Defensive driving is a lifesaving strategy. Defensive dressing can be equally lifesaving.

We cannot afford to dress so as to invite harassment, abuse or attack of any kind. Clothing cues make statements and often trigger a response. It's safe and smart to practice defensive dressing, which can include any of the following details:

Wear cover-up styles — body-baring styles speak loudly.

Choose opaque fabric — nothing transparent.

Choose a loose, easy fit — nothing tight.

Select a tailored or man-style shirt, blazer or jacket — frilly makes you appear submissive.

Shoulder pads lift and expand body boundaries, causing you to appear more capable of taking care of yourself.

A vest with zipper pockets or a concealed pocket provides a place for money, credit cards, license and passport, etc.

Layered clothing may allow you to pull out of the top layer sweater or jacket and run.

Wear inexpensive jewelry, nothing that shouts valuable.

A tailored hat, such as a Fedora, increases apparent height, has masculine association and makes you appear somewhat stronger.

Dark sunglasses allow you to observe the people around you.

Walking shoes with lower heels and sport shoes allow you to move quickly and safely. Sandals, mules, slingbacks and high heels reduce the ability to maneuver.

A lightweight, flat canvas money belt or bag can be worn under your clothes, providing more subtle and secure safety space.

A shoulder bag, briefcase, umbrella or belt with a sturdy metal buckle can land quite a blow.

Carry yourself in a way that will convince others you are capable, confident and in control.

Stand tall, with your chest and head held high. Head down, slumped posture makes you appear weak and vulnerable.

For better balance, stand with your feet about a hip's width apart, one foot slightly in front of the other and firmly planted.

Walk briskly with authority. Look around often, staying alert to what is happening around you.

Look passers-by directly in the eye and continue walking at a steady pace. If you feel the need to get a good look without making eye contact (possibly to be misinterpreted as a come-on), look at the mouth to shoulder area, rather than at the eyes.

Give yourself space. Remain at least 3-4 feet away from the other person. The greater the distance the less stimulating your presence may be to a potential attacker.

Special note: Each day, remove any items of value you won't need in your handbag — driver's license, credit cards, checks, etc. Carry one credit card or check for emergency use and put that in a pocket. You'll be less hesitant to hand over the bag if it's demanded.

Judith Rasband is director of the Conselle Institute of Image Management and author of numerous publications on dress and image. Contact her at 801-224-1207 or For related image information, visit and