By: Georgie M. (‘18)
My aunt once told me that she wears pantsuits to every meeting with male investors. After hearing this, I was certain that we had nothing in common. I had read every issue of Vogue under the sun and memorized every Miu Miu collection since the age of seven years old. I prided myself on my knowledge of fashion and constantly advocated for the importance of the impression that clothes have on people.
My aunt ran a hedge fund and taught classes in microgestures, and within seconds I was lost in her stories of business ventures. She later explained her philosophy for professional attire, “I try to defeminize myself,” she said. “Getting rid of any reminder that I am a woman is simply a courtesy to them, they won’t take me seriously if I don’t. We can’t operate and have a functional meeting if we are not on the same playing field.”
She explained to me that in her male dominated professional field these were the necessary precautions to take, but it didn’t apply to everything. This view upset me at first, but I quickly understood that my aunt was doing what was crucial to be treated fairly: like a man. She wasn’t accusing every man of being distracted by her femininity, she was simply bringing the focus to work rather than the fact that two people of opposite genders were discussing a deal.
I constantly think about why there is so much significance placed on the different sexes in the same professional field, but I still can’t come up with an explanation. “Some men are uncomfortable negotiating with women. Not all but some.”
Her words played over and over in my head, and from that day forward, I have made conscious decisions about how I present myself in differing situations. She purposefully made a point not to paint men in an unflattering light but to bring women up to the same level that men had always been. Her pantsuits were not meant to be a violent protest of women’s clothing. but they prompted the question of why women should not wear feminine dresses or skirts to the same meeting. Was it a discourteous suggestion? After the presidential election her advice has been ringing in my ears.
No matter what you end up wearing, you represent yourself. I love that––at Crystal, people feel comfortable expressing who they are through their style. It goes without saying that there is a lot more to people than simply what they wear. Nevertheless, personal style is important to keep in mind in a world where first impressions are often made on attire. I am not asking you to change the way you dress for other people or to question your own style, but simply to ask yourself what statement your clothes are making and what statement you want them to be making.