Sartorial View: How to Dress for Success

Impression management is a requisite to performing on the social stage of life. To possess a keen sense of style provides the ability to wield power across settings by keeping an impeccable image. Author John T. Molloy asserted the importance of dressing for success in his books of similar name, outlining nearly fifty years ago the necessity of adorning for your desired post as opposed to your current position. His how to dress for success books have provided insight into the art of subtly for generations, making him “America’s first wardrobe engineer” according to Time magazine.

But if Molloy was the first American wardrobe engineer, Edith Head was the first American wardrobe architect. “You can do anything you want in life if you dress for it,” says Head in How to Dress for Success, her book eight years senior to Molloy’s Dress for Success.

For several years, I worked for a nonprofit of similar title to Molloy’s books, everyday partaking in the transformational nature of clothing. Though “We suit the woman from within” became the tagline expressing the need for a menu of programming that included workforce development, employment retention, financial literacy, health and wellness, and leadership, supporting a woman wherever she stood in her employment journey, the truth of the matter is that the organization’s divinity lay in the boutique, where women stood taller at their reflection in a three-way mirror affirming their newness in the clothes they’d just been provided.

Garments as an expression of love is Biblical. One of God’s first acts of care and mercy after Adam and Eve sinned was to provide clothing. (Gen 3:21). God took care of the Israelites during the exodus by causing their clothes not to wear out (Deut 8:4; 29:5; Neh 9:21), and Israel loved Joseph above all his other sons and gifted him a coat of many colors. To express her love, Hannah gave Samuel clothes (1 Sam 2:19). And the highest level of love in the Bible, that God so loved the world He gave His one and only Son, came with a prophecy about Jesus, ‘They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots’ (Matthew 27:35).

“This is where the magic happens” the organization’s longest serving CEO would tell potential donors and guests when leading them on a tour of the space.

I recorded a video for that organization about my “power piece,” a derivative of “power dressing” popularized in the 1970s and 1980s–assisted by Molloy’s books– and modernly rooted in the 1920s by Chanel suits consisting of tight skirts and collarless button-up jackets, usually with braid trim, metallic buttons and fitted sleeves, both pieces in wool. For me, a power piece typically means one thing:

Burberry dress, Hermès blazer

It started many years ago with my mother, who had her own definition of power dressing:

And while mom may have preferred sequins, toile and fox slings, she was business first, and that is how she dressed her only daughter starting in pre-k. In fact, one of my childhood nicknames was Nancy Reagan.

From Chanel to Zara, Gucci to St. John and Saint Laurent, and beyond; at galas and in cluttered offices, on sets and in boardrooms, train stations and living rooms, at homecomings and The Rock, I’ve been wearing blazers ever since.

  • Margery Hannah in black suit, pearl necktie, and Valentino rockstud shoes

For women, the practice of deliberately establishing authority in a professional and political environment traditionally dominated by men sometimes goes beyond the blazer. Such was the case of my first job at the MacDonald golf course in Wichita, Kansas as part of the city’s summer youth program.

I experienced all the typical formalities of a first job—responsibility and commitment, learning to work with various personalities. But I also discovered the important role wardrobe choice plays in conveying a message within the workplace.

There were three youth summer workers: thirteen-year-old me, my fourteen going on fifteen-year-old brother, and a sixteen-year-old guy.

All the other employees were adult males, and with the exception of one black, they were all white. 

Locker room talk was the culture, and one employee, Steve, was the worst of them all. “Hey man, my sister is in here,” my brother reminded Steve, checking the tan white man with slanted bright eyes.

Not only was I the only girl in the place, I was actually the first girl to ever work there.

Everyone’s job was to maintain the course under the superintendent Randy, who was quite considerate and professional, despite the toxic work environment.

My days typically consisted of carrying around a bucket of what was referred to as “chicken feed”—grass seeds— and filling in divots. A golf cart would have made the job easier, but none of the youth workers were allowed to drive, so we had to shlep. It was hard work–we were in the hot sun doing manual labor all day. But I really enjoyed earning money.

I outworked and outlasted both my brother, who ended up having an allergic reaction to a row of trees he and I trimmed, resulting in is head swelling about twice its normal size, giving him the appearance of an alien, and the sixteen-year-old, who quit a few weeks in.

This left me without the shield of my brother and the only youth worker among the golf course broskis. I was more than a little nervous about going in, but as the saying goes, “My mama didn’t raise no punk.”

There was a popular sketch-comedy show created by the brilliant Keenan Ivory Wayans airing at the time called In Living Color, a show launching the careers of several people including his talented brother Damon Wayans, as well as the incomparables Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx, and even Jennifer Lopez, who was part the show’s dance troupe, The Fly Girls.

