Thursday, 28 April 2011

What Wedding?

Kate and William who?

For those of you who have asked:  No, I will not be watching the royal wedding.  In fact Mr V and I are actually fleeing the country tomorrow to spend the long weekend in the age old English enemy territory of France.  We're heading to the deep South where we hope we will get some relative peace from the ridiculous media frenzy.  For months there has been nothing but article after article about this in every form of printed press I happen to read and, as someone for whom royalty does not hold the slightest bit of interest, I for one am entirely sick of having it rammed down my throat.

Chant "off with her head" if you will, but my rather cynical view of the royal nuptials is that the royal couple have been forced into it on pain of death by the coalition government as a way of distracting the populous from the dire state of the economy; that since they have been in office the UK has still not recovered from the worst recession since the Great Depression; that the culprits in the financial sector responsible for the crisis have got away with it Scott free and that wide spread funding cuts to public services and further job losses in the public sector are still on the horizon.  Party on people.

I can understand that lots of people are using the event tomorrow as an excuse to party.  Me, I'm going to use it as an excuse to wear this never worn Union Jack jacket I bought from Topshop last year.  I'm planning to wear it out to go for a steak frites lunch tomorrow in the Languedoc.  I've been meaning to wear this jacket with a prom dress a la Moss in last year's Vogue...

Source: Vogue UK

...or with some floral pieces thrown in the mix.

Source: Nicefun.net

I have a soft spot for the old Union Jack in clothing.  It treads the fine line between Chav and iconic.  This irony along with its symmetry of design lends it to being continually reinterpreted in clothing by the fashion industry.  The flag has been hijacked for reworking by almost all the greatest British fashion designers, Westwood, McQueen and Galliano to name a few.  And it has been the uniform of the British rock star since Pete Townsend from The Who donned a Union Jack blazer in the 60's.  For a more modern example think David Bowie in a distressed frock coat by none other than the late Alexander McQueen.

Alexander McQueen jacket for David Bowie. Source: Studio International

Now if tomorrow isn't the perfect excuse to wear a Union Jacket blazer in whichever country in the world you happen to be then when will be?  Have a wonderful long weekend all.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Flower Power


Hope you have all had a wonderful and restful Easter break!  We have been having glorious weather in London over the Easter bank holiday weekend with temperatures in the mid twenties and lots of sunshine (except for a rather spectacular thunderstorm on Saturday afternoon).

I've taken the opportunity being off duty to crack out the floral prints, working a different one each day - that is, until a sudden cool turn this morning with wind and grey skies forced me back into leather leggings.  No matter - I still managed to get some pics of my brief flowery phase which I'll post over the next couple of days to ring in Spring.  I'm praying that this weekend past is a sign that we will be having a long hot summer!


This is yesterday's outfit.  I have been trying my hardest to shop the wardrobe this season rather than buy new as there are so many rehashed trends from previous years that most people are bound to have something that would do the job.  Even though all the items I'm wearing here are more than three years old, I am working three major Spring trends, floral prints, the maxi and the biker jacket, all in one go!  This month I set myself a target to not buy any new apparel and have to say that with four days to go in April I have managed to not buy a single new item.  Not one iota.  Those who know how much I love shopping will know what an amazing feat this is!  Four more days to go...

This dress and the earrings were a birthday present from a friend in 2008.  I have worn it every summer since I got it and 2011 will be no exception.  The floral maxi dress just refuses to go away as a staple of summer dressing. 

This is how I have to wear yellow - in a print and far away from my face.  People often say I should be able to wear yellow with my skin tone but sadly it completely washes me out and makes me look kind of green.  Speaking of green, I managed to work another colour by pulling out my green biker as a cover up.  Look Mum - no black!

Being a shorty, if I am wearing flats I have to hoick any maxi dress I wear up off the floor with the use of belt.  Otherwise I'd end up street sweeping London - see bottom pic for demonstration of the length issue.  Believe me you really, really don't want the hems of your beloved garments collecting the grime of London sidewalks and streets!  This floral motif belt with turquoise stones is one I have had for years and comes in handy for these types of dresses. 


Are you finding that you have things from previous seasons that are on trend this Spring or are you buying something new?
 
