Screw You, Work Dress Code

Instead of focusing on creating a uniform when your job doesn’t actually require one, people should stop focusing on what women are wearing. Get your goddamn judgy nose out of my goddamn personal style.

The terror. The horror. Standing in front of my closet at 6:55am in the morning, peering in between the overly patterned dresses and shirts, desperately trying to find something that doesn’t make me look like Ms. Frizzle.

I’ve never been good at work clothes; in fact, in every job I’ve tried my hardest to push the dress-code to the breaking point. If I had to wear a black T-shirt to work, I would dye my hair pink. If my skirt had to be below my knee, I would wear ankle length ’60s maxi-dresses. Dress codes, in my mind, were always more like “guidelines” (which should be said in a false British accent while wearing too much kohl eye-liner).

Where I live and work (Japan), people take work clothes very seriously. Suits, suits, and more suits. For about one year I really tried to tone it down, I would try and extract the dullest, least fabulous skirts and blouses from my wardrobe. It was a sad, sad time. Over the years I’ve gone from trying to fit in to suddenly turning up in a neon floral dress and dyed red hair. It’s been very confusing for my colleagues, to say the least.

Work attire is fairly similar the world over, and in my heart (the fabulous, sparkly one to be precise) I really fucking hate the idea of work clothes. To be taken seriously you have to wear serious clothes? Maybe it’s nice to not think about your attire when you go to work; plenty of people have adopted a uniform so they don’t have to expend energy thinking about what to wear. I’ve read countless articles about how women, in particular, felt so free when they had a uniform to wear to work, it made them more productive and they felt loads better. I even got on the bandwagon for about five minutes.

I think many women were drawn to the simplicity of the work uniform since work clothes for women are infinitely more complicated and anxiety-inducing (for the wearer especially) than men’s. For women, what we look like in the work environment is very important—if we are wearing the wrong shoes, we are less likely to be taken seriously. Hillary Clinton can wear pant suits, which are supposedly serious person clothes, and still be scoffed at, while Mark Zuckerburg dresses like a perpetual college kid and we think he’s the bee knees. Ugh.

Our appearance is connected to who we are because, sadly, women are more likely to be judged by our clothing than men. One fell swoop of too-red-lipstick and suddenly you’re verging on trollop territory. It feels like another way to make the working environment more difficult for women to thrive in because we are constantly worried if our fashion choices will say something about us that we didn’t intend. Talk about a waste of brain power.

As I contemplated creating my own work uniform I was struck with how much appropriate work attire is based around rules that we, as women, didn’t create.

The outfit-choosing-fatigue (OCF for short) that many of us experience stems from not wanting to be judged by others for breaking these “rules.”

No, no, no, no, no!

Getting dressed for other people is where this whole problem comes from. If getting dressed in the morning for work makes you feel awful because you’re worried about what other people think, then maybe you should try and give less of a fuck. Deceptively simple? I think not. If you feel best in a uniform, then by god go and purchase 30 pairs of Uniqlo stretch pants, and you do you. But if that’s not your game, then you should be able to work your unique look.

However, it’s not that easy to change people’s minds about how women should dress. It can lead to a lack of respect, job losses, and for students, even expulsion or suspension. Too many girls in high school will have to make angry social media campaigns about their “not appropriate for school” outfits, too many ladies will have to spend an extra 20 minutes in their closet trying to extract a skirt that says “I am serious about my job but I am still me.” These rules and regulations are really not in our favor.

Instead of focusing on creating a uniform when your job doesn’t actually require one, people should stop focusing on what women are wearing.

Get your goddamn judgy nose out of my goddamn personal (or lack-thereof) style.

The amount of energy it takes to actually notice and criticize someone’s appearance could be better spent focusing on your actual job. May it be teaching students or being a high-powered business human. Get on with your work and stop analyzing the color of your colleagues’ lipstick.

Judging women on how capable or wholesome they are based on their clothes is just plain silliness.

So I say: Fuck the dress code.

I would rather spend time in the morning deciding on which dress will make me feel amazing, or how my necklace (albeit giant and gold) reminds me of my friend who gave it to me. I would rather get dressed without having to think about other people too much.

As said by Evette Reay, who was suspended on her last day of school because of the length of her dress:

“I love the dress, I have no regrets about wearing it, and I would wear it again any day. I feel good in it and I think all women need to realize that they should wear what they feel good in.”

Getting dressed for you and only you is the best way to give the middle finger to all that image-policing, body policing nonsense.

Just do YOU, ladies.

Tessa Moxey is currently living in Japan’s frozen north and blogging about feminism, education and all things that make her excited or full of rage. This was cross posted on her blog I don’t wakaru. She is studying towards a Masters in Applied Linguistics and probably swears too much.

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