One of the most popular skits was about an ex-con turned silly clown called Homey D. Clown. Homey D. Clown would go to birthday parties and kids would ask him to do things like,  “Can you slip on a banana and fall?”

Homey would answer: “Fall down, bust my skull open and have my blood and brains ooze out on the carpet so you can get a couple of cheap laughs, huh? I don’t think so.” Then he’d smack the child over the head with a sock and say, “Homey don’t play that.”

Or they’d asked, “Can I smash this pie in your face?”

And he’d answer,  “I think you’ve got it reversed.” Then he’d smash the pie in the child’s face and say, “Homey don’t play that.”

Oftentime Homey would give sound advice to the kids, especially about dignity. But just when you thought Homey had turned tender in his wisdom as the child asked for a hug or to sit on his lap, he’d remind them and the viewer that under no uncertain terms does Homey ever play that. In short, Homey D. Clown is a militant, Afrocentric, anti-establishment clown who responds with “Homie don’t play that” when he is asked to do something beneath his values. “Let’s get something straight, kids. Homey may be a clown, but he don’t make a fool outta hisself.”

I found my power piece in the basement washroom. I don’t remember who the shirt actually belonged to, but I took it up to my room as I prepared for work the next day. I would wear a Homey D Clown t-shirt to my premier as the lone youth worker on the job.

And just like that, I solidified a new nickname: Homey. All day, the broskis randomly read aloud the tagline on my shirt: “Homey don’t play that!”

There was a high school English teacher who moonlit at the course every summer particularly amused; only the widely read would notice his subtle smirk. Dare I say he was impressed.

That shirt shifted the atmosphere to a level of comfortability that inspired me to work even harder than I had when my brother was around. Randy the Supervisor invited me to stay beyond the program deadline, until school started, so I was able to earn extra money. “You come back anytime; we’d love to have you,” Randy offered on my last day, the Friday before the new school year began.

I thanked Randy, genuinely grateful for his consideration. And though I had the sense to be appreciative for the opportunity and to hold my tongue, in my mind I let him know: “I don’t think so. Homey don’t play that.”

Introducing Homey D. Clown


by Ivory Parker

I restore the spirit of me
Skipping past a cherry blossom tree.
The note of honey warms my tense
body. My face lights with glee.
And I am reminded of the God in me.
Blueberry cotton candy pairs with a humming
hummingbird—my heart finds peace.
Soft hands holding mine
Put my spirit at ease.

Text and image © Ivory Parker 2023. All Rights Reserved. Published by The Literary Purveyor. All Rights Reserved.

Ivory Parker is a Harlem-raised aspiring filmmaker whose desire to enter the industry crystallized while in middle school producing her first documentary for the Maysles Documentary Center. Her goal is to give voice to the disenfranchised. She can be found on Howard University’s Yard and on Instagram @ivoryelizabeth.

Butterflies Think With Their Feet

A Performance Piece written and performed by Michelle Parker

Butterflies Think With Their Feet, written and originally performed by Michelle Parker at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York City.

I came out of the womb declaring war against the world. A nappy headed woman who never had the opulence to be a little girl born to a nappy headed woman who never had the opulence to be a little girl who was born to the same. Skin light enough to digest but tongue made of fire, they quickly spit me back up. Woman and Black woven into my spirit, the perpetual hand I was dealt and love so dearly. A butterfly, enthralling each flower that grows near my garden, completely oblivious to my form, unaware of this environment. A praying mother was nearly the most aggressive offense to the world, right after this black woman inheriting such an eminent trait. At twelve a woman whispered in my ear and told me caterpillars don’t always become butterflies. It’s dependent upon their environment and food, sometimes they become moths. The first crime performed against me decided my fate. My mouth was forced open before I ever desired a taste. My head was drawn back and filth was poured down my throat leaving a bitter taste to infect the rest of my body. A moth. The sweet fruits of God’s labor were occluded, I refused it. Unable to believe that honeysuckle taste was for me. It must be something I stole quietly, like my shadow on the floor. It was under these circumstances I breathed outside my mothers body for the first time. My lungs grasped for air, unable to recognize what I had just gone through. I luxuriated in my daydreams for hours on end, my feet on the floor simply didn’t make sense. My mother continued to deterge, too in place to carry me any further. We were no longer mirrors, instead a reflection in water, slightly distorted, not quite the same. I chased tails, stomped feet, and danced under a sky of cataclysm. Twisting and turning desperate to separate myself from the terrible crime I performed against the world and the forgotten crime that was performed against me. Like lady in yellow my spirit is too ancient to understand the separation of soul and gender but I never considered my love too delicate to have thrown back in my face. My cup was half empty, back so weary, and these shoulders. My goodness, please straighten them. No charm, no symmetry. A moth. However I remained with a praying mother. My soul wept and pleaded for chapters like David in the book of Psalm. It wasn’t until I opened my own mouth and allowed myself to taste those fruits. Those sweet, planted, grown, gathered, washed, packaged, sent with a love note fruits.
What a terrible crime to survive as a moth when I could live as a butterfly.

