A largely sexist “how to dress for success” presentation that circulated in 2013 around the Defense Intelligence Agency — then led by Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn — has recently resurfaced following the retired three-star general’s selection as national security adviser to President-elect Donald Trump.
The presentation, first reported on in 2013 by U.S. News and World Report, following a Freedom of Information Act Request from Muckrock, was meant to be largely informal and included fashion tips for both men and women.
The presentation was shown in the intelligence agency in January 2013, around the same time then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta mandated that the military open combat jobs to women. In a note included in the response to Muckrock’s FOIA, Flynn decried the presentation.
“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,” Flynn wrote. “… But even smart people do dumb things sometimes.”
It is unclear from the note whether Flynn knew about the presentation in advance, but in a bureaucracy that big it seems unlikely he would have.
The men’s section of the presentation is far less extensive than the tips for women and instead focuses on suggesting items of clothing that project “authority,” a word that is completely absent in the women’s fashion section.
Some of the most problematic parts of the presentation are included in the “Professional Business Dress for Women” portion, some of which are below:
“Professional appearance appropriate for personality, physical characteristics, position, corporate culture, environment and aspirations.”
“Adapt the latest look to figure and personality.”
“Nothing should stand out as flamboyant, gaudy, attention drawing.”
Avoid the “Plain Jane look.”
“Makeup helps women look more attractive.”
“Too much makeup distracts from a professional look.”
“Wear just enough to accentuate your features.”
One section, titled “Body, Size and Shape Considerations” has a number of bullet points, including “accentuate the positive/disguise the negative.”
A controversial figure, Flynn has drawn the ire of some of his former colleagues in the military for using his status as a retired general to help campaign for Trump. While his former colleagues once praised his abilities as an intelligence officer, some have criticized his acceptance of a paid invitation to dine with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Islamophobic statements.
The full DIA fashion presentation can be found here.