Talking About Fashion

Several weeks ago, as I was mindlessly scrolling through my social media feed, I saw an ad for a women’s clothing start-up. This start-up targets professional women who desire classic, well-made silhouettes and appreciate the convenience of not having to shop in a store. The ad’s first line, a quote from the founder of the company, reads “Your clothes should be the least interesting thing about you.” Wait–(record scratch sound effect)–they should? I strongly disagree!

First, a few disclaimers before I dive into why I disagree, and why I believe this statement does a disservice to women. I understand and certainly appreciate that many women don’t like to shop, but still desire a polished, professional look. I also understand that even for those who enjoy shopping, the activity just isn’t a high priority (or a possibility) given the time constraints of the many roles — boss, mom, spouse, partner, counselor, entrepreneur, doctor, coach — that women play daily. The desire to look work-appropriate, combined with the need for convenience, has given rise to different service models that use a combination of technology and personal preferences to deliver clothing and accessories to your doorstep. Having a pre-matched box of clothing and accessories that yield ready-made outfits takes the thought out of having to get dressed every day and saves precious time and energy. I fully appreciate this type of service, and understand why many women are taking advantage of it.

Why though, if this company is providing a convenient service that presumably helps women look professional and feel good about themselves, don’t they say just that? Why does the first line of the ad — which is quite divisive — seem to devalue the exact product they provide: style! In doing so, it also devalues the belief of many women that not only is it okay, but actually beneficial, to use clothing as a form of personal expression in a professional environment.

I love to learn and talk about both the creative and business aspects of the fashion industry, and I also love to shop. I’m assuming if you read Stylebook, and you have made it to this point in my piece, that to some extent you do, too. Fashion can be an art form, a mode of self-expression, a way to make a statement, or simply a hobby.  Women who appreciate fashion — and in turn their clothing — aren’t shallow, judgmental, or superficial. They enjoy thinking about what their clothing choices communicate and the image that certain styles help them project.  And, newsflash: women who have an interest in fashion can also be quite knowledgeable on other topics! In fact, I can have a conversation with you that spans topics such as the best way to implement a large-scale IT system, how to navigate generational differences in the workforce , the 10 hottest spring fashion trends, and why department stores are struggling in our current economy. A woman’s love of fashion, and her ability to use clothing as a form of expression, does not make her one-dimensional. And it certainly doesn’t diminish her accomplishments in other areas of personal and professional life. The company’s ad, though, almost implies that if your clothes are interesting, then the rest of you is not. I think the readers of Stylebook know that nothing could be further from the truth.

As I finish writing this piece, International Women’s Day is coming to an end. Women have fought, and continue to fight, for an equal playing field. We’ve made incredible strides, but as we know there is still more work to be done.  The ability for a woman to determine her own aesthetic by choosing clothing that projects an image with which she is comfortable a powerful tool. And I find the many ways that women utilize that tool to be extremely interesting.

2 Comments

  1. Andria Post says:

    Your article was incisive, an excellent perspective and long overdue. Thank you.

  2. Melissa R. says:

    Well, I too agree that the MM.Lafleur statement “your clothes should be the least interesting thing about you,” is a bit of a head scratcher, but when I’m buying clothes for work I actually agree with it. Executive women who make professional presentations and do in person meetings cannot afford to have clothes which wear them. Think about it: how affective are you in doing your job if all people can see is the clothes that you’re wearing? Your clothes should never detract from you, or your message. Your clothes should simply give people the impression that you are confident and well put together. I like to be well-dressed, so I am very careful with what I put on, but I had to hire a stylist to tell me to stop buying things that drowned me out without even having to say a word. I think that was their point, and executive women are their audience.

    I think your outfits are cute, but there is not a one you could wear to a corporate workplace.

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