July 7th, 2006

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12:35 am - on appropriate apparel...

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on appropriate apparel... - graffiti.maverick — LiveJournal

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[User Picture]From: sundaygray Date: July 7th, 2006 - 10:35 pm (Link)

Part 3 of very long message....

I'm sure you'll be glad to know that this is the final part of the message. I'm getting sick of thinking about it. :)

So, I read this article awhile back about this woman who taught in a fairly conservative school district. She taught K-12 --I don't remember which grade. She got pregnant and kept teaching right up until it was time to have the baby. Of course, during the last trimester she looked very very pregnant. It become difficult for her to find clothes that would cover her large belly. During class one day, she was doing something slightly strenuous, like erasing the board, stretching, moving desks around --something --when her shirt came untucked or unfastened or something, and ta-da, her pregnant belly was suddenly on view to everyone. Just a stupid wardobe malfunction, right? Forget about it and move on, right? She was actually *sued* by the parents because her clothes were a distraction to the students.

Granted, this is an extreme case. But, for most jobs, women have a lot to think about when they get dressed for work. More so then men, I believe.

I know that you, chrismaverick, would probably deny that you would take a woman less seriously because she showed off her feminine side at work. But you're not the person in charge. Also, there's a lot of different points of view on what constitutes "feminine" and what is veering into the territory of "she looks like a tart." It's going to be different for every workplace, probably every supervisor. Just as you judge some guy for coming to work in "poorly fitting dockers and flannel shirt," and I probably wouldn't notice, there is some supervisor out there who is not comfortable with the tightness, shortness, strappiness of my shirt, whereas you wouldn't count it against me.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: July 8th, 2006 - 07:06 am (Link)

Re: Part 3 of very long message....

ok... now all the comments... I'll start with a brief comment on this story (like I did with the other 2)and then go to the overall comments.

see, in this case, I would argue that the problem here is that the courts should have protected the woman. Shit happens. She (at least in your telling of the case) was making every effort to be appropriate and something bad happened. Tough break, but oh well. You don't sue over that. Or if you do, you should lose. In the end, this isn't really an allegory about appropriate dress, its an allegory about a failing of the legal system.

Now onto the overarching comments for all three stories, summed up in the final paragraph you wrote here:

Again, you are confusing sexy and feminine. Or moreover, I think you are assuming that I am. I'm not. You'll note that I pointed out that Viki's outfit above, while perfectly hot for a wrestling photoshoot, wouldn't be school/work appropriate. But the same is true for the other extreme. Its just not PC to say so.

Am I in charge of my office right now? No, but I do work there. And there have been times that I have been in charge. In the past several years I have worked in a whole bunch of different aspects of corporate America and I can tell you without fail that your assumption is wrong. Bosses in corporate America, both male and female, both young and old, would very much prefer that their workstaff be as attractive as possible.

For one, simply put, its better for business. For another, its simply more professional. This isn't even just clothing. The company I'm with right now, as well as several of our clients actually have what they call lifetime health initiatives. Basically, this means that they actually have employee incentives to get them to lose weight and be in atheletic shape.

There are tons of Fortune 500 companies that actually have rules against women wearing pants. Not all of them. Maybe not even half. But it is certainly not uncommon to have that sort of rule. The assumption that many women make is "men won't take me seriously because I have boobs. I must cover the boobs and make myself appear unattractive to be as masculine as possible and survive in the male world." That assumption is quite quite faulty. The reality of the situation is "men won't take you seriously because you have boobs, but if you try to look masculine they'll actually take you even less seriously, so embrace your femininity, use it to your advantage, and fight to do better than making 80 cents to my dollar." I'm obviously not saying that's right. I'm saying that it is.

I was hoping that I'd get a couple opinions here from some more corporate people. But I haven't really been so lucky. Suffice it to say, what I'm really getting at here is that your story #2 is actually quite representative of the world. Not just the retail world. But the business world. My problem is, and the point I was trying to make is, that I think a lot of women assume that the proper outfit to wear is a frumpy one that makes them look less attractive and less distracting. A lot of men simply don't understand the issue at all and therefore don't put any thought into it. Both of these types of people are as wrong as your Thomas and Jamal.