A Michelle Parker production. Published by The Literary Purveyor. © 2023 Text and Performance by Michelle Parker. All Rights Reserved.

Love in the Afternoon, Restoration

I attended a SOAR virtual workshop this past Sunday, Love in the Afternoon
Loving up on You!, where Kimberly A. Collins used her Writing Training Wheels™ as a tool for teaching healing and empowerment through writing poetry. A good majority of attendees were Howard University students, and the intergenerational exchange of ideas was refreshing. While I’ve written many a poem, for the first time I read a poem of mine (written in real time at the workshop) for an audience. Love in courage, I share my piece:

I restore the spirit of me

under the apricot sun. One
can only smell fresh baked bread
so long. I’ve got to go outside. Buy
blueberry cotton candy, let my teeth ache
a moment. Find joy in
the future, in
babies’ laughter, their tight
curls a helix of life’s zig zags, a marvel of physics
ever resting and protecting— a chipped scale
balancing the self-less and self-full.

Text and image © Margery Hannah 2023. All Rights Reserved.

Image © Margery Hannah 2022. All Rights Reserved.

The last day of the pink and red month, the last day of #blackhistorymonth2023. What better way to commemorate than by sharing a little #LoveInTheAfternoon#poetry written at Sunday’s #dcsoar workshop. #writingtoheal

#literarypurveyor #theliterarypurveyor#margeryhannah


by Margery Hannah

The first time I was too young
Life moved fast yet
promised eternity

The second time I was too young
Iife still moved fast but I
sat on a plot

rotating around my dreams
and I figured just so—
I would allow him a small part

The first time they sucked
it out the same way I sucked
on sugar-filled straws as a child

Not tender, the aim: exhaust
all the sugar from the stick
as fast as possible and place it
in my belly’s jar

I cleaned that jar
and they placed the ruins in a bubble
we will never see

© Margery Hannah 2002-2022. Text only. All Rights Reserved.

The end of the work day

Harlem co-op living room

is the beginning of a daily appreciation of an environmental narrative written in a language of items curated through repeated exercise of search and happenstance. Each piece represents a note of emotions, running the gamut of a shopper’s experience: confidence and uncertainty, frugality and debt. This is how a home is designed.

Role Call

by Margery Hannah

I am only a person
tall and plain, tongue maimed long
ago when cow bells were ringing.

I was in love with those big
eye chocolates
reminding me of me.

But a million flies filtered
filth just to land on me. They
knew the tin bell would ring
long before it did.

I kept loving that cow
even though the cow
was too foolish to love me.

Look at me, dumb cow
I screamed in my mind
and finally through sliced lips
still dripping with milk.

The cow didn’t hear me
so I milked her
She ate my grass
I milked her
She stole my glory
I milked her.

She kept drawing flies from
every side of the slum sea.

I milked her until she learned
I am just a person
tall and plain, but honest.

Vertical, her skin beneath
my dirt feet.

Text and illustration © Margery Hannah 2004-2022 All Rights Reserved.

A Note on Dark Matter

I was just thinking about dark matter, how powerful it is, how it is the beginning of us all, the mother, the Eve, thee eve. Dark matter is undetectable, yet robustly influential on the universe and evolution, and black holes let nothing escape–not light, not stars, not galaxies. At the latter’s edge, time appears to stop and at its core, matter shrinks to infinite density and the known laws of physics break down. And I thought my mother was an overbearing and powerful mystery. You. Don’t. Know. Her.

My mother was a war drum who talked about eating red dirt as a little girl, whose life was saved by putting piss in her ear as a baby. My veins are not blue but green, guaranteeing nothing except connectedness to dirt. This means I am real.

Still, I stand beside white lines of lies and delusion, where shaming the devil and speaking with veracity might just be considered an act of violence, and assist. Not infrequently I wonder when I might, she might, we might shame the devil and speak the truth, connect poor Nefertiti back to her roots. She’s been in Germany a long time. But then pride proceedeth the fall and few egos rival the self-regard of monumental northern aligned tomb skyscrapers.

