Women in the Defense Intelligence Agency were told to monitor their levels of makeup, avoid flats, and err on the side of skirts and dresses when the organization was run by Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who was tapped to be Donald Trump’s national security adviser Thursday. The January 2013 presentation, entitled “Dress for Success,” was obtained through a Freedom of Information request by MuckRock in 2013.
“Makeup helps women look more attractive,” the presentation declared.
Female DIA employees were instructed to straddle the fine line between avoiding a “Plain Jane” look and the right amount of makeup that would appropriately accentuate their features. Too much makeup was also a potential pitfall, with the presentation saying that it “distracts from a professional look.”
The DIA also had strict instructions on what to wear.
“Determine base color according to skin, hair, and eyes (i.e. brunettes can wear more intense colors than blondes can),” the presentation said. “Adapt the latest look to figure and personality.”
Unlike men, women were warned to avoid looks that “stand out as flamboyant, gaudy, attention drawing.”
The presentation also instructed adult female employees how to shop. On a scale of professionalism, a “single-breasted skirted; long sleeves blouse” ranked three points above a pantsuit in terms of professionalism and impact. Women were told what suit colors were appropriate and told to seek out matching sets with the “highest % natural fiber.”
Nail polish was suggested, and while open-toe shoes “are no longer a faux-pas;” the agency maintained a policy of “no flats.”
“Consider your body type,” the presentation added. “Accentuate the positive/disguise the negative.”
In contrast, the presentation told men that shirts and ties provide accents to a suit. “Two should be plain/one pattern,” the presentation said, and informed the employees that a light shirt was required for a dark suit. Another slide provided a sliding scale of male professional dress, starting from dark suits with French-cuffed white shirts all the way down to knit tops, jeans, and sandals. “Brown shoes only with brown/tan suits,” it added. “Black with all other.”
And men were told that neck jewelry and earrings “= negative impact.”
Flynn remained a steadfast supporter of Trump’s despite the sexual-assault allegations that plagued the president-elect, and encouraged women to throw their support behind him. Trump has been accused of sexual assault by more than a dozen women, and bragged in a video that surfaced during the campaign that he likes to “grab them by the pussy.” He also frequently mocked women’s appearance, reserving particular ire for Rosie O’Donnell and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, whom he called “Miss Piggy” after she gained weight.
But unlike the president-elect, Flynn quickly backtracked from the controversial presentation on women, according to an email also obtained by MuckRock.
“I apologize to the entire workforce for the unnecessary and serious distraction of this ‘Dress for Success’ briefing,” he wrote, claiming that he had only recently learned of its existence. “I’ve now seen it and I too find it highly offensive.”
“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.”