Floral maxi dress: Stradavarius; Cropped biker jacket: Kate Moss for Topshop; Studded gladiator sandals: Accessorise; Belt: Kookai; Pendant: Vintage

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Veshoevius Workwear: Wool Houndstooth Check Shift Dress


Sometimes as a change from a suit it is nice to wear a dress to the office.  Finding a dress that is suitable for a very serious and sober work environment can be quite a task if you are anything like me and feel like parting with your cash for boring clothes is a travesty.  It is very hard for me to feel good in dull clothes that hide my personality rather than reflect it and my opinion is that if you don't feel good in your clothes your confidence suffers.

However, in my line of work the reality is that you need first and foremost to look smart and it is generally advisable for the sake of your career to tone down any big fashion statements you may be tempted to make in favour of cookie cutter suiting.  No leather here ladies, unless we're talking shoes and bags.

Dressing for corporate offices in London can descend into a depressingly dour affair with a palette restricted to shades of blue, black and grey.  I have towed the line in the past and bought boring staid suits to fit in with the status quo only to find I don't end up wearing them very much at all, precisely because I find them boring.  How to strike the balance between personal style and box-fresh-fit-for-purpose boring?

Italian tailoring to the rescue!  For smart work wear with a fashion forward twist that falls in the realms of office acceptable and simultaneously appeals to a love of details in clothing I love Sportmax.  It's pricey but the clothes are impeccably made and they are wearable for years after buying them.   Every season I stalk pieces waiting for them to go on sale.  Unfortunately most sell out at full price as it is that popular.

I like this dress from their Winter 2009/2010 collection because from the front it looks very serious.  Made from wool in a classic fine houndstooth check, it has figure flattering draping that is not too clingy, sharp shoulders and a high neck which lends it an almost school matronly air.

Turn around though and it lightens up with some interesting, quirky details.  The coquettish contrast black silk yoke, bow tie and figure accentuating darts in contrasting thread can be hidden under a jacket if need be until after work drinks and I love the little kick pleat detail in the skirt.  And for the cherry on the icing there is a small rectangular Swarvoski crystal discreetly stitched on the cuff of one sleeve.


Dress: Sportmax; Patent wedges: Zensu; Tights: Falke

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

FFB: Finance, Feminism and Fashion


This was Tuesday's work outfit. No prizes for those of you who guessed which industry I work for.  I'm one of those people that reads the Financial Times, wears suits and comes home very late at night after working long hours.  That's right, I work in finance.

I should caveat that statement with no, I am not an investment banker, a term used a little too widely to describe the myriad of job descriptions that finance encompasses.  And no, I am not on a squillion dollar salary demanding a squillion dollar bonus every year from a big bank bailed out on taxpayer money.  I was one of those thousands of city workers you probably read about in the news who lost their job at the height of the crisis due to the recklessness of a rogue sector and have been working freelance since.  I crunch numbers certainly but work in a very traditional sector that had little to do with the type of financial weapons of mass destruction that caused the crisis.  Although I could explain in layman's terms what a CDO of ABS is (i.e. collaterised debt obligation of asset backed securities) and why they were bad news I couldn't really structure one to save my life.

I struggled at first to think of anything I could post about for this week's FBF event which was planned to coincide with Equal Pay Day in the States but then reading Terri's post at Rags Against The Machine about how she continues to be underpaid for her qualifications prompted me to comment on her blog about my own experience with this.  I then decided I would relate them in more detail here as Terri asked me what my degree was in.

Let me tell you a little personal tale about finance, feminism and one fashion blogger.


Here is another personal fact.  I have a PhD in engineering.  Truth is stranger than fiction!  Did I imagine when I started out studying to be an engineer that I would end up working in the City of London?  Not on your life! But when I graduated as an engineer I found myself continually being told that in my field I needed at least a Masters or a PhD to even get a look in on a job.  A short while after graduating with a scholarship and placement in a UK university under my belt I found myself on the other side of the globe studying further for this elusive qualification that would make me employable and give me the title of Doctor!  And as an aside, as I commented to another blogger, it amazes me how many people expect to meet a man when they first meet me having previously read just my name and title.  I have sometimes been advised to downplay the PhD on my CV in case I come across as arrogant or intimidating.  Would a man be advised to do the same?

