If the image-policing brigade is in the audience, you may get up and leave. NOW.
You won’t like what I have to say.
However, if you’ve got the bal*s to sit up and keep a straight face while I tell you where you are going wrong, by all means, stay. <maybe even take notes>
Who knows, you might want to convert by the end of it all?
As for the rest of my friends who came in because they know the *feels* of standing in front of the mirror at 8 am every single day, peering through oversized dresses, dull blouses and the least exciting skirts ever, deciding which among this godforsaken section of your wardrobe wouldn’t make you look like Ms. Frizzle, I am with you.
Image source: Pinterest
Don’t get me wrong. I am NOT a ‘girl-y girl’ wanting to sport every trend I shop for at work. Nor is this a crazy fashion rant. But I do have my reasons to hate the work dress code.
In an age that is continually striving to push past outmoded worldviews and achieve an ‘androgynous’ environment in which gender binaries are blurred to an extent that they become indistinguishable, this rather staunch insistence on ‘dressing a certain way’ seems to be a misfit in the whole arrangement.
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And no, I am not even making this a feminist cause. I will, in a while- but at this moment, I am not.
In this moment, I am questioning the work dress code.
What exactly are we trying to achieve with it?
Are we trying to make an old aphorism (something about clothes maketh a man?) ring some bells? Even if they did ring a bell <pressing my ear close>, would it matter if the man (or woman) in an impeccably tailored suit opened his/her mouth to spew a whole mess of senseless garbage?
Are we doing it because that’s ‘just the way it is?’ Knowing that it does not align with our move to break free of all trappings of convention? Knowing that we are following a standard that makes zero sense, but cannot be done away with because we are all too afraid to?
Are we plain deluded to believe that a dapper suit and a stunning tie invests us with power? Confidence? Manners?
Worse, are we trying to police women so that their modest work attire wouldn’t distract men at work?
I ask again- what is it that we are really doing with the work dress code?
Is it that you have to look serious to be taken seriously?
Is it a convenient solution to not having to expend energy deciding on an attire?
Is it a method to prevent people from overstepping the ‘mark’ when it comes to professional decorum?
Image source: Pinterest
Please tell me. I am listening up close.
Don’t have answers?
I have one- work dress code serves no real purpose.
Hilary Clinton can wear pantsuits and still be scoffed at, while Mark Zuckerberg can dress like he’s a college kid and we’ll still think he’s bee knees. Get my point?
Our appearance makes for superficial markers of who we are- and we lay far too much premium on it than is necessary. There was a time before the 1960s when dressing used to be aspirational. Under the then-prevalent class system, the lower and working classes aspired to be like the upper class. So everyone dressed “up.” But when that system was (rightly) challenged, after WWI, and largely after the 1960s, a reverso movement sprang. Instead of aspiration, we strove for egalitarianism. And that meant dressing “down.” Suits were replaced by jeans, dress hats by baseball caps and leather oxfords by sneakers.
But people missed then the point we are missing now.
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Clothes do not make a man or woman.
Your suit shouldn’t be some elitist/classist token to define whether or not you possess gentlemanly manners. Your shoes should have no bearing on your competency to do a job. Your ‘casual’ attire shouldn’t take away from groundbreaking ideas. A couple of inches extra on your heel shouldn’t determine your sexual availability. A fell-swoop of a too-rich-red on your lips shouldn’t put you in the troll top territory. A skirt that rests just about a few centimeters above the ‘acceptable’ length shouldn’t, by default, subject you to unwarranted moral judgments!
Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License
I might, for a moment, agree that a certain dress code for work ousts the outfit-choosing fatigue (OCF) but the defense stands deflated when one considers that much of the fatigue that one feels when faced with a need to ‘pick and choose’ something to wear to work stems from a mental calculation about whether we’d be judged for our choices. Whether it’d be ‘breaking the rules.’
Willingly or unwillingly, we have all been complicit in the process of allowing rules, that we didn’t create in the first place, to dictate what ‘appropriate’ work attire should or shouldn’t look like.
In an age that exhorts its citizens to embrace unbridled authenticity and looks down on artifice of any kind, this compulsory insistence on ‘dressing a certain way for work’ defeats all ideas of the freedom to be yourself.
I am not saying that you shouldn’t wear a pantsuit to work. If that floats your boat, by all means, don that damn thing and work your wonky hours. If work uniforms are your thing, go to Uniqlo and drop some wads to get yourself your work’s worth- but if you are anything like me who cannot bear the thought of pulling through work and then, some overtime in an uncomfortable suit, challenge the game.
I have never been good with the work dress code. I try my best to push it to breaking point- so that if I have to wear skirts that graze areas below my knee, I will ditch them for the 60’s ankle-length maxi dresses (oh, sweet comfort) and if buns are acceptable at work, I try to dye my hair red and wear it Medusa-style.
Image source: Pinterest
Of course, it can lead to unwanted attention, unwarranted judgment, maybe a loss of job, suspension and for students, even expulsion! But Rome was not built in a day and ergo, no monumental change shall happen overnight.
Picking a dress that fits us just well so that goddamn judgy nose doesn’t crawl inside but also represents us authentically is IMPOSSIBLE. In the battle, we lose.
I say- turn the tables. Getting dressed for others is where the whole problem begins. It is high time people stop fixating on the way our attires define us. Because they don’t.
They just don’t.
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Take it slow- if casual Fridays have become a thing, that day isn’t far when people can be themselves- even if they are in their sweatpants and tees, making a presentation to the board of directors- proving their worthiness to the team.
Let’s prove to the world that ‘being yourself’ never hurt anyone. Maybe if women spent less time spending on those tailored suits they HAVE to get for work- and more on picking a dress they feel good in or wearing a necklace they have a fond memory of- they’d be happier. More so if people were listening to the words they uttered rather than judging if the color on their lip was louder!
I’d hold the same for men as well.
Just do YOU. Coz that’s the most be-YOU-tiful thing in the world.
(And I hope the bosses are listening!)
Featured image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License