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Just another day at the office

February 14th, 2008     by Catherine Hayday     Comments

Where do you work, and how do you dress for your job?

Pick a sector, and I’ve probably spent some time working in a cube in it. Non-profits, government, tech, education, marketing, and back to non-profits and government a few more times.

With the exception of tech (mmm graphic print tees, jeans and sneakers), my jobs have usually come with an implied business casual dress code. A sometimes tricky category, especially if you are trying to find creative ways to make all your outfits work with flat shoes.

I wasn’t able to get much inspiration from women’s clothing companies: not a lot of campaigns of confident smart women getting things done in stylish, but practical, clothes. What I did see were images like this 2008 one from JCrew, of a windswept woman in thin heels with a clutch purse, striking an infantilizing “I have to pee” pose.

Yeah. If I’m looking for someone to chair a meeting, I’m going to that girl first.

Whether I agree with it or not, I believe there are still hierarchies reflected in, and informed by, how you dress. The ‘power suit’ came by that name honestly. There are many places you can work where what you can do is considered with less weight than how you look doing it.

Like lots of social games, you can opt out, and you can try a different approach, but you’re still better off to know what’s going on.

This particular JCrew outfit actually looks like it’s probably quite workable (minus the shoes). But I’m concerned with their unwillingness to market officewear for grown women to grown women.

Menswear ads are full of striding, watch-checking pinnacles of power and prestige, while women’s officewear more often features us looking off-balance and surprised. Make the clothing appear interesting, make it beautiful, make it out of the ordinary and aspirational, but don’t make it goofy.

I’m generalizing from what I’m exposed to and what I notice. I would love to be pointed in the direction of something else if it’s out there: clothing advertised to women who take their work and their credibility seriously.

Do you know of any?

Tags: body politics

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