Now try to put yourself in my shoes for a moment and imagine you are being interviewed for a job with an engineering company.  Your CV offers work experience across two continents, across several different business lines as well as a PhD in the correct specialist field of engineering the firm requires.  Imagine the director interviewing you flippantly saying to you at the end of the interview that he is not prepared to offer you a higher salary than a graduate just because you have a PhD because he does not believe that people with PhD's are worth it.  He might as well have spat on my CV and rubbed his shoe in it for good measure.  It would be the last interview I ever attended for a job in my profession by training.

Never mind that I had been a top student and earned my PhD from what was then the top UK University (where is Cambridge in the league tables these days?) or that I had more than enough relevant work experience.  I was simply not worth the extra pay, an extra amount which was, when I look back at it now, frankly a pittance.  I am sure the menial salary on offer would have been additionally discounted because I was a woman.

It is no big secret that engineering is badly paid.  Most of my university contemporaries who were in the top ten percent of my year are no longer in the profession, having left similarly disillusioned after years of hard slog.  We were the ones whose assignments everybody else relied on copying when they wanted to sod off to the pub early - it's those lazy people who never really understood what they were doing who are designing your bridges and roads now!

This final interview was all the more disappointing as up until then every industry I had worked in had been typically dominated by men, it was quite common for women to be paid less than men and to see far more men than women at senior levels.  In the end I was not even offered the job as I was deemed too overqualified and not experienced enough.  My cumulative career experience made me feel like a hamster stuck running in a wheel, never getting anywhere, doomed never to be able to get off the track to nowhere.

A couple of years ago I bumped socially into a very senior human resources manager (a woman) at an oil and gas company I once worked for which had the dubious fame of treating its women employees particularly badly.  I questioned her about the rumoured salary differences between men and women at the firm.  She confirmed to me that it was true.  When I pressed her as to why nothing was ever done about it even though there was no good reason for it she replied rather weakly that that was just the way things are.   

Just the way things are?  This from the senior HR manager?  Ladies, when not even the female dominated profession of human resources are our allies in this battle what hope is there?  If it was not for the campaign of many human resources departments for silence on the issue of compensation then companies would not be able to hide the pay gap that so many of them covertly agree to maintain.

When I was offered a slightly better paid junior level job in finance, I took it.  The pay imbalance makes no sense but it is why there has been a brain drain from science and engineering into the City.  Not that finance is an easy option.  The City is still an old boy's club where it is notoriously difficult to get ahead as a woman and many a law suit for pay discrimination has been fought by female financial professionals.  The women in senior positions at the firms I worked with were either single, and/or had no children and seemed unlikely ever to have them.  And boy, do you work!

But the stakes that the engineering profession had presented to me ended up being so comparatively low for the effort I had put into becoming qualified that, when added to the astronomical cost of living in London, it was a no brainer for me to get into something else.  I was fortunate that my education was of interest to another industry and therefore gave me the choice to pursue a different career.  More importantly however, it was my belief that I was worth more than I was being limited to that drove me to change track.

Working in this industry means looking very smart and leaving much of your more adventurous fashion self to come out after hours and weekends.  My working wardrobe did sharpen up considerably on moving into finance, not only because I had more disposable income but the stakes are raised somewhat when you walk into a new workplace to find your female boss is wearing head to toe Prada and the female directors are in Chanel with their names on waiting lists for Hermes Birkins.  The normal standards of what value for money is gets turned on its head.  I remember reflecting constantly on the absurdity of how I had been able to live for almost two years in Spain on the cost of the ostrich leather Birkin bag that had pride of place in my director's office.

I also remember mildly panicking on my first day decked out in my tweed suit from Mango and realising that Topshop was probably not going to cut it if I was going to follow that old adage of "dress for the job you want".  So a trip to the sale outlet of TM Lewin for some straight city suiting tied me over until a few paychecks later when I could afford to buy some more upmarket work tregs.

Fashion Feminist Blogger Reading Material
Here are the last two books I finished reading on my tube journeys.  How's this for finance, feminism and fashion reading material?  Frocks one week, credit derivatives the next, both superb female authors, both fascinating reads. 

I recently read A Life in Frocks by Kelly Doust, which is one woman's memoires of her wardrobe throughout her life and the kind of light hearted book you can switch off and de-stress reading.  It could almost have been written by me, I had so much in common with the author.  We are both Australian, both did stints working in the City of London, share common yearnings for dresses that promise to change our lives and both ended up with English partners.