Look at the Victoria's Secret Suits and Separates collection. That is pretty acceptable office attire for women. Is it trampy? Not at all. It's what is appropriate. Dressing like Bill Gates on the other hand, while not necessarilly "inappropriate" just isn't going to get you ahead anywhere either.

Btw, I tried to find a plus size online store to link to just to point out that I was talking about the clothes and not just models. But I don't really know the names of that many plus size stores. And of the ones I do know, like Lane Bryant, they don't show the clothes with women inside them. That said, you'll also note that Lane Bryant's Suit Collection is also quite feminine and not at all dumpy.
[User Picture]From: sundaygray Date: July 8th, 2006 - 02:49 pm (Link)

Another big reply (section 1)

[[Am I in charge of my office right now? No, but I do work there. And there have been times that I have been in charge. In the past several years I have worked in a whole bunch of different aspects of corporate America and I can tell you without fail that your assumption is wrong. Bosses in corporate America, both male and female, both young and old, would very much prefer that their workstaff be as attractive as possible.]]

I think in my attempt to exaggerate to show a point, I may have understated this point:

[[I think it's a very very careful balancing act --one which I agonize over even though I really love clothes AND shopping.]]

[[But, for most jobs, women have a lot to think about when they get dressed for work. More so then men, I believe.]]

I think that one has to pursue a middle ground here. I'm not saying that to dress femininely is to automatically dress like a slut. You've seen my wardrobe. I think I manage to be feminine and also not slutty. I'm just saying it's challenging to show off your attractive feminine bits, while minimizing the ones you don't like, and still dress appropriately for work. And sometimes, like the woman in the frumpy picture, you just don't feel like it in the morning.

Please don't assume I haven't worked in corporate America. I had at least seven different office temp jobs between the years of 99 and 02. I've worked in HR. I've worked in PR. I've answered phones. I've received clients. I've done interviews. I've worked in payroll. I've processed insurance claims. And, like you, I watch everyone's clothes, because I'm sort of obsessed with clothes.

And now, the clothes! What gorgeous clothes in the pictures... on gorgeous girls. if you look at those Victoria's secret suits --you are just not going to look good in them unless you are a size 8 or below. I think 8 might be pushing it actually. Those girls can pull off those tight, tight stretch suits because they have no ass, and a railthin waistline. I don't consider myself heavy, but I'm definitely not skinny, and I would look awful in most of those outfits, the way they have them paired. That's not to say that individual pieces wouldn't look good on me, paired with something else. But I think the thing that you like about them is that they show off the model's lithe, gorgeous silhouette. Most of the women I've seen the office don't have silhouettes like that. Including me.

[User Picture]From: sundaygray Date: July 8th, 2006 - 02:50 pm (Link)

Re: Another big reply (section 2)

I should point out that, aesthetically, I think wearing a suit actually is an easier choice in some ways because it makes one automatically feel --and look -- pulled together, without much guesswork. But I can say that I would definitely not want to wear a suit to work every day (or any day really, heh). So I can see how people end up going to work looking like the woman in the white pants and denim shirt. Remember how you complain that you couldn't wear jeans to work? Maybe women want to be comfortable too. Tight clothes, even the stretchy ones, aren't really that comfy. They nip in at your waist, feel constricting under the arms or in the shoulders. If you get a shirt that is short enough to show off your whole bum, assuming you'd want to, you constantly have to take care that it doesn't ride up and show off some skin accidentally. A lot of those Vicki's blazers were really tight and lowcut. Notice how they did not put them on a size 12 girl with a D cup. And those tucked-in styles look really cute on Tyra, but on any girl with a belly, including me, they would look.... like I had shoved a small loaf of bread in there. Major fashion faux pas. Seriously, I'm not saying all these things just to refute you. I'm saying them because I'm a woman and I have tried all these different things. I've gone to work in a suit. I've gone to work in the baggy pants and baggy shirt (probably in February or if I was running insanely late). I've tried the cute tight shirts and the tight pants. I've had one tight-shirt wardrobe malfunction in front of the Director of Graduate Studies (she was on the acceptance committee at OSU, where I was at the time planning on applying for the PhD. She was also teaching my class.)