Kemit itself represents this shame, a denied mother whose seeds sprouted into things chopping at the trunk and picking off the leaves, refusing to splash a little water to relieve over-cried eyes. Be then still reasonable; though they left black and returned white, the root itself cannot be killed, though time and space have joined to assist in a catching of lust, a belief in supremacy, an easier way out or in—vanity. And so taking credit for the brilliance of the pyramids helps build nations because it helps build identity and esteem. Can you believe the mortar is stronger than the stones?

This denial of dark matter—mother, the universe, people—and this superior fact of black, woe little black, is touted as something evil when it is more than the root; it is the cure. Is not our earliest experience with dark the shade of eyelids during rest? 

I cannot blame capitalists, really. The window of motivation is wide open like legs of a great whore tempting a take, the wealth of her being to make celebrity the inheritance of a gold mine. The real issue is greed. It’s unreasonably strived upon to be a star; already we are born of stardust and back into the elements we will ascend. Forgetfulness, no ignorance, of these things is in some the way endurance is in others. Theirs and ours, how odd.

To be a supernova some beck, while others plot the future of their great, great grandchildren, striving for immortality, becoming an ideal packaged to be sold and bought, a guarantee of what is to come, an unbreakable mirror. Such are the ways of a righteous man. It is all about choices, no? A star’s death is not caused by another; it dies from within, but I bid dark matter too resilient for that, although this resilience is promoted as a posturial stance diminished into a representational crawl. Perhaps it is the matter of looking back, instead of just remembering; recalling instead of just knowing; reacting instead of just acting. A star dies when its atoms no longer fuse to give it energy; they become a stellar core remnant made up of electron degenerate.

What happens after a star’s death depends on its mass. Life after death, yes. If a large star’s mass is sufficient enough it might become a black hole after its collapse and the explosion of its outer layers into a supernova; if too small it forms into a neutron. Either way, massive stars live fast and die young, exhausting their nuclear fuel swiftly before going out with a bang. The death of an average star is slower coming; when there is no longer heat to support the core against gravity, the hydrogen burning continues in a shell around the core and the star swells into a red giant before shedding its outer layers and forming a planetary nebula. Eventually, the carbon core will cool and become a white dwarf, the dense remainder of a once bright star. Though dead, it is still hot and thus still shines, albeit dim.

1 CORINTHIANS 15:53-55
“It’s necessary for this rotting body to be clothed with what can’t decay, and for the body that is dying to be clothed in what can’t die. And when the rotting body has been clothed in what can’t decay, and the dying body has been clothed in what can’t die, then this statement in scripture will happen: Death has been swallowed up by a victory. Where is your sting, Death?”

To the believer, what is death and what is dark? Does not the Most High join the elements–His creation– and birth forms a new? Don’t we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)? Do we remember the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen (Matthew 20:16)? Is harmonization not an act of faith, as with the “one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” taught in Acts 1:14? As evident with the day and the night, and the seasons and the generations of stars, and as with King David himself, who “had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.” ( Acts 13:38) Do we act with faith, hope and love in the knowledge that nothing moves without Yahweh, the Creator of all things, seen and unseen?

PSALM 8:1-9
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Are you in awe, like King David, a man after God’s own heart?

So abundant are the blessings of the Lord, we can only see a small percentage of his handy work; all the atoms and light in the Universe together make up less than 5% of the total contents of the cosmos–the rest is composed of dark energy and dark matter. Praise Him: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.” (Exodus 34:6) Who are we that the Lord might be gracious and longsuffering (long-tempered, that is)?

That’s Love.

©2022 Margery Hannah. All Rights Reserved.

Taboo Brown and Blue

by Margery Hannah

I am no good to my mother. I drink
candy-diluted dreams.

Babies across the sea, my gold
spills into the water before
swallowing me.

I am no good to my father. His
eyes I seldom see. They are
like the ocean shallow, washing
away imprinted dreams. He tries
to see into me but scorches beneath
my gaze.

I am unworthy of my mother.

© Margery Hannah 2007-2022. Text and image. All Rights Reserved.

Killeen Sky

by Margery Hannah

There is an ocean large
above Texas

where copper flickers

ivory fish ribs scale the expanse like veins in overgrown leaves

and a skeleton man smiles down
at me

Where clouds paddle near eternity

And I inhale and swim intermittently

Where from one small light
generations are born

And stars salute as soldiers to respectable seniors

And I am absorbed into the might

The night of this great Texas sky

© Margery Hannah 2001-2022. All Rights Reserved.