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Women's dress choices

(54 Posts)
begonyabampot Mon 26-Sep-11 23:34:10

not posted much on this board but seen a few threads recently that have got me thinking. We don't like that women generally aren't treated equally or with the same seriousness as men. That often we are judged by appearance so why do we choose to dress often the way we do. Why often wear clothes that are more uncomfortable or even hamper our movement etc as in high heels and tight clothing. We don't want to be judged on appearance but go out of our way often to make an effort in time and money to get noticed. Men OTOH generally wear more comfortable, practical clothing, don't spend as much time and money on say hair and makeup. I know it's cultural and learned behaviours and expectations to what women should look like but are we doing ourselves any favours by continuing to dress this way and then taking umbridge when men notice the differences we are exaggerating between the sexes. I know that women should be able to dress and look anyway we want without the judgements that are usually made. I generally go for practicality and comfort but still like to dress up and use makeup for certain occasions, i' just curious as to what others think. I really can't wear high heels any more and never did much - why do we do it to ourselves and what do others think?

StayFrosty Mon 26-Sep-11 23:53:50

I think turn it around - what if a woman had a short back and sides haircut, and started turning up to work in no make up, flat shoes, shirt and trousers? Sure a lot of workplaces would have no problem with it, but in most places and throughout society, the pressures on women to perform 'grooming' etc are external. There was a very recent mn thread ab

StayFrosty Mon 26-Sep-11 23:56:51

Aaargh damn iphone! A very recent thread about a mner who had been told by her boss to straighten her hair - can you imagine a longhaored man being told to do this? He would either be told to tie it back or cut it, not perform a 30 minute ritual every morning.

There was a really good thread on here about performing femininity, i wil see if i can find the link....

begonyabampot Mon 26-Sep-11 23:58:46

I think I saw the tread you're meaning, probably partly why I've been thinking more about it.

begonyabampot Tue 27-Sep-11 00:00:42

The hair one anyway - wonder what she decided to do. Found it hard to believe that some thought her boss had a point and she should toe his line.

solidgoldbrass Tue 27-Sep-11 00:00:50

I have worked in places where women staff who didn't wear any make up were called into Personnel and told to go and buy some.
Funnily enough these places were nothing to do with the sex industry.
While everyone is assessed by others to a certain extent on what they are wearing and how 'groomed' they are (a barrister in frayed shorts, flipflops and a tie-dye top would be sent out of the courtroom, anyone who wore a tailored suit and highly polished footwear to dig a fishpond and create a rockery would be looked at strangely...) women do get much more pressure to look attractive in the workplace.

Mumcentreplus Tue 27-Sep-11 00:01:34

That boss was taking the piss thank fuck she did not employ me... I would have told her about herself..and have an expectation that i could buy brand new GHDs from petty cash!!..ffs...the nerve

Mumcentreplus Tue 27-Sep-11 00:03:15

wow i can't believe that some people have the nerve to talk to women about their appearance so openly...but then..I'm a civil servant grin

StayFrosty Tue 27-Sep-11 00:29:49

this was the resisting femjninity thread

In the mid nineties, my housemate got a summer job at laura ashley, she was specifically told to wear tights, heeled shoes, light make up, discreet earrings etc. They were very specific. i expect things arefairly similar nowadays.

solidgoldbrass Tue 27-Sep-11 10:06:48

I think if you are working on a cosmetics counter, in a hairdressing salon or selling fashionable clothes, it's reasonable for your employer to ask you to adapt your appearance in certain ways during working hours ie demonstrate that you yourself use the products/services you are selling. And if you are interacting with the public you might be asked to wear the company uniform, which again is not entirely unreasonable. But in any other job, as long as you aren't filthy or smelly, or wearing things covered with offensive slogans, it really shouldn't be any of your employer's business how you look.

begonyabampot Tue 27-Sep-11 10:18:47

that makes sense SGB regards cosmetic counters, though guess the only place I think make-up should be stipulated would be for actors/ models.

NotADudeExactly Tue 27-Sep-11 10:25:33

I work in software and am the only female programmer in my company. While it has huge drawbacks one bit I love about my situation is that I basically get to define what female tech person looks like where I'm employed.

In practice this has meant that it really is anything from 50s couture dress and heels to Docs, worn out jeans and geek joke t-shirt. My co-workers really don't seem to notice much what I wear. They're typical nerds and I think assume I'm a funny looking man.

I agree that there is a huge amount of pressure on women in many places to look attractive. One hotel where I used to work had an actual unofficial (as illegal) policy of only hiring very sexy looking receptionists. (To be fair, they applied this to men too - except for them that meant good genes only whereas for a woman it was a case of genetically lucky and cosmetically enhanced to the degree of one extra hour of work a day.)

Another aspect though: many of us have really internalized what does and does not look nice. For example, I do happen to think that my legs look great in a pair of heels. Hence I wear them at times simply because it pleases my own aesthetic sense.

RamblingRosa Tue 27-Sep-11 10:34:04

I actually think employers stipulating very gendered dress codes is more prevalent than most people would think. Plenty of train and air travel companies stipulate high heels for women staff and skirt suits. I have a friend who's a city lawyer and she's told me about strict dress codes including skirts for women and no bare legs (even in summer). I think guidelines about make up and what not are pretty standard in customer facing roles such as sales assistants etc.