The second book is written by Financial Times journalist Gillian Tett and I could harp on and on about how everyone should read this book to understand how badly they have been fleeced as taxpayers by the banking sector.  Many years ago my tube journeys would have been taken up with more of the "A Life of Frocks" books for fun.  I'm glad that I can now pick up a book like Fool's Gold and enjoy the intellectual stimulation from reading it.  Through work I have managed to expand my interest and knowledge into new areas in which I myself had previously been staggeringly ignorant and in which I believe many people would benefit from acquiring basic knowledge - as workers, taxpayers, voters, savers, small business owners, house owners and investors - we all have a vested interest in the health of the financial sector.  The best weapon we have to fight against any financial injustices, be it unequal pay or holding those accountable for a catastrophic credit crisis, is information.  Become informed.  I found this book, even to someone who followed the credit crisis unfolding very closely, a real eyeopener.

I was interested to learn that even the author, Gillian Tett, a social anthropologist by degree and accomplished financial journalist, confesses in the book that she used to hide her "strange" academic background writing:

        "At the time, it seemed that the only qualifications that commanded respect were degrees in orthodox economics, or an MBA: the craft of social anthropology seemed far too "hippy" (as one banker caustically observed) to have any bearing on the high rolling, quantitative world of finance."

She then goes on to argue beautifully how the financial sector, with its lack of interest in wider social matters finally contributing to its downfall, could learn much form the holistic analysis techniques employed in the field of social anthropology.  She also discusses how social "silences" serve to maintain the status quo of power structures - where an elite group "try to maintain their power not simply by garnering wealth, but by dominating the mainstream ideologies, both in terms of what is said, and also what is not discussed."

Sounds like one of the best arguments for transparency on pay between genders to me!


Wool pinstripe suit: Zara; High heeled brogues: Kurt Gieger; Jersey draped top: Vivienne Westwood Anglomania

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Links A La Mode



The lovely Vahni from Grit and Glamour selected my post on our right to wear trousers as women for this weeks Links A La Mode. Thanks Vahni! By the way if you not yet a reader of Vahni's blog go visit now! (In her link below she features some amazing OTK boots). Now there's a blogger with style, beauty and brains.

Operation #Uplift

Edited by Vahni of Grit & Glamour

Oh  no. It's The-Coveted-gate all over again. As much as I wish I could  start this week's roundup with a glowing review of positivity, the sad  truth is that the blogosphere is rife with accusations of trademark  infringement, side-eye, competition, and bitchiness. Ladies and gents,  it is time for this to stop.

I'll never understand why people  feel the need to tear others down, or pass another's content—or  identity—off as their own. Blogging dynamo Cece of LoveBrownSugar noted this week that she's had enough of the side-eye in fashion, and  frankly, so have I. Last week, Cece issued an #Uplift Challenge: Find at  least one female you don't know personally and tell her something that  makes her feel beautiful. Don't get "#Uplift"? Be sure to read Beautifully Invisible's post—a Twitterless blogger is like Lady Gaga without a mic!

As you explore this week's list and head into the weekend, I leave you with this thought: "Women with wings," Sacramento, of Mis Papelicos,  wrote, "use their wings not only to fly, but to cuddle, to shelter, to  back, to push and to hug." What are you using your wings for?

