Feminism Rants

Smart Clothes for Women

I’ll never feel as smart as a man when I get ready to walk into an interview.

How can I? Society has always told me that a suit, shirt, and a tie is the ‘uniform’ for most interviews and work. That’s what I always saw around me when I worked in an office before. That’s what I see on the TV and in movies. That’s what I saw my Dad wear to work every day when I was growing up. That’s what I see the other people wearing who are being interviewed.

Since I’m about to soon finish nearly five years of education I’ve bought myself a suit to wear to interviews. But I don’t feel smart it in. I feel kind of… lumpy and a bit of a mess. It’s a beautiful suit from Hobbs. Hobbs really do make lovely ready to wear suits. Hobbs and Reiss are some of the best you can get for women’s workwear as far as I’m concerned (and of course the price reflects the good quality!).

But I had such a problem getting trousers to fit. You see, almost all women’s trousers are all cut to be quite slim to the leg, even when they proclaim to be a straight fitting trouser. So I bought a size 12 trouser in the end because I’m a person who likes doing spin classes, although this does make the waist have six inches of fabric spare.

The jacket is relatively nicely fitting, but weirdly broad shouldered as if it was made for an athlete (in contrast to the trousers which an athlete would never get into). Too broad for me and I grew up doing alot of swimming, I’m quite wide in the shoulder for my body size. So even though I bought a size 10 – as small as I could go – it kind of doesn’t quite fit me properly because it doesn’t sit right around the upper arms. Seems strange to make your trousers so skinny but your jacket so wide.

Then there were the shoes. Of course the shoes depended on the kind of trousers so they had to come afterwards. What I really wanted were a pair of leather Oxfords or similar – like the men who