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?