Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about how it is possible to be both intelligent and interested in fashion – and that intelligent people can consciously use fashion to influence how others perceive them.
Following on from that, I’d like to discuss the issue of work wear, as inspired by Eve Tahmincioglu on MSNBC today. In her words: “Too sexy. Too frumpy. Too conservative. Women can’t get a break when it comes to what they choose to wear to work.”
Apparently 93% of managers in an OfficeTeam poll said how an employee dresses at work influences their chances of a promotion and one third said work attire “significantly” impacts your chances for advancement. Furthermore, Tahmincioglu says “women are often scrutinized differently when it comes to what they choose to wear. If an outfit is to revealing, suddenly they’re the office slut; but too buttoned up and conservative can mean she’s not hip, or worse, a bitch.”
We saw an example (albeit a 60s one) in Mad Men last week when Joan’s stylish but figure-hugging outfits saw the junior boys compare her to a prostitute. And let’s be honest, it’s not just men who cast judgement on what women wear – we do it to each other too.
So what can we do about it?
MSNBC quotes Valarie Birk, a Ball State professor in fashion and advertising: “women send messages through clothing. It’s referred to as ‘the silent language’ and there are feelings that are often attached to what they wear.”
As a fashion lover, I enjoy being conscious of what I wear and dressing for specific occasions. My own working week can see me meet with a marketing team one day and politicians the next. The clothes I wear to each will be decidedly different.
Is it right that we are judge on what we wear to the office? Probably not, but it’s unlikely to change. And so intelligent fashionistas can use this to their advantage – they can plan their outfits to suit their audience and to help get their point across.
If the way we dress influences our chances of success at work, aren’t we being foolish if we ignore fashion as a frivolous waste of time?