This week I started my new job here in Atlanta. I always use the first few weeks at a job to test the waters when it comes to the office culture. I like to see how loudly I can talk in my cubicle without being pointed to a conference room and observe the general attitude towards dress at work. My first day I wore a pair of ankle-strap pumps (very popular right now and great for summer) and got a few compliments from ladies at the office *sigh of relief*. Today I wore a bright orange "sundress" and got some compliments from men and women alike. No glares. Just smiles. I don't know if they were smiling at me just because I'm "the baby" in the office, but I have a good feeling about freedom of expression by way of clothing at my new office! 😊
I am not by any means a style expert. I have my own personal office style, and it's preppy, professional, and feminine. I find dresses and skirts to be more comfortable than pants, so I wear them more often. I've worked for 3 Fortune 500 companies and have never had a problem doing so. If you're anything like me, you read advice posts and books from successful women (ex: Lean In) and treat their advice like the law. Recently, I've found some of their guidance to be...misguiding. Some women say you need to mask your femininity to be taken seriously. Others say play up your femininity to climb your way to the top. Does anyone have a real answer? Do their opinions even matter (to me)? It seems like the only articles I see about how we (women) present ourselves at work are titled "What Not To Wear" and "Office Fashion Faux-Pas". This brings me to the question: why is everyone so concerned with us?
"So I'm watching CNN and two of three women broadcast "journalists" are featuring the long twirly curls that do anything but say "authority". (One saddled with a squeaky pitch to boot.) Do they really believe the third-wave feminist joke that you can dress like a bubblehead and still be taken seriously as a professional and succeed in a male-dominated world?"
The above Facebook post is from a journalism professor at my alma mater. A female professor at that. Regardless, this commentary is inappropriate from anyone. It's another piece that insinuates we have to dress and even style our hair a certain way, to be taken seriously. Clearly these women are doing something right if they've made it onto national news. If third-wave feminism is a 'joke', then I'm sure those ladies are laughing all the way to the bank. Good for them. BTW, I have yet to find a correlation between barrel curls and poor journalism; if someone finds some relevant statistics, let me know.
Put it this way, do men in the office ever make attempts to hide their masculinity? No, they don't. A diverse work environment means a mix of femininity, masculinity, and everything in between. If your work environment doesn't foster that mix, you probably don't want to be there. Feminism is about choices, whether your choice is pant suit or pencil skirt. Expression of your gender identity is 100% OK. You can be a Joan from Mad Men or a Hillary Clinton, or a mix like me! Don't try to blend in with gray, black, and blue if those aren't your preferences. If you've made it into your position based upon merit and those long and hard hours of work, then wear what the hell you want. Feel free to rock those barrel curls, too. We've got choices.
At the end of the day, I'm not looking to blend in, I'm trying to stand out. I think every woman in the workplace should live and breathe this sentiment. It's our right.
Above: How I dress on any given work day. I don't plan on changing it.
In preparing this post, I did a little bit of research on what women, people in power, and people in general think about how women should dress in the workplace. Here are some interesting pieces I found:
- Dressing Feminine In The Workplace – Will You be Taken Seriously?
- The Sexist Formula for Dressing "Professionally" As A Woman That I Learned Running a Website That Crowdsources First Impressions of LinkedIn Photos
- Pink Prejudice: Can You Dress Too Feminine For Work?
- People Are Unconsciously Sexist About How Women Should Look at Work
- Powerful Women Who Refuse To "Dress Like Men" — Because Being Feminine Doesn't Mean Being Weak
- Power Dressing
- Can 'Feminine' Women Make It To The Top?
What's your office style like?