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Style at Work: Politics, Fashion and The Rest of Us

Have you ever noticed that politicians have the same sort of look, over and over again?

Clinton had her signature pantsuits in pastel colours, which I cannot say I was a fan of, but when she wore a few jewel toned suits, I was more on board; I suspect I just don’t like Easter Egg colours on anyone….

I am also sad to report that I am not wowed by anyone’s outfit, anyone who is a politician that is. Some wives, on the other hand, have some killer wardrobes.

Condoleeza Rice was for me, the most stylish of all of them. Did you read about the furor over her knee-high black boots which looked normal to everyone else, but started a scandal!?

Women in politics for sure, are completely boxed into this hole of having to look rather masculine but yet have enough colour (?) or style (?) to be feminine. I don’t really get why we are so focused on what women wear and not what MEN wear, although my first instinct is that men tend to wear the same thing over and over again – suit, tie, shirt, pants. Yawn.

Women, have so many more options – Pants? Skirt? Suit? Not a suit?

But why do they stick to such bland colours? It is because they are trying to blend in in a sense, and show how practical and responsible they are to be able to run a country.

Who is going to believe that a woman could be smart AND beautifully dressed to her advantage? /sarcasm

I come up against this quite a bit, working in male-dominated industry, and it seems to apply in my area as well, just less on a public stage.

If I wear really nice dresses and heels to work, I have to work twice as hard to prove myself because I immediately give off a STEREOTYPICAL vibe of someone who isn’t competent, because she is dressed well.

How could I possibly keep two coherent thoughts in my head, having spent time picking out a fantastic outfit? With COLOUR, no less?

It is so rare to see it, that we notice it even more sharply.

Society has led us to believe the BS that women are only one of two things: Pretty or Smart.

They cannot be both, it simply would be too unfair *insert eyeroll*. You and I both know that is complete BS, but unfortunately even women buy into this.

So women, dress down to not look like they are pretty so that they are immediately corralled into the category of Smart, and vice versa.

Do you know how many women VPs I see in my area, walking around like they went to Marks Work Wearhouse in the men’s section and picked out basic oxford shirts and pants there?

The difference is if your industry is male or female dominated

In contrast, if you work in a female-dominated industry such as fashion, as an editor let’s say, your style is completely open to whatever you want it to be.

Many big style ‘icons’ like Anna Wintour, have a signature look – dresses, never in black, cropped, sleek blonde bob and big sunglasses with a Starbucks cup and some heels.

She doesn’t really stray from that – can you recall her wearing pants? Jeans? I am racking my brain and I have never seen her in anything BUT a colourful dress.

Other editors like Sarah Harris of Vogue is basically ONLY in pants, and usually in dark neutrals (RARELY colour), and white and blue are admittedly her favourite colours. Her Instagram is full of her outfits.. which are all slightly androgynous and have a very cool vibe.

The real key difference between the fashion styles from what I can see, is that if it is male-dominated, women TEND to dress more masculine, or at least, there is more confusion.

If you dress in sleek, chic outfits, you stand out because no one is really doing the same.

If it is female-dominated, the fashion becomes a little outrageous, veering towards theatre because you’re surrounded by likeminded women who also enjoy fashion (for the most part), and if you don’t dress in sleek, chic outfits, you’re the one who stands out.

This brings to mind one of the most interesting Pixar short films I have ever watched: Purl – that addresses whether or not women should assimilate into being men (I wholeheartedly say NO), and how the world may look if we just had more balanced industries where people felt free to express themselves style-wise, rather than being pigeonholed (either via company policies or in their heads):

Dress for yourself – whatever it may be

I for my own part in all of this, dress however I want. Sleek, chic, and if my outfit distracts you, all the better for me to blast you away with my brains, deep knowledge, and love for what I do.

If you can only see my outfit and immediately pigeonhole me as a stereotype of not being bright, that’s your problem, not mine.

I dress for myself, to feel powerful and professional (I am not in a miniskirt and crochet top, thankyouverymuch), and it is not my problem how others misconstrue that and link it to my brain. The two have NOTHING to do with each other, and the link that we immediately make based on appearances, can also be damning.

Did you know that attractive people make 10%-12% more, and women make less money and have a Beauty Penalty if they are TOO attractive? Men, have no penalty of course.

Attractive people are seen as more confident and it is one of those self-fulfilling prophecies because if you have grown up feeling attractive, you smile and the whole world smiles with you, so to speak.

There’s no need to turn into a fashionista, but a nice middle ground of a nicer top and not an oxford shirt, or sleeker pants instead of dowdy chinos, can make such a big difference in your entire look.

They’re basically the same thing – a shirt and pants – but done in different fabrics, colours, cuts and styles, it exudes a different persona, and people judge you within the FIRST 10 seconds of meeting you.

It may even give you a boost of confidence (I know, sounds silly but it is true), when you wear something that makes you feel incredible, rather just feeling like you are blending in, wearing serviceable attire.

There is a difference! I always liken it to presenting to a board of C-level executives – if you wore a t-shirt with yoga pants, would you feel as badass as in a sleek dress or top and pants ensemble? I doubt it. Unless you were presenting yoga wear and have to wear the product.

I would feel so much stronger if I knew my outward appearance already primed and projected how I want you to perceive me before I even open my mouth to speak.

I wouldn’t wear this to work, it feels too dreamy, sexy and boho for who I want to be at work (my work persona):

But I’d wear this and feel amazing:


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