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Womens Fashion is also Restricted

Updated on April 6, 2013

It is no secret that men’s fashion is highly restricted and that wearing anything outside the masculine gender norm can pose many problems for the adventurous man. But what about womens fashion? Are we free to wear anything we want without repercussions?

While we certainly don’t have the kind of social pressure that men have when it comes to what we wear and how we style ourselves, there are nonetheless a number of reasons why we so often find ourselves asking what we shouldn’t wear instead of what we want to wear. Womens fashion is often highly adventurous and artistic from a designer’s point of view, but this is very different in every day life and especially in the office environment.

Pressure to Conform

Wearing a skirt that’s too short doesn’t just attract men, it also attracts bitchy remarks and the following rumors from other women. And this is just the obvious one. Womens fashion is taken extremely seriously by oneself and by friends and strangers. We’re very quick to judge each others fashion sense. One small mistake in your outfit can brand you as ‘cheap’ or ‘tasteless’ or the all-time favorite s**t word. Of course, we don’t go and say that to the person we’re talking about. Never! But we do tell pretty much everyone else.

Now I know that’s a cliché but it is so common that you can rely on encountering this kind of fashion policing in practically every corporate working environment. Though I’m known among my friends (and foes) for speaking my mind to people (even when they don't want it), I am however quite guilty of judging people’s outfits and clothing in the manners above. It’s like an automatic reflex and I just know that the others are doing it too. Likewise, I spend a good deal of time assembling the right outfit from an enormous and constantly growing selection of clothes and accessories (shoes in particular).

Now, being called names or being judged behind your back is of course relatively benign but for some who have been heavily targeted, this can turn into a nightmare and it can cause them immense anxiety and suffering. This is especially true in high school where girls will follow trends religiously and not conforming can bring down your reputation in the blink of an eye.

Womens Fashion in the Office

From now on, any kind of non-physical working environment that doesn’t require a uniform or special gear I will collectively refer to as ‘the office’.

I know it’s sad that men can’t wear make-up but women often can’t get away without wearing make-up in the office. There are not many established professional women who can go for a single day without it. We are still heavily judged by our looks – even when they’re not supposed to matter.

On the other hand, we are much more free to wear our hair the length and style we want than men are. There still is a large choice of hairstyles open to us within the framework of what’s considered acceptable in all offices.

Clothes are also under public scrutiny. I mentioned the short skirt earlier. Hosiery is often also a compulsory item unless you're wearing long trousers. Here too though, we have significantly more styles and outfits to choose from than men who often have to wear a suit and can only choose between various shades of grey.

Anyone who’s been in the performing arts will know that there is often a hyper strict dress code for both men and women. I don’t mind this because your appearance is often part of the performance and therefore your job. Classical musicians usually have to wear black. Men are basically always required to wear a suit and women can often choose to wear a suit or a black dress. Here too, women have more choice with the result that, among younger musicians such as students, all men look super smart and many of the women look positively shabby. You can see it nicely in student orchestras. Personally I’d like to just see everyone wearing a black suit in an orchestra and get it over with. There is something undeniably smart and professional about a suit and it works for both men and women. Besides, it's only in concerts that this dress code applies. The rest of the time, there is usually no dress code at all.

Unwanted Male Attention

The start of the hot season is what prompted me to write this article. Well, not the heat itself but the fact that I wear far less in these temperatures which has an unpleasant side effect: Men going nuts over the view of a little skin. Strangely, some years it’s been more so than others and I’m often surprised since I know that I fall well within the average in the looks department.

Now, in all honesty, I don’t mind men looking at me as long as it’s subtle. But like almost any woman I do mind whistling and cheap remarks.

I used to just be angry at guys who do this but that is so futile that you may as well save your energy. Here are some tips and tricks that might help you avoid or reduce the unwanted attention:

  1. Wear your hair in a bun or some other updo. Long hair that’s flowing loose is like a flag to some men and tends to catch the eye from a distance. If you’re really serious, cut it short. This can drastically, almost magically reduce the whistling. Of course you shouldn’t cut your hair unless you want to do it anyway.
  2. NEVER respond when someone cracks a remark (unless you like him of course). It doesn’t matter how clear you make it that you’re not interested. Most of these people will take any attention you give them, however bad, as an encouragement. I have no idea why, but they seem to get a kick out of it.
  3. Ignore! Just pretend you didn’t hear or notice anything. That’s the only appropriate reaction in my experience.
  4. Loose fitting trousers are always safer than a skirt. There’s something about skirts, even long skirts, that seems to invite people to look. I’m not innocent of that myself when my boyfriend wears one ^^.
  5. Don’t blame them or complain that men should not be like that. It’s part of nature and I think the only reason that some men do it, is because that’s the closest they can get to a woman. That would explain why the decent guys never do it, they have enough real chances to get under a woman’s skirt so to speak.

I should be able to wear what I want

In a perfect world, we could all express ourselves freely in what we wear and how we style ourselves but reality doesn’t work that way. The truth is that wearing certain clothes can have consequences and blaming the people who react to what you wear is a waste of energy. There are just too many people in the world to teach everyone a lesson and hope they’ll grow up. It won’t happen. Trust me on that one. Yes, you could theoretically wear whatever you want, but be willing to deal with the consequences. This is true for men as well as women.


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      It was good that Marlo Thomas said "Free to be you and me"

      But you demonstrate that it is not only official censors,but peers,co-workers and passerbys who make this impossible.

      Sad,but true

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      We definitely use clothes to send signals i.e. the red "power tie."

      The trade off for limited options is an easier time getting dressed. As a crossdresser, I have the best and worst of both worlds. Enough women use thier looks and the reaction it gets from men to gain a competitive advantage that others feel compelled to do the same for fear of being edged out. Also, i think we want to be led by people percieved as charasmatic, and "good looks" is one criterion, just like in dating, so people gravitate towards that.

      It would be interesting to see if there are differences between female and male led organizations.

      Men are not immune to ogling either, I do it often. If I see a woman and I want to get in her skirt, I'll ask her where she bought it and get one for myself.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Clothing rights include absence of clothing. There are instances in the public record (New York Times et cetera)of women protesting society's regulations forbidding them to be bare chested. Granted, the upstairs region of men and women differ. Some find a hairy chest on a man repulsive. But we can go bare from waist up in many cases while a female would be cited or arrested. Up until 1936, if I recall right, it was illegal up East for MEN to be on a beach without a shirt on!

    • Histiletto profile image


      8 years ago

      Yup! Men have it easier when it comes to being in the public eye. No one expects them to highlight, outline, or accent their assets to feel more attractive. They also don't have to worry about having an array of clothing selections. The KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) philosophy seems to radiate in their mannerism. These are part of their stereotyping.

      Women on the other hand, have so many things to cope with, they have learned the art of multi-tasking, while taking care of other things. (I know it is redundant, but it fits.) Perhaps, if men could see what women have to cope with, they would be embarrassed by their minimal responsibilities they think are overwhelming. Most women seem to be educated and trained in all their expected duties and most of the men's also. In this society, men are expected to be well equiped to carry out their duties, but they knows little of the women's area for preparedness.

      I think men should be raised and taught just like the women and be just as prepared. Maybe then, women will get the respect they so richly deserve for undertaking all that they do.


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