So, you might wonder what my answer is to this dilemma. Because, although I that many of those Vicki's outfits are ridiculous for average to above average-sized women for work (and the others are suits), I also don't want to look dumpy like the woman in the pants. There's a middle ground. Tailored trousers without an ultra-low-rise waist. A long skimming (and slimming) tunic over top of them. These pieces hint at curves but don't shove them in your face. Wear a dress or a pencil skirt with a top that falls to your hips to hide the belly. Show as much arm as is appropriate. Wear jewelry or a belt or some other accessories to show your personality. The wardrobe will change with the situation.

But most of all, mind your own appearance first and don't worry too much about anyone else's.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: July 8th, 2006 - 04:44 pm (Link)

Re: Another big reply (section 2)

one issue at a time:

1) Yes, comfort is important. I complain about not being allowed to wear jeans, but there is a level that I wouldn't go below. And the difference is, I am aware that by wearing jeans, I'd be making a statement. Simply put, I have no real desire to climb the corporate ladder. Wearing jeans and a t-shirt to work is more my rebelling against the machine. Its me wanting to look like crap because I don't want to fit in where I am. I am more addressing people who don't understand why they should be forced to wear such clothing in order to fit in. People who say that "clothes don't matter." They do.

2) in the previous comment, I linked to several plus size stores with different clothing. I'm actually not recommending wearing a suit every day, btw (though a lot of people I work with do). Its just that that's the easiest thing to point to. The VS link actually had separates too. I used VS because I knew exactly what I was looking for and where it would be and it was 3 in the morning and I just wanted to get the comments done. Its not even the best place to shop for work clothes. For Steph, for instance, I like New York and Company when I am trying to get her stuff to wear to work. It's all about image and personality though, so YMMV.

3) Again, I'm talking about professionalism and femininity, not sexiness. If we were talking about "clothing women should wear to snag a man" that would be a different thing entirely. If we're talking about "clothing women should wear to snag a mav" there is yet another answer. This is why I am using business clothing in examples and not clubwear or lingerie or something (though, surprisingly, it turns out it is a million times easier to find plus size lingerie models online than plus size business models) My point was more calling attention to the difference between going to work looking like Tyra and going to work looking like Urkel. You're actually not in either camp. And really, I don't expect many people are at either extreme.

4) worrying about the world outside of me is what makes this blog so interesting. If you'd rather I could go back to talking smack about tennis with Max, Steph and Geoff, but really, would you find that anywhere near interesting enough to put this much effort in to pretending I am wrong? ;-)
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: July 8th, 2006 - 04:09 pm (Link)

Re: Another big reply (section 1)

I know you worked in corporate america, hence I know you know that at the end of the day, I am right. That said, as you pointed out, you were a temp. But think about it, how many people have you ever seen climb the corporate ladder dressed like the woman in the frumpy picture. I mean male as well as female. It is a sad unfair fact of life that men have something of an advantage, so they're are going to be some men that get farther dressing like this than women do. But all in all, the man is still better off dressing like this. And simillarly, a woman, of any size, has a better shot in better clothes than in worse ones.

And I am not talking about the women's bodies. You're completely ignoring the entire last paragraph where I said, "I'm talking about the clothes not they're bodies" and linked to Lane Bryant. I work in a financial analyst consultant office. Probably half my co-workers are women, of varying ages, shapes and sizes. And I can tell you without fail that for the most part they dress up and not down. Here are some links to plus size suits just to show my point:

Jessica Landon
Lane Bryant

All quite sharp, all quite appropriate. None of them smaller than a 12W. (which is by no means huge, I'll grant, but that's just where "plus size" stores start) Now I will grant that any model, petite or plus size is going to be "hotter" than a "regular" woman, but that's just the game. The office manager at my company is by no means a small woman or a young woman. But I can honestly say that in the nine months I've worked there, she has not looked "bad" a single day. That is true of most of the women I work with. Fewer of the men. I also want to point out that I have the exact same problems with men not looking their best as I do with women. Its just that you're not really complaining about my stances on the men, so that's why the conversation is going this way.

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