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Oh Work Dress-code Up Yours!

Google “x ray spex” if you want to know what the title is referencing. 


The terror. The horror. Standing in front of my closet at 6:55am in the morning, peering in between the overly patterned dresses and shirts, desperately trying to find something that doesn’t make me look like Ms. Frizzle. I’ve never been good at work clothes, in fact in every job I have tried my hardest to push the dress-code to breaking point. If I had to wear a black t-shirt to work, I would dye my hair pink. If my skirt had to be below my knee, I would wear ankle length 60s maxi-dresses. Dress-codes in my mind were always more like “guidelines” (which should be said in a false British accent while wearing too much Kohl eye-liner).

JOHNNY DEPP stars in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END, directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, from a screenplay written by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio.

How did you get in here Captain Jack?



Where I live and work (Japan), people take work clothes very seriously. Suits, suits and more suits. For about one year I really tried to tone it down, I would try and extract the dullest, least fabulous skirts and blouses from my wardrobe. It was a sad, sad time. Over the years I’ve gone from trying to fit in to suddenly turning up in a neon floral dress and dyed red hair. Very confusing for my colleagues to say the least.


Work attire is fairly similar the world over, and in my heart (the fabulous, sparkly one to be precise) I really fucking hate the idea of work clothes. To be taken seriously you have to wear serious clothes. Maybe it’s nice to not think about your attire when you go to work; plenty of people (famous, smart folks in particular) have adopted a uniform so they don’t have to expend energy thinking about what to wear. I’ve read countless articles about how women in particular felt so free when they had a uniform to wear to work, it made them more productive and they felt loads better. I even got on the band wagon for about five minutes.

FRIDAY OUTFIT: Matilda Kahl had an epiphany after a particularly stressful morning trying to get to a meeting on time. It started out the way mornings do for many office dwellers picking out what to wear; a time-consuming process of mixing and matching pieces in the closet and tossing aside what doesn’t feel right. When she finally reached the office at Saatchi & Saatchi, an advertising firm in New York City, “I realized I was not only late, but with my sweater inside out. Kahl, an art director for the firm, found an elegant solution that would simplify her life. She chose a look she could wear every day: a white silk shirt with a diagonal button line from Zara — 15 of them, in fact — and a few pairs of black pants. Photo credit goes to Rasmus Keger.

                    Matilda Kahl looking swish in her uniform.


I think many women were drawn to the simplicity of the work uniform as work clothes for women are infinitely more complicated and anxiety inducing (for the wearer especially) than men’s. For women, what we look like in the work environment is very important; if we are wearing the wrong shoes we are less likely to be taken seriously. Hillary Clinton can wear pant suits which are supposedly serious person clothes and still be scoffed at while Mark Zuckerburg dresses like a perpetual college kid and we think he’s the bee knees. Vom.


Our appearance is connected to who we are because, sadly, women are more likely to be judged by our clothing than men. One fell swoop of too-red-lippy and suddenly you’re verging on trollop territory. It feels like another way to make the working environment more difficult for women to thrive in because we are constantly worried if our fashion choices will say something about us that we didn’t intend. Talk about a waste of brain power.


As I contemplated creating my own work uniform I was struck with how much appropriate work attire is based around rules that we (as women) didn’t create. The out-fit-choosing-fatigue (OCF for short) that many of us experience stems from not wanting to be judged by others for breaking these “rules”.


No, no hold then gosh darn phone people! This isn’t how we want to do it!


Getting dressed for other people is where this whole problem comes from. If getting dressed in the morning for work makes you feel awful because you’re worried about what other people think, then maybe you should try and give less of a fuck. Deceptively simple? I think not. If you feel best in a uniform, then by gods go and purchase 30 pairs of Uniqlo stretch pants, you do you. But if that’s not your game then you should be able to work your unique look (we’re looking at you, Lynn Yaeger).

holding-grace-jonesGrace shows us her “ready for the office” look. 


However, it’s not that easy to change people’s minds about how women should dress. It can lead to a lack of respect, job losses and for students even expulsion or suspension. Too many girls in High Schools will have to make angry social media campaigns about their “not appropriate for school” outfits, too many ladies will have to spend an extra 20 minutes in their closet trying to extract a skirt that says “I am serious about my job but I am still me”. These rules and regulations are really not in our favor.


Instead of focusing on creating a uniform when our job doesn’t actually require one, people should stop focusing on what women are wearing.


Get your goddamn judge-y nose out of my goddamn personal (or lack-there-of) style.

iris-apfel-albert-maysles-fanfairAin’t NOBODY messing with Iris. 

The amount of energy it takes to actually notice, think and criticize someone’s appearance could be better spent focusing on your actual job. May it be teaching students or being a high-powered business human. Get on with your work and stop analyzing the color of your colleagues’ lipstick.


Judging women on how capable or wholesome they are on their clothes is just plain silliness.


So I say, fuck the dress code.


I would rather spend time in the morning deciding on which dress will make me feel amazing, or how my necklace (albeit giant and gold) reminds me of my friend who gave it to me. I would rather get dressed without having to think about other people too much.


As said by Evette Reay who was suspended on her last day of school because the length of her dress:


“I love the dress, I have no regrets about wearing it, and I would wear it again any day. I feel good in it and I think all women need to realize that they should wear what they feel good in”.


Women are trained from a young age to worry about their appearance, getting dressed for you and only you is the best way to give the middle finger to all that image-policing, body policing nonsense.


You do YOU ladies.

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