Women Wear Dresses - #digimeet myth busting


Mirror, mirror on the wall...

Obviously not all women wear dresses. I don't. Never have, never will; but that's my choice and that is what I am talking about really - choice. The choice to be who you are, wearing what you want without someone, male or female, making judgements about how you look. But we all do it, don't we? Make an instant decision about someone's capability based on what they are wearing - oh she's in jeans and a pair of trainers; too many piercings; bright pink hair...None of that affects my ability to do my job; care for my children; mentor you; lead you. How I dress says nothing to you about my competency. I'll put the discussion about men in ties to one side for now (but if you want to wear a tie you go girl) and ask you to consider a few things:

Do you make a positive choice about your work clothes? Do you wear smart clothes because you think it is expected of you (does your setting have a dress code for example?) or are you self- employed like me and find yourself writing blogs on what people wear to work whilst still in your pj's? What I wear does not therefore affect my ability to construct a sentence. Do you think I must wear a jacket because everyone else is?" After a while  this can become a subconscious decision and I wonder if by doing so we lose a little of ourselves. Mirror, mirror?

What do you think your clothes say about you? If I was suddenly faced with having to wear heels and a frock I'd have a panic attack. Yet recently there was a case of an employer insisting women wear heels and make-up. It went viral. I would avoid a job where I had to wear a 'uniform' but that is a personal choice. We make our students adhere to uniform policies, penalise them when they try to be individuals and then try to teach them about choices. I once chaired a meeting in a pair of leopard pattern DM's. It was, I am afraid to say somewhat of a talking point as several of the more senior (male) attendees at the meeting were somewhat taken aback. Now I make a point of wearing noticeable footwear to meetings as if to say "go on I dare you make a judgement about my ability to chair this meeting based on these fabulous boots that make me feel like I'm 6ft 3!" It gives me a bit of confidence anyway as the boots are always flat and I'm 5ft nothing. I don't have to wear my pants on the outside of my trousers to make me feel powerful. I am if l let myself. You are too.

Are your clothes your armour? Do you feel safe in your favourite shirt? Do you have a favourite dress? Why is that? What is it about wearing that item of clothing that makes you feel powerful? Mind you some women dress to intimidate. The trick is to not let them; which I grant you is sometimes hard.

When you met your best friend what were they wearing? Similar style to you? Total opposite? Do you now find yourself mirroring their taste in clothes? Or them of you? Teenagers do it. Do we ever stop? Imitation they say is the sincerest form of flattery apparently...after all

You are not what you wear

You are who you are

If you love who you are

You will always be you

For it is you who will be

Whatever you want

That's you, yes you

Not me and not her.

Your experience of the impact of your clothes on you is your experience; just as mine is mine. We need to respect each other's choices and to park our judgements until we have evidence. You cannot judge a book by it's cover especially in the digital age when our avatars may be pictures of the neighbour's cat because the last time I looked cats don't wear frocks...or do they?

Author Profile

Fee Stagg

Fee Stagg

National Leader of Governance and Independent Clerk to governors and trustees. Blogger!

6 stories


Kiran S Kiran S @kiran 2 months ago
Brilliant blog Fee! Thank you. I believe you should wear what suits you. Finding your style rather than following trends.

Really enjoyed reading this! @govclerk
Naznin Choudhury Naznin Choudhury @naz08 2 months ago
An amazing blog ! I totally agree with you " you are not what you wear " just loved it
Hannah Wilson Hannah Wilson @misswilsey 2 months ago
This is really thought-provoking piece Fee. I inadvertently offfended someone when I was on a panel when I was asked about dress code, it was taken out of context but my sharing was that as a Middle Leader/ Pastoral Leader I was 1 woman to 7 men, above me it was all men apart from a woman who wore traditional Muslim dress. None of the staff nor students saw a woman represented. I became AHT and I binned all of my trousers. I have not worn trousers to work for 7 years. I didn't want to be a female leader who had to confirm to the 80s Melanie Griffiths shoulder pads and emulate 'male' dress codes to be taken seriously. I was teaching a Post 16 literature class about feminist theory and the students said they had been discussing what I wear, never heels, always a dress, always black tights, always knee length - it led on to a fascinating discussion about dress codes and uniforms, our identity and how we represent it with clothes. With reference to the ties - we had this debate at governors and leadership last week, in the New HTs group on twitter we are also discussing staff dress codes. Why should men wear suit/ tie when women don't have to wear a jacket? There have also been a few viral headlines this week about 'gender' neutral uniforms where everyone has to wear trousers rather than having a choice to wear either. Think you should right a discursive piece for the TES on it all as CoG/NGA!
Sarah Hardy Sarah Hardy @sarahhardy 2 months ago
Love this!! I've always had a real thing about what we wear and freedoms we have. I HATE heels - I love trainers...I like Hannah don't wear trousers to work (but can only be found in jeans out of work) - I have found a comfort in a dress of a particular style and flats. And to me, it enables me to express a little of who
I am - wearing leopard print regularly I had a trainee teacher say to me that she liked how I was brave and did that as she said it expressed my boldness...to me it's just me bringing myself as a person into school through my dress code.
Tess Tweeddale Tess Tweeddale @thepositiveteacher 2 months ago
I found this really thought-provoking. I left a school a few years ago that imposed a strict dress code on staff where jackets had to be worn at all times. This greatly restricted what my colleagues and I were able to wear with the jackets and encouraged a staff look that was entirely corporate and not individual and personal. I have a couple of hangups though - no answers, just questions!
- If I feel so strongly about being able to wear what I want, what does that say about my pastoral role where I have had to admonish students for the uniform/makeup?
- I now work in a school where our dress code is really relaxed. I choose to dress smart (both trousers and dresses), but some staff come in leggings and flip flops and I privately think this is not workplace appropriate...
....so am I as liberal about dress codes as I would like to think I am?
Fee Stagg Fee Stagg @govclerk 2 months ago
I quite agree @thepositiveteacher - it is difficult sometimes to find the balance. Flip flops are a health and safety risk! As a Chair of Governors I don't expect governors to be smart but I want them to look and feel professional. I wear black jeans to all my meetings and buy them in bulk. I was once faced with a governor wearing a baseball cap which he refused to take off. I am not as liberal about dress code as I think I am either!!
Jill Berry Jill Berry @jillberry 2 months ago
I really enjoyed this, too - and I think we may all be more judgmental than we like to think we are! The issue for me is what you say about choice and respecting the choices others make. I sometimes feel concerned that we can be overly critical because we feel that someone whose choices are different from our own is in some way attacking OUR choices - and this goes way beyond clothing, of course! You made me smile and you made me think, Fee - always good!
Fee Stagg Fee Stagg @govclerk 2 months ago
Thank you for all your comments. Glad you enjoyed my blog! Having a teenaged daughter with a tongue piercing was a shock to my system but I'm more relaxed about it than I thought I'd be! She loves my boots too...mostly!
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