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Dress Like a Woman you Say?

Isla Macneil

As someone once said to me, ‘every day is a day for dressing up’ and I believe they are absolutely correct. You should indeed be able to dress any way you please for work.

So you can imagine my reaction last week when I heard that President Donald Trump had released a directive stating that female staff at the White House should ‘dress like women’. 

Once I stopped swearing at the radio I started thinking about this statement and what it actually means to ‘dress like a woman’ at work.  As a freelancer, I can spend entire work days in pyjamas.  It is, one of the perks of working from home and judging by the response to my request for today's work outfit, something I am not alone in. 

To my delight I discovered that all over the world women had taken to Twitter to share photographs of themselves or of women that inspired them: women in the military, police force, doctors, surgeons, musicians, stay at home mothers, writers, athletes, pharmacists and oncologists nestled alongside famous faces like Mae Jemison, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Malala Yousafzai, Serena Williams and Katherine Hepburn. They showed women in a wide range of careers and stages of their lives. 

It turns out there’s no one way to dress like a woman at work. Who would’ve thought?

But if you search 'women’s work wear' on-line, you'll most likely be confronted by a lot of tall, sleek women wearing pencil dresses or slim cut trouser suits. And this is of course fine, if that is what you want to wear for work.  However, if it is not, or it’s not really suitable for your day job as a [insert your cool, enviable, adventuresome job here] then I recommend you go for it and wear whatever you please. 

You see the thing is that statements like this are damaging. They tell us and crucially our children that there are acceptable and unacceptable ways to dress as a woman and therefore acceptable and unacceptable ways to be as a woman.

If Trump's directive had been to dress smartly or to dress in a way that was practical for the role regardless of the gender of the employee, that would be one thing. But that wasn't the directive. The directive was that female staff should dress like women, a statement which marginalises them, requiring them to fit a certain mould. 

This is something that is very personal to me as my own company Ingenues seeks to showcase the work of these women to children.  Their refusal to fit in, to fit someone else’s idea of what a woman should do or be is their gift to us. Without it the world would be a poorer place. 

If you would like to do some dressing up of your own with your children, then I invite you to join us at one of our events where you can learn about and dress up as a selection of fabulous inspirational women or create costumes and outfits all of your own. 

Here is a small selection of those that responded when I asked what people were wearing to work on this cold Monday morning.

Guess what? They are all wearing exactly what they want or need to wear to do their job and I salute them all: 

 


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