Links à la Mode: April 14th

  • Aquí: Thrifty Threads: Six unique ways to wear a vintage silk scarf.
  • Beautifully Invisible: 10 Things about your blog that drive me crazy.
  • BonBon Rose Girls: An interview with Kimberly Hendrix, the eco-conscious designer of k. hendrix.
  • Consume or Consumed: A detailed account of being fitted by Intimacy bra fit specialists.
  • Designed by Ann: What (not) to wear when going shopping.
  • Dress With Courage: Anorexia, competition, and the quest for blogger win.
  • FashionablyNumb: A tribute to the queen of bohemian chic, Anna Sui.
  • Fashioned By Love: The colour of joy, sunshine, and daffodils—there's the right shade of yellow for everyone.
  • Grit & Glamour: What V Wore: On the {Bur}berry last day.
  • IFB: Coveted Media Intern Search
  • LoveBrownSugar: Stilettos & Side Eyes: The UPLIFT Challenge—insights on the reasons we choose to "compete" instead of cooperate.
  • Mis Papelicos: One year blogging and women with wings.
  • Notes from a Stylist: Ever wondered what a Scotsman wears under his kilt? Kiefer Sutherland and Chris Noth bare all at the Dressed to Kilt show.
  • Oh, The Places You'll Go: Plus size gorgeous—catwalk curves and City Chic.
  • Shoeperwoman: A warning to all bloggers: A first-hand account of when someone tries to take your brand/trademark.
  • StyleLab: Why Blogs are like dogs and other advice on blogging.
  • Styling You: Why I need three styling irons. Truly.
  • The StyleCave: Long live McQueen.
  • The Style Confessions: 10 reasons to love fashion blogs.
  • The Taxonomy of My Wardrobe: Our right to wear the trousers—and why we shouldn't take it for granted.
  • This Girl's Vintage: Getting that vintage dress to fit you perfectly: its all about the undergarment.
SPONSOR:

Shopbop Dresses: Black, Sundresses, Wrap, Print, Cocktail, White, Work, Jersey, by Lanston, Tucker, Shoshanna, Parker, & Obakki

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Wide Legged Jeans Weekend

Been working my wide legged jeans over the weekend.  This is the first of two outfit shots I intended to post for my weekend outfits.  Saturday's outfit I will have to recreate at some point.  This is Sunday's effort - worn to meet a dear friend for late afternoon coffee and shopping for sunglasses, because guess what?  The sun is actually shining in London!  In fact it was actually warm on the weekend!!

With the sudden arrival of proper Spring weather also came the realisation that all my Spring clothes are still packed away in suitcases under the stairwell.  When I started looking for my colourful silk dresses to wear one out it dawned on me they aren't out on my wardrobe rails yet.  Rather than make myself late with a last minute wardrobe reorganisation I grabbed what was available which happened to be this cotton silk shirt, wide legged jeans, lavender espadrilles and a blue suede coat for some hippy chic to greet the promising light of summer at the end of the longest, gloomiest, winter I've had to endure yet in this country.

Great minds think alike: my Spanish girlfriend was also wearing a pair of fabulous cherry red espadrilles.  I've noted that they are all the rage at the moment and seen a lot of espadrilles offered on the high street and by designers at eye watering prices.  Mine cost me ten euros in Spain and their wedge shape means they let me work a heel and pound the pavements of Oxford Street in relative comfort.  Next time I go back to Spain I'm buying a pair in every colour of the rainbow!

Suede Jacket: Chine; Blouse: Mango; White singlet: Tophsop; Jeans: JBrand; Espadrilles: bought in Spain; Necklace: Vintage

Friday, 8 April 2011

Friend Friday: Spring Trends

Friend Friday is run by ModlyChic. To participate email katy_rose1@yahoo.com. This week we are talking about Spring trends.

Believe it or not it has only started to really feel like Spring this past week in London with glorious sunshine and balmy temperatures.  I actually feel like shedding my coat and woollen layers and wearing some lighter, prettier and more colourful attire.

Thankfully Spring/Summer trends tend to repeat themselves a lot with the same themes running through for years at a time.  You can pretty much bank on florals, colour and summer whites in some form or other making a comeback year after year.

As the warm season here is notoriously short I have resolved to not buy too much new Spring/Summer clothes this year and make more use of what I have.  I have been delighted to find I have enough in my wardrobe to work several trends without hitting the shops.  Now let's see if I can be disciplined enough to stick to shopping from my wardrobe!  The five trends I will be working this spring using items from my closet are:

1. The Biker Jacket


The biker is my favourite jacket and my go to wardrobe piece in Spring as a cover up.  I own many and wear them constantly whether they are considered on trend or not.  Thanks to Burberry Prosurm's SS11 collection in which the biker was heavily featured (and perversely crowned the new aviator jacket), I will also be working a major trend this Spring whenever I wear one of my bikers.

2. White Lace


Dolce and Gabbana has put white lace dresses on the fashion map for Spring. Good thing I bought this white lace number from the Kate Moss for Topshop Spring Summer collection last year then!

