It’s Not About The Stilettos, Or Is It

November 6, 2013

It’s Not About The Stilettos, Or Is It |

Guess what?

I don’t care what you wear. On the job…at home…anywhere. It doesn’t matter to me.

Kinda unconventional coming from a style editor immersed in the world of fashion, don’t you think?!

Here’s the deal…

You may have already heard about two events that went viral last week – each on the subject of women, business and what you’re wearing as a professional. First, there was healthcare CEO, Jorge Cortell’s tweet followed by one of the largest global law firms Clifford Chance’s “Presentation Tips for Women” memo.

Mr. Cortell of startup Kanteron Systems was at an evening meeting and networking event where venture capitalists pitched entrepreneurs in New York City when he took a photo of a female attendee in high heels, then posted the following on his public Twitter account:

Event supposed to be for entrepreneurs, VCs, but these heels (I’ve seen several like this)… WTF? #brainsnotrequired

Clifford Chance’s memo distributed by a member of the Women’s Committee to all women associates across the U.S. offices was leaked to legal blog, Above the Law. There was no corresponding document for men. The memo included 150+ presentation tips. Here’s a sample:

“Don’t giggle.”

“Practice hard words.”

“Wear a suit, not your party outfit.”

“Don’t take purse to podium.”

“Watch out for the urinal position.”

“No one heard Hilary, the day she showed cleavage.”

In truth, I delight in sharing style tips, inspirational work outfits, beautiful products, discussing how our attire empowers us and, at the same time, communicates our confidence and competence in the marketplace, and, of course, the best ways to use fashion as a business tool with you. What matters most to me though is making sure you live your best life and have the opportunity to share your talents, interests and expertise with the world…for your voice to be heard.

But! Are these latest salvos against women’s style choices in the professional sphere indicative of something deeper? Do we have to fight for the right to be fashionable or be diminished in our careers? If so, we may have to confront the bias against us head on or for us career women fashion will continue to be deemed as frivolous, instead of powerful visual messages.

The fastest road to insecurity as a professional woman is to worry about what we’re going to wear.

We mustn’t let anything hold us back!

It is so crucial to responsibly claim and define our own professional dress code in order to feel dynamic and competent in the workplace (or any career activity). If we are smart enough to do the job, why can’t we make our own decisions about what to wear? Nobody dissects men this way. We’re not men, we’re women. We are different and of equal value. Otherwise, how do we ever expect equal pay and equal opportunity?

The glass ceiling is here in every way – including what a woman should wear – and the strongest and loudest voices are men.

Not all men. But some like Jorge Cortell.

Are we so powerful wearing stiletto heels that we can woo men away from their message and work? Is this Adam and Eve all over again? Aren’t we past this? The point is if he is paying that much attention to your shoes, he will never take you seriously as a professional. He can claim that his tweet was about the health hazards of heeled footwear, but he missed his mark by a long shot.

As for Clifford Chance’s memo, wouldn’t they want a law firm employee feeling confident as an employee? By the time she’s working for a prestigious law firm, she’s probably already got a clear idea of what is and isn’t appropriate. The obvious and condescending tips should have been omitted.

What it’s about is feeling empowered; not judged, not shamed. Don’t apologize – do not defend what you’re wearing. The golden rule may be broken, but it’s up to us to fix it. Claim your rights. Educate through action. Confidently express your visual voice.

My biggest responsibility as a style expert is to make sure what you wear is in alignment with your professional objectives and who you are, so that your talents and expertise contribute to this magical world we all live in.

What’s your opinion on these most recent viral events discussing professional women’s attire? Please share!

Image credit: VivaLuxury. Graphics by Kristina Moore for Corporate Fashionista.

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