Dress Code Gate

Dress code gate has dominated headlines over the past week, and caused major conversation on social media and in the national news. Louisa takes a look at what’s what, and offers her opinion on the matter…

When I was 18, it was the biggest trend to wear super thick leggings, big combat boots, a long sleeved top, and a long cardigan over the top – all concluded with a stylish pashmina (preferably metallic). I remember walking into form thinking I looked fabulous in my green cardigan, which admittedly was a little on the short side, but nothing that would impress Jodie Marsh, and certainly adaquate for a day of sitting in classrooms learning about semantics and Mozart’s 41st Symphony. My form tutor, instead of congratulating me on my fashionable get up, stopped taking the register. Shushed the class. Made me get up, and twirl. He then asked me where my trousers were, as I sunk into my seat in deep embarrassment. I was 18. 

Another girl also got told to go home as her neon pink bra straps were showing through her white top. Girls also weren’t allowed to wear shorts, as it ‘distracted the boys’, and on the flip side, boys also were forbidden to get their legs out on blazing hot days as leg hair ‘intimidated the younger students.’ We are taught from a young age about uniform, dress codes, and also scolded if our own personality or any trends seem to seep through this authority.

Therefore, it is of no surprise that this indoctrination of a standardised dress code has caused ripples beyond the school gates.

Reports today have stated that The Equality Act of 2010 ‘is not yet fully effective in protecting employees from discrimination at work’, with women likening the behaviour they receive at work in regards to their dress code ‘akin to being prostituted’. Women have been told to wear shorter skirts, higher heels, un-do their buttons on their blouses, and generally parade around offices as dolls for the men to enjoy as they loosen their belts and grimace at their friends, reminding us all that this is a man’s world, and we are simply there for them to enjoy. 

I am proud to hear of the women fighting back, of the 150,000 who signed the petition to help this cause, and who refuse to be put in clothes like a Barbie. Wearing high heels will not help you save a life, wearing a tight skirt will not get that budget signed off any quicker and wearing pantyhose and low cut blouses will certainly not win you any legal cases. What you wear is irrelevant to your job position. You are (and should) be there on merit, and the calibre of your successes, rather than how you look in a pencil skirt. Men who dominate their work place thinking they are Don Draper need to be reminded that they are just an executive in a nylon suit from Burton, and do not have any say or authority on what the women in their office rock up in every day.

That being said, a dress code obviously is something that must be discussed or at least referred to in a place of business. Who else gets that first day fear of what you’re supposed to wear? ‘They said smart casual, is my Freshers T-Shirt OK??’… I would always recommend wearing what you feel comfortable in, and using your head. If you’re working with small children, probably not best to wear your shortest sequin dress, mainly for practicality reasons. If you’re a Doctor, it wouldn’t be wise to wear your tassle sleeved top during surgery. There are, of course, some rules. But in today’s modern society, smart does not have to mean 1950’s receptionist. A skinny pair of black trousers, teamed with leather loafers and a crisp embroidered shirt screams ‘I’m a Boss, Don’t Mess’ to me. A smock dress with tights and heeled boots makes me think ‘Whoa this chick means business…and damn where’s that dress from?’ And if you love wearing heels and skirts to work, wear them. If you like wearing jeans and trainers, do it. Style is so personal, and can be interpreted many different ways. And I like to think that in 2017, we can look beyond the clothes and really focus on a candidates skill set in the world of work.

I am lucky to work in an office where I am free to express myself however I choose. Some days I wear jeans, trainers and a baggy top, others I wear little dresses and boot heels, and some days I wear my gym kit. I understand that I am somewhat an anomaly, and larger organisations and different industries have different rules. My advice is to always stay true to your own morals. If you feel desperately uncomfortable in heels during a meeting, chances are you aren’t focussing on what’s in front of you. If you hate wearing trainers and wish you were back in your sassy pencil dress, then do. your. thing. If Barry in Accounts eyes you up or asks you to change, tell him that you aren’t the biggest fan of his belly overhang in his 20 year Tesco skirt, but it doesn’t stop him getting shit done. And wearing what you want won’t stop you from owning your own office, whatever you do.

But, alas, we do still conclude that wearing pyjamas to work will always be frowned upon. Sigh.

Louisa Davies 

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