Recently, the issue of how women should dress at their workplace got a lot of publicity, because a certain someone mentioned that he wants them to be ‘dressed like women’. This issue, though, is an issue for me and many women in our everyday life. Especially, if somebody works in particular environments, like extremely male-dominated ones. Of course, questions like ‘who is suitable to judge our clothes?’, ‘what does ‘dress like a woman’ mean?’, ‘does anyone care what men wear?’ etc filled my head and I am desperately trying to answer them.
I love clothes. I spend time to buy clothes and find what I should wear in different occasions. I don’t expect and I don’t think that all women do. I do feel like I have a good taste, my own style and I mostly wear the ‘right’ clothes. And yes, sometimes I do judge the way people dress. And because I spend most of my time in academic and scientific environments, I have quite a lot of experience on how people choose to dress there and what is supposed to be ‘acceptable’ or not.
When I was working in a lab though, many times I felt that I wasn’t wearing the ‘correct’ clothes and that was causing problems to both me and the other people in the room. I felt I was probably too ‘dressed like a woman’ than I should. Wearing skirts or dresses or even a t-shirt with a slightly open back while working in a -mostly male dominated- lab is not the correct decision. But what if that’s the way I like to be dressed? Why do I need to change my style for someone else’s sake?
Another thing that I very often experience is the -what I call- ‘conference look’. I am suddenly in a room with many awkwardly dressed women, who try to keep the image of the ‘professional’ woman together with a non-provocative ‘dressed like woman’ attitude, losing any sense of their personal style, if any. To make it easier to picture it without using photos, I am talking about the random colourless, odourless, tasteless midi dress with the cardigan and the ballerinas, the grey suit with no identity or the famously known black trousers/skirt and white shirt . And, yes I know, not all people have taste or interest in clothes, but every time I am at a conference, I feel like these women, who usually don’t have spare time, actually spent some time (and money) to find these clothes and put them together for this particular occasion, and that there was a real effort from their side to please the public opinion on how a woman should look at a conference.
So, I am quite confused of what the expectations are and how well women do when it comes to ‘dress coding’ in workplace. I guess there are some people who would like to see women dressed nicely and in a more feminine way more often. I am one of them. I am not happy with women oppressing their style and appearance just because they work in an uncomfortable environment, and trying to fit in by losing their identity and uniqueness. But, I am not happy either with women who have to be constantly ‘dressed like women’ and have a flawless appearance just because it’s their boss’s/company’s ‘policy’ and they have to please their eyes.