I know men have uniforms and dress codes too but what annoys me is how very gendered some of these dress codes are. I mean seriously, it's 2011 and it's still acceptable for women to be told they have to wear make up and heels at work?!

Men have determined the dress code in business though (and in the rest of life if we are honest). Women are still being stipulated to, by men.

I have a real problem with dress codes, what is deemed as professional, uniforms etc in general as it is so arbitary, gendered and very patriarchal. Thankfully I work in an organisation where I could turn up in a t-shirt and surfer shorts and no-one would bat an eyelid (well they might at the moment being 8 months pregnant and all!)

I feel it is just another way to keep gendered differences - and I mean gender as in this false construct by society not differences between the sexes (although the first makes the second more pronounacable than it is).

begonyabampot Tue 27-Sep-11 11:02:43

one of my first jobs as a teenager was in clean room. Everyone wore the same, no make-up allowed, no hair on shoe, trainers for all. All that could be seen were the eyes - it was really quite liberating.

begonyabampot Tue 27-Sep-11 11:03:14

sorry, 'no hair on show'.

I can imagine it was and I imagine that the differences between the sexes were suddenly not as visible.

begonyabampot Tue 27-Sep-11 11:10:17

it was, I also worked for a while on a socialist based farming community. Again, the differences between the sexes was more downplayed. In general people didn't seem to buy into the gender stereotypes as much as you can get elsewhere.

AbsDuWolef Tue 27-Sep-11 11:16:55

There was a thread in AIBU about this recently (will try to find it) where lots of people gave RL examples.

On balance, very few work places actually stipulated that women had to dress in a certain way. Obviously there was the implied or explicit requirement to dress appropriately (e.g. suits for office jobs, lab coats for lab jobs) but very few examples (beauty counters, airlines) of women being told to wear heels and make up etc.

solidgoldbrass Tue 27-Sep-11 11:24:08

Men are generally expected to modify their facial hair though - it's one of the very few areas in which men are made to conform to rules of appearance. Some workplaces either forbid beards or make it clear that men who have beards are suspect. And really quite a lot of workplaces would react badly to a man with a big straggly natural beard - in fact men with great big beards are seen as odd or comical in many situations.

NotADudeExactly Tue 27-Sep-11 12:07:09

I think in many places men are more restricted hair wise in general.

I spent a few years working in luxury hospitality. Acceptable hair policy for women in most places seemed to be natural looking colour, tied back if longer than to the shoulders - men in quite a few places were not allowed any hairstyles except neat short cut at all.

NotADudeExactly Tue 27-Sep-11 12:10:47

Sorry, iPad!

Theree does seem to be some kind of an assumption in places that long hair on men is somehow not neat (or even slightly grubby). Whereas with women, it is actually considered more rather than less attractive by many. Just look at the fuss the media were making about Kate Middleton's hair (which is well groomed but really nothing more special than a half decent blow dry).

Something I thought about after begonyabampot's post about the clean room was that men in the workplace essentially dress and look the same - bringing in what SGB was saying about beards/hair. They wear dark trouser suits, shirts, ties, short hair, brogue type shoes etc.

Women, although they have more flexibility in terms of coulour, hairstyles etc, don't all look the same and stand out from the men.

I think it is worth thinking about whether this is deliberate, as the men have created the rules. And also thinking about whether that similarity that men have increases their already powerful presence in the workplace?

Basically, what I am saying is do you think that it is to men's advantage to be limited in their choice of clothing and hair style?

TeiTetua Tue 27-Sep-11 14:06:22

solidgoldbrass must live in some other universe: "one of the very few areas in which men are made to conform to rules of appearance..." ???

Sing it, sister. Or brother:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaRq2NQeWog

blackcurrants Tue 27-Sep-11 15:38:20

I sometimes envy men a 'uniform' of kinds. Black tie, for example - buy it once, wear it forever. Women would be judged if they wore the same long shiny dress over and over, but men get to wear the same suit if they want to.

Suits for work can do the same thing: two or three good suits, six or seven shirts, as many ties as you fancy (or as few) and two good pairs of shoes - bang, job's a good 'un.

Whereas women are expected to have outfits - shoes, bags, - and be 'put together' in a way that doesn't just involve wearing a matching jacket and pair of trousers.
Now, this is lovely if you adore clothes and fashion and it is one of your creative outlets- I have friends like this and I rather envy them - but I'm not like that. If anything, I would like to be able to wear a uniform! Just so it's one less thing to worry about. But in my line of work men don't wear suits (more 'smart casual' - no jeans, dress shirts open at the neck, sometimes blazers, sometimes not) and that leaves a whole bewildering range open to me. Open-toed shoes too casual? This dress work-appropriate but this one too cleavage-y? This neckline too high? This one too low?

Not to mention I cycle to the station as part of my commute so a whole range of dress-options are out the window anyway. Pretty as can be, but not actually practical for my life.

Oh dear. I wonder if I have been so conditioned by the ease of school uniform I am basically hankering for it ? The horror! grin

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