3. Florals, Prints, Colour and Brights


Colour is back and the choice of trends this season in which you can work some colour into your wardrobe seems to be a rehash of previous Spring trends: florals, prints, brights and colour blocking.  Snake print and chinoiserie are back as print themes.

My summer dress collection is a testimony in itself as to how often these trends come around again.  I have hardly bought any new Spring/Summer clothes this season as I've got more than enough dresses to work most of trends I have noted.  Note to self: I do not need to buy another floral print dress.

Fashionista cheat notes to save money: convince yourself you are working two trends in one with one set of garments! Neon brights aren't for me but there is plenty of bright colour to choose from amongst my printed pieces!  There are two Vivienne Westwood jersey dresses, one in lipstick red and one in purple that would tick the colour blocking box.

For chinoiserie I have a kimino inspired dress from Mango, a mini dress with a blue and white cherry blossom print reminisicent of blue china that I had for over a decade from Karen Millen, and I also have my new kimino top from Zara.  There's even a snake print dress from Mango hiding in there waiting to work the comeback of snake as a trend too!


4. Leather Trousers


Leather trousers of the skinny rock star variety refuse to go away.  They had been a big trend for the past couple of winters and I was wondering when the magazines would start trying to kill them off.  I love my leather motorcycle trousers and leather leggings so I'd be wearing them regardless but I was surprised to see that almost all the magazines here are now hailing them as a wardrobe staple no fashionable woman should be without.

If you haven't already succumbed to purchasing a pair in winter it seems like every online retailer is selling new versions of the skinny leather trouser for Spring.  Leather trousers in Spring is not as bad an idea as it may first sound.  It can still get pretty chilly in the Spring here, especially in the evenings.  So it is a relief that there is a fashionable warm option to turn too when it becomes too cool for floaty dresses and shorts.

From what I saw of the Autumn/Winter 2011 collections on recent buying trips and London Fashion Week, I strongly suspect that a pair bought now will be worn right through next winter as well!


5. Wide Legged Jeans and Seventies Chic


I have been wearing my trusty Love Story jeans since the height of Winter. I'll just keep wearing them into Spring as wide legged jeans are apparently the new skinny.  Worn with a blouse and platform shoes, I'll be able to simultaneously work that other trend of the moment - the Seventies!

Friday, 1 April 2011

FFB: Our Right to Wear the Trousers

Rap Star
Suede harem trousers: COS

The FFB series is where we reflect on what it means to be a feminist with an interest in fashion.  The post for this week is a discussion on what we have learnt from other bloggers' FFB posts.  In a previous FFB event I read a thought provoking personal experience which highlighted that up until quite recently, wearing trousers as a working woman was considered inappropriate. In response I have written this post as an ode to the trouser and our right to wear them. 

Aviator
Cargo pants: Topshop

I have illustrated throughout with trousers from my wardrobe that have been inspired by men's trousers from various occupations.  As food for thought I have labeled each pair with the job title or occupation historically associated with the garment, in part to illustrate the importance of using gender free nouns.  Which comes to mind first when you read each of these labels - a man or a woman? Your response may depend on when you were born but a lot of these titles are probably still associated with men for a significant amount of people.

It took two world wars to get women into trousers as work wear and although I have read that it was only in the seventies that they became considered acceptable for Western women to wear we still hear woeful tales of discriminatory attitudes to women wearing them still kicking around as late as the nineties.

Motorcyclist/Rock Star
Motorcycle trousers: Topshop

Have you ever heard the question "Who wears the trousers in this relationship?"  Was it asked of a boyfriend/partner/husband after a public demonstration in front of his mates that you had as much say in decisions about what you did as a couple as he did?  I always found it one of those patronising statements that firstly was never directed at you, despite the fact it was something you had done to provoke it being asked.  Rather it was directed at your other half, not so much a question, but more a demand to the beleaguered male being addressed to put me, as the woman in the relationship, back in my place for the sake of all men.

Bullfighter
Embellished Trousers: Topshop

The question implies that whoever wears the trousers wields the power in the relationship and that it is the man who is addressed when asked is a thinly veiled reference harking to those times when it had traditionally been the male ruling the roost by the seat of his pants.  Every boyfriend I've ever had has always been asked this question.  It was always another who man asked and he would always think it was acceptable to ask my boyfriend as if I wasn't there, effectively robbing me of my voice.

Artist
Harem trousers: Cos

In the posts about how we express our feminism through dress I was shocked to read a post by Vintage Vix recounting how she "received an unofficial warning for daring to wear such an outrageous item in the workplace" where the offending item was a pair of trousers!  This was not in the fifties or even sixties but in the shockingly recent nineties!  Vix also shared that she campaigned for the right to wear trousers at her school.

All this got me thinking about how we take for granted how far we've come in being able to wear traditional male garments without it being considered a taboo.  Especially when attitudes of the older generations still rear their heads long after we have considered that we have freed ourselves of such conservative sartorial shackles.

Fashion has played its part in this liberation, hijacking so many menswear items that were once off limits to women and making them staples in the modern woman's wardrobe.  It is hard for me to imagine living in a society which dictates what garments I can or can't wear based on my gender.  I think we are ironically more fortunate than men as we have the choice of both masculine and feminine garments at our disposal to dress for self expression and comfort.  How many men do you know would choose to wear a skirt (other than a kilt)?  Do you know a guy who raids their girlfriend's or wife's closet as often as his is raided by her?  Me neither.

Conductor/Magician/Waiter/Snooker Player
Tuxedo trousers: Kate Moss for Topshop


I do love skirts but I have always worn trousers.  My Mum was a chic young mother in the early 70's often wearing flared jeans and often dressed me in as a toddler trousers to let me run around freely.  There is an early picture of me in canary yellow flares pushing a toy trolley at high speed.  I look unencumbered and free.  Dresses when I was a child were for special occasion.  The rest of the time it was shorts, trousers or jeans.

When I grew older skirts and dresses became requirements of my school uniform rather than things I chose to wear out of my own free will.  As girls attending a co-education school, suddenly we had to be wary of boys looking up or lifting our skirts, and we froze needlessly in the winter.  The skirt as school uniform was an unpleasant lesson that being a woman was something to be ashamed of.  I remember being mortified at having to wear a skirt so short for sports that we had to wear an unattractive pair of frumpy "bloomers" underneath to preserve our modesty when flying around the hockey pitch.  Except the bloomers were just an unattractive version of a pair of big knickers anyway.  We may as well have worn mini shorts, done away with the skirts altogether and we would have looked considerably more modest as teenage girls!

Every so often you still hear of girls campaigning to be allowed to wear trousers to school.  Vix's story of her own campaign reminded me of a similar story I once read in the mid nineties about an Australian high school student campaigning in her school for the right to wear trousers.  The local paper interviewed the school principal, a man, about the issue.  He was adamant that trousers for girls would not be permitted but the reason he gave was that he believed the stench of dried urine on girls trouser legs in classrooms would be unbearable.  This quite disgusting level of ignorance came from an adult in a position of considerable authority and responsibility in society.  Was he unaware of how female anatomy works?

Golfer
Plaid trousers: T.M. Lewin

While wearing a skirt or dress definitely makes me feel more feminine, the choice is purely an aesthetic one as there is absolutely nothing practical about wearing one.  No matter the length or the cut, you are wearing a garment which has one hole for both your legs.  There is the immediate potential for an embarrassing exposure of your nether regions by falling over, strong winds, open staircases, sitting down the wrong way etc... etc...

The classic staple in every woman's wardrobe is the trusty pencil skirt and is the daily uniform of working girls the world over.  But spending long hours seated at a desk in one can be dreadfully uncomfortable.  Your posture is so constricted for all those hours, your knees bound together by your skirt hem.  Forget about running for the bus or tube.  You are forced to totter.  In winter I crave the warmth of trouser legs as no matter how thick the woollen tights I wear are, a skirt is drafty!

The instant I put a skirt on I am restricted in movement and freedom.  I have to consider how I sit down, where I put my legs when I'm seated, how I get up, how I get in and out of a car, whether I need to hold on to my skirt when a breeze starts up, whether a long shoulder bag is causing it to ride up or how I should walk up and down staircases which allow a view up my skirt from below.  In effect I have to consider how to be ladylike and demure at all times so as not to flash anyone inadvertently.  By this constant wariness of the shame of exposing part of me, I am effectively reminded of my gender constantly.  Very ironic when religious reasons for banning women wearing men's clothing items is often about preserving their modesty!  When I put on a pair of trousers I free up brain cells immediately by removing these concerns.  I can just be.  In this respect trousers are the ultimate triumph for a feminist!

Clown
Leopard print trousers: Topshop

However reading accounts like those of Vintage Vix highlights that although we expect that we should be able to wear what we like including trousers, there are probably still views held by men and women that we ought to be wearing skirts.  Although bosses like the one who gave Vix her warning in the nineties may not be able to force a woman to wear a skirt for work today, it is unlikely that their opinion will have changed in the last fifteen or twenty years and their attitude to female employees is likely to be coloured by it.  A Google search I conducted for this post unearthed a disturbing amount of websites still arguing that women wearing trousers is immoral on religious grounds.

I personally have noticed since moving to the UK that when I attend interviews or big meetings where  I am likely to be meeting with senior male staff I will choose to wear a skirt suit whereas on a normal office day you are more likely to find me wearing trousers.  Somehow during my exposure to corporate culture in the UK I have subconsciously picked up the subtle message that to appear more formal and pulled together to men in charge I should be wearing a skirt.  Conservative attitudes that can hold us back still prevail today about what we should be wearing as women, they just remain a little more hidden.  Which makes it all the more important that we never take for granted that the battle for equality is won and there is not more work to do.

Sailor
Wool sailor trousers: Kate Moss for Topshop

Sabine of Psynopsis commented on my FFB post that "there were times when dressing like a man expressed rebellion against the inequality between men and women". And understandably so.  It was a strong statement that they were equals, that they refused to live with the restrictions imposed on them by society because of their gender, that they had the right to the same freedoms and choices as men. So many strong women throughout history have historically claimed the right to wear menswear when it was considered unacceptable to do so - Marlene Dietrich, Coco Chanel and the writer George Sand are some of my favourite examples. 

I am no less of a woman when I am wearing trousers.  I actually feel less restricted as a human being going about my day in trousers.  That there still exists the possibility that I can be judged morally or professionally wearing them is completely unacceptable.  To me the freedom to wear trousers is symbolic of my right to freedoms reclaimed for me by feminists throughout history.  Not just the freedom of self expression in dress and the right to be physically and psychologically comfortable, but freedom from restrictions and freedom of choice.

PS: I would be very interested to hear from you whether each pair of trousers featured had a male or female associated for you according to the title given to it!

Links A La Mode: Tech

My post about my experience with a splog made the IFB Links a La Mode Tech group this week.  This issue is still unresolved.  I continue to complain to Google but there is no word from the hosting company and my stuff is still being stolen.  I see that even bloggers as big as Fashiontoast are having their images lifted.

From reading the responses to the post and emails from other bloggers who found their stuff stolen too it appears quite a few people were unaware that such sites existed.  Hopefully by raising awareness more people who are affected will complain and more of these sites will be shut down in the future.

Links à la Mode: Tech

It’s Time for a Fashion & Tech Evolution Revolution! – Edited by Vyque of Fasshonaburu

Technology has become a part of every day life. By the end of 2011, they expect more people to own a smart phone than an average cell. Augmented reality is becoming… well, reality. And even your parents got on Facebook, finally motivating everyone to learn how to customize their privacy settings!

I can’t say fashion has been on the forefront of these advances. In fact, until Jennine brought together IFB I didn’t have any friends who could edit HTML and discuss whether Pre-Fall was better than Resort. But now we have a group of like-minded women (and men) who can not only do just that, but actually help the evolution of the fashion and technology relationship and bring it to the masses! So rise up with me and let’s start a revolution!

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Miss Viki: Look Back: My First Fashion Show Video
Divas & Dorks: Is It Possible for Your Smartphone to Control Your Car?
Confessions of a Drama Queen: Bangkok International Fashion Week: Fashion Networking Using Social Media & Gadgets
The Clothing Menu:Online Shopping is More Than Just Buying Things
Relatively Chic: How to Deal With Internet Scum, Part 1: Splogs
The Taxonomy of my Wardrobe: Scraper Blogs Infringing Your Copyright - Warning Your Blog Might Be Next!
Fasshonaburu: Checking Out the Shop Like Feature on The Find

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