Does What We Wear Even Matter?
If you are going to shop on my website, I thought that you should know something; I LOVE clothes but I HATE ‘fashion’. Fashion basically gives us a reason to judge each other. And some of those judgments, especially for women, can be pretty harsh.
My first office job was at an engineering firm. I had just come from working in retail and got hired as an entry level file clerk. After about a month, the Admin Supervisor called me into her office to talk about ‘my appearance’. It seemed that clothing that was acceptable in retail, short skirts, tops that were cropped a little too short, were not acceptable in the office. But the comments were less about my clothes and more about my body parts. I remember the particular phrase ‘cleavage is usually fine, but yours is a little overboard!’
I was so embarrassed. And part of the reason why, was that going from working in a busy shoe store to sitting at a desk all day and having time to snack, I had gained some weight. And actually a significant amount of boob weight. So the clothes that I was wearing were probably ’too tight’. But that was not by choice! And because women’s bodies are so different, the same shirt on some tiny girl is going to look very different on someone with a D cup.
I had also just come from making $4.75 an hour, so I didn’t have a lot of money to splurge on professional business attire. Even with the wage bump up to $10/hour, I was still just barely making my rent and bills. So I rounded up some clothes from friends and family. I got an old sewing machine from my mom and went to work on altering a bunch of clothes to make them more modern and office-friendly.
But every time I saw that supervisor I could still feel her judgey eyes on me. And it would make me shrink a little. I could feel my shoulders slump forward and I would fidget with my hems to make sure that I was always covered up. Eventually, I had to see her for a one on one review and I decided to ask if she still thought that I was dressing inappropriately.
She sighed heavily and then apologized. She realized that what she was actually reacting to was the behavior of my male co-workers. ‘It happens every time we hire a young girl!” She said, “They start acting like horny teenagers. And I realized after we talked that even when you adjusted your attire, they still act that way.’
It took me a while to realize this but the problem was quite a catch 22. I enjoyed that my male co-workers found me attractive. At least half of them, anyway. The other half did behave creepy and inappropriately, (not sure if any of them were approached about said behavior, btw). But I also didn’t want this to alienate the other women in my office. And I do believe that I lost some good relationships with my female co-workers because of their judgments about these things.
In the end, my turning point was when another young girl got hired and faced a similar problem. In fact, her nickname in the drafting department was ‘bubble-butt’. Yes, charming. But the best part was that we ended up bonding, and she had a great confidence about her. After getting to know her, I found that the biggest reason behind that confidence was that she had a pretty great group of supportive female friends. This was a new thing for me. I hadn’t realized that a lot of my experiences with other women was rather competitive and catty. The worst part is that this had become part of my own friendship dynamics.
I then started to make a conscious effort to be a supportive and understanding friend to other women. I have found that over time, this has attracted better and better women into my life. And the quality of one's life is the quality of relationships that we have. So fight the urge to judge someone by their appearance because it only makes it more likely that you will be judged by yours!