Women need the right costumes in life

July 11, 2007 at 12:52 am 7 comments

A fellow male columnist of mine recently touch on the topic of appropriate workplacemasks.jpg dress for women and I knew immediately that I would of course have an opinion about what he had to say. In fact, this is an issue in which I believe many women struggle.

My collegue said, “I saw a lovely young lady in a government office last Friday. She had on this lovely blouse that fitted firmly on her upper body. It was complimented by tight fitting jeans that seemed to highlight every curve, crease and bulge in her lower body. If I was working in the same office with that girl in the close-fitting attire, I would have enormous difficulty concentrating.”

In a world where society dictates fashion through magazines by shoving plunging necklines and stiletto heels at every woman’s subconscious, it can be quite difficult to translate that image into a conservative workplace environment.

The male columnist even touched on the way the women in our own newspaper dressed. He said, “Some people are going to be blue mad … but the dress code is also becoming a problem here at [this newspaper]. I am going to recommend to [the publisher] that some of the female staff dress more modestly on Fridays and weekends, while the males should try to ensure that their attire is less casual.”

For women whose personalities lead them to careers such as accounting and legal work, I would venture to say that their mindset is already one that plays it safe and will not find it difficult to adjust their wardrobe to suit a workplace environment.

However, for the more creative minded woman, like those who would be found in a newsroom, the process of creating an appropriate workplace wardrobe might be considerable more difficult. I know this first hand since I still struggle – even at thirty-eight years of age – to buy clothes that do not have flowing sleeves and extreme patterns.

In fact, even if I purposely go to the store to buy something conservative for an event, without fail I will return home with something that a writer would wear instead of something an accountant would wear.

I am not negating my male collegue’s point. In fact, I whole-heartedly agree with his premise that within a workplace environment, women should dress appropriately. However, it is far easier for a man, who can slip on a button-up shirt and some slacks, than it is for a woman to find that balance between creative and appropriate attire.

Women just entered the workplace a few short decades ago and as such, it can surely be expected that some ladies may find it a daunting task to define themselves within an environment that has been established and moulded by men.

I recently bought a book to help me with my own issues of finding the appropriate attire in various settings. The book entitled, “From Clueless to Class Act,” by Jodi R. R. Smith, said, “Before you leave home, think about where you are going and what you should be wearing. This doesn’t mean you always need to look like you stepped off the cover of a magazine. Different outfits are appropriate for different occasions. Think of your attire as a costume for playing a part.”

This statement could help the creative-minded woman because she might be able to envision herself in a more conservative style if she viewed the outfit as one of the many costumes she needs for her various roles in life.

The other day I watched a debate between Christians and Atheists on ABC’s news show, Nightline. There were two men who represented the Christian side (of course) and a man and a woman representing the Atheist side. Firstly, the debate was a total waste of time since it was not the academic event I assumed it would be.

However, I was totally embarrassed for all women because the sole lady who represented us in this debate wore a loudly printed dress with a neckline that exposed her breasts and was cut at the bottom with jagged edges. This was a dress that should be worn to a club for dancing – not to an intellectual debate on the existence of God that was broadcast around the world.

There is no way anyone with a thinking mind could possibly take this woman seriously no matter how intelligent she was or how solid her argument. She did in fact make some great points during the debate, but nothing spoke louder than the statement she was making with that dress.

We as women have to find the balance between being sexy in the bedroom and being stately in the boardroom. I am a free spirit that loves to be creative, but I am also an academic that loves to learn about everything that crosses my path.

Every woman has many roles to play in life. Women are mothers, lovers, students, teachers, housewives, legislators – and so on. We must wear the appropriate costume for every occasion of our lives so that we leave no room for the old patriarchal system to claim it was right that women do not belong in this “man’s world.”

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Entry filed under: feminism, feminist, misogyny, Stella Ramsaroop, women's issues. Tags: , , .

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Trudi  |  July 12, 2007 at 12:43 am

    I disagree with the idea that it is my responsibility to dress to make men comfortable. Why can’t men learn to look at a fully dressed woman and see a colleague instead of a bed mate?

    Your colleague noticed a woman in jeans and a shirt. That’s all she wore. She was fully dressed, and yet, he found it distracting. That’s HIS problem. Not her’s.

  • 2. stellar1  |  July 12, 2007 at 11:26 am

    Trudi,

    I believe you have a perfectly valid point, but consider this. I have a son who is about to turn 19 years old. Since middle school my son has dressed in all black as a way to rebel against societal norms and to make a statement that he will not conform.

    The problem is that he has always been judged by the fact that he always wears black. He is a sweetheart, really. With a kind heart, but very few people have ever been brave enough to find this out. Simply put, society judges us by our dress.

    Likewise, if a woman wears an outfit to the workplace that is considered less than appropriate, she will be judged. It may not be right, but that is how society works.

    Do you think we should be like my son who was too immature to realise that he was pushing people away simply by the way he dressed?

  • 3. LindaC  |  July 14, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    Hi Stella… I found you through the tag surfer! Nice to meet you and love your blog. To coin Arnie… I’ll be back. lol.

    …it is far easier for a man, who can slip on a button-up shirt and some slacks, than it is for a woman to find that balance between creative and appropriate attire…

    Women can slip on a button up shirt and slacks, too. It’s what I do when I have to appear in a corporate setting. In my personal life, I dress in extremes. If I’m not in all black, I’m in *very* artsy (ie; artist’s shirt with no collar and leggings).

    I think that whether we are male or female, presenting ourselves according to where we’re going is part of attaining a level of maturity. It shows we’ve learned that “who we are” isn’t defined by what we wear, but by our principles and our actions.

    : )
    Linda

  • 4. Trudi  |  July 16, 2007 at 11:57 am

    When a woman goes to work in a navy suit because that’s the norm and the men still gawk at her, what is she to do? Wear a burqa?

    When men behave badly, women should not get blamed.

    If I go out in snug fitting clothing, it is not my responsibility to explain to every man I encounter that I’ve put on a few pounds and my clothes are tight so that the doesn’t get “distracted” by my tight clothes. It is his responsibility to see me as a human being.

  • 5. L  |  July 19, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    Hi, found this on the “women’s rights” tag surfer.

    I agree with what Trudi’s saying here. Men should spend less time worrying about what sultry, deviant, terrible things women are wearing and more time considering why many women feel compelled to wear such things in the first place: you know, reasons like fetishization of every last square inch of women’s skin, pornification of every environment in which women exist, etc.

    When do we hold men accountable for their behavior? When do we stop blaming victims of the patriarchy for their complicity in the crimes committed against them?

    This post doesn’t deserve the “women’s rights” or the “misogyny” tags — you’re just reinforcing outdated patriarchal crap that women would be better off without.

  • 6. Mannersmith  |  July 30, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    As you can see, attire is a hotly debated issue. Life is certainly not fair. But we must all understand our actions create reactions. Better to be prepared than surprised! We must dress seriously to be taken seriously. Just look at news achors when the man is in a suit and the woman in a blouse. She may be well spoken, but a sexy shirt underminds her message.

  • 7. marlajayne  |  August 15, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    When I think of attire (especially work attire), I think of one’s image, that composite of our manners, confidence, facial expressions, hairstyle, use of jewelry (or not), attitude, and yes CLOTHING. Like it or not, others judge us by it. As someone above mentioned, life isn’t fair, and no matter how much we may squawk and complain about the “rules,” it won’t change how we’re perceived.

    Men have to play by the rules too. When I was a younger person, I remember reading that for men there was no such thing as a short-sleeved dress shirt and that green jackets were taboo in the boardroom. About those button up shirts, one man with whom I used to work always like to leave his first couple of buttons unbuttoned. Ugh. He was about 50 at the time,but even if he had been 25, would that have made it right? In a professional setting, men and women are both expected to meet a certain standard.

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