print blouses over very large polyester pants.
"If your readers think the Federal Triangle, Crystal City and the Pentagon areas are wardrobe disaster areas, I suggest they come out to the Parklawn building in Rockville. Sprinkler systems are mandatory there -- because of the potential of polyester fires." A Guvvie at Parklawn.
* "I have a problem with the wearing apparel flap. Have you ever seen the office of a typical civil servant that warranted a Brooks Brothers suit? I haven't. If the president wants government to be like industry I'll take the pay cut, but give me a wooden desk, carpeting, background music, a microwave oven and personal computer. My wife makes $18,000 a year in private industry. But her office makes those of high-ranking feds look sick." Fed Up in Burke.