Today’s Fashion Friday tackles fashion more esoterically: the politics of fashion. I read a fascinating article in the New York Times this week which immediately captured my attention. Entitled Megyn Kelly and the Politics of Dress, the author highlighted a recent public rush to judgment as a result of a news anchor’s wardrobe choice.
The night before Kelly interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin, she attended a state dinner party for the International Economic Forum. She tweeted a shoot with her, Putin, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The men wore suits. She wore a crushed blue velvet cocktail dress.
The internet collectively gasped over the “inappropriate” choice. Not Kelly’s first fisticuffs with the judgment police.
Some of the headlines:
Megyn Kelly dressed to impress in a body hugging cocktail dress…
Megyn Kelly dons velvet dress for interview with Putin…
Kelly showed up wearing a dress that some might consider unprofessional…
When is the last time you went to a formal dinner event? What did you see?
If it’s anything like the dozens of galas and dinners I’ve been to, the men wear suits and the women (*gasp*) wear cocktail dresses! This is true whether company executives, elected officials, or any other manner of high ranking people attend. Heck, those are even more formal events, and the women might don full blow gowns.
We have discussed here, and will continue to do so, the wide disparity in what is considered workplace “appropriate.” It’s highly variable based on geography, industry, and company. The variability increases even more when you’re not even IN the office.
Women have a far greater range in wardrobe options than men. Men typically have a workplace uniform and a formal wear uniform. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective), women’s attire is far less uniform.
It is not career “appropriate” to dress sloppily or, in my opinion, to dress in a highly sexualized way. But there’s a tremendous amount of “everything else” left undefined.
Kelly has said she’s not afraid of embracing her femininity. I applaud the effort after a generation where women felt they had to almost de-gender to be taken seriously.
The Times article notes Kelly “is one of the few players even willing to discuss the subject of clothing, the role it plays in the workplace, and how it can be used.” This is a conversation worth having. One where no single opinion is right or wrong, but hopefully one where we can all learn from the dialogue. We can also uncover the bias packed into certain assumptions we make.
I still believe how you dress sends a message. But we women can be brutal about rushing to judgment.
We will continue to have conversations about dressing for your career. In fact, I’m excited about the post for next week full of fashion mentoring. It offers opinions from successful women at various companies about types of dress which could hinder your career. We have these conversations to help each other out, share ideas, and benchmark. Plus, a lot of us love fashion. We do not have these conversations to attack each other and rip each other to shreds. That’s what Kelly has faced all too often.
And, I might add, she didn’t wear the cocktail dress for the interview. She looked gorgeous in understated ivory trousers and a belted black blouse with bell sleeves. The woman has a gorgeous wardrobe.
Photo via @megynkelly and The New York Times