June 5, 2010

dress for success

femme writes has become a monthly phenomenon thanks to shine and marie. this month's topic is women in the workplace

i found this topic somewhat amusing. not because of the glass ceiling or the wage canyon or sexual harassment. those are seriously large concerns, and i don't think i have much to say about them beyond: WTF, men, get your shit together! instead i'm gonna focus on women and their clothes because i have developed an obsessionlove for fashion in recent months

my old VP, PD, did not appreciate my work fashion choices when i first started here. she told my (then) boss, DA, that it wasn't appropriate work attire. really? woman who won't leave the house unless her husband approves the outfit say what? PD you may not be exposing an awkward amount of skin, but your clothes are a bit tight (and 20 years too young) for a workplace full of testosterone. my favorite part was the fact she couldn't discuss this with me. instead she told DA to tell me that my clothes were treading a fine line. i, of course, was confused by the chat i had with DA because she is nice and was beating around the bush. she finally said that PD questioned my taste, and i restrained myself. i'm sorry we can't all shop at bluefly; i don't make that much money so i buy what i can afford. i also happen to be a slightly bigger girl with a greatbig rack to match. no matter what i'm wearing, there will probably be a little cleavage. was PD gonna pay for my new wardrobe or new boobs? uh no. i told DA i would do what i could with what i had. which meant buying undershirts to wear under my buttondowns instead of tanks. small sacrifice that cost me $10 (and i still didn't wear them all the time)

to me, this was a woman on woman crime. i have never once had an issue with any of the men who work for this company. yea, they ask me stupid questions on a regular basis, but none of them has ever made me uncomfortable about how i present myself. i would better be able to accept PD's stance had she a) talked to me herself and b) not have been a bit of a hypocrite. but it's not just her indirect attack on me. i've found myself mentally criticizing the women around me. dressing like frumps, gym teachers and stressed out mamas. you may be those things, but i don't want to see it walking past me to the ladies room... and then i have to pause... wtf! why am i so concerned about the appearance of other women in this office? they come in, do their jobs (noisily, some of them, but still) and go home. what they're wearing when the jobs get done shouldn't really matter. she put on pants and a top. do i need more? a woman lost her job because of how she was dressed. because it was "too sexy". once again: men, WTF. granted these men were trying to avoid a sexual harassment situation (going about it the wrong way of course), but it's still an issue because she did make an effort to cover up. how we dress should have no bearing on how our performance is assessed. if you're too distracted by my old school or sexy librarian clothes, it is your problem. it should not be a reason for my salary being lower, my bonus being smaller or my coworkers ogling me around every turn. it should not be a reason for termination if i am making an effort to be a professional true to my own fashion aesthetic. it also does not need to be a reason for women to belittle each other. we already comment amongst ourselves on strangers, do we really need to attack the people we spend 40ish hours a week with? we need to let this go, and focus on those other systematic biases

...it's stopped being amusing


Emily Jane said...

:( Totally with you. I don't have the exact same problem because I have Keira Knightly UNboobs lol but I do have the "poor wardrobe" - and I get it when I stand up in front of a class of adult learners who think because I'm 20 years younger than them I don't know what I'm talking about. Because I can't afford pencil skirts and suits and $200 shoes. *Headdesk*

JenRem said...

Very interesting take on this topic my friend. I agree and disagree with what you say. I don’t think that what is wore to work (within reason) should be an excuses for termination but I also think people should dress appropriately for work. I can speak on this from both ends of the dressing spectrum at my current job. A woman in my department wears basically PJ’s to work everyday… however because she is a minority, a blind eye is turned to it. It’s gross. Another lady in my department wears low cut shirts and way too tight skirts rather often. Again, nothing is said, however I think both are in the wrong. No matter your body size or issue, I think everyone can make an effort to wear appropriate clothes to work. I guess it doesn’t matter as to what people wear to get their work done but I think there is a time for work and there is a time for play… or at least that is how I see it :)

michelle said...

@Jenni: that's a great point. it really depends on the type of job you are doing; one should always dress appropriately for the job/environment. we have a spectrum of positions/departments in our office so there is a lot of wiggle on what is appropriate. those who are interacting with clients do dress accordingly... although, nothing could ever justify pj's or their equivalent (unless your job is to sleep all day) :p

@emily: i am guilty of thinking mean things about people in my classes. mostly because i think presenters shouldn't show up in the same clothes they wear to every class. regardless of the cost/styling, i expect people to show up a step beyond their norm. granted i tend to assume people have to wear nice work clothes for their day jobs and not ripped jeans with funny tshirts :) i'm working on adjusting my judgey-wudgey expectations. you're right; the expectations shouldn't be based on appearance

magnolia said...

as long as you look reasonably put together, you should be able to go through a day of work without worrying about getting fashion-sniped like that. i mean, for god's sake, the men i used to work with - in an OFFICE - would show up with holes in their shirt sleeves, too-short pants, ill-fitting and faded clothes, etc., etc., etc.

the baseline acceptable: no ridiculous cleavage, do your best to make your clothes fit, try to keep your underwear inside your clothes. bam. that's it. unless you work at vogue, you should NOT be held to a fashion standard. especially when you're young and still trying to make a dent in your student loans rather than spend thousands of dollars a year on couture...

Shayna said...

I agree --- As long as I'm wearing reasonably put together clothing, focus on the work I do, not on whether I'm wearing bootcut or straight leg pants!!

Added you to the blogroll on Life: Forward (I thought I already had --- sorry!)

michelle said...

@Shayna: awww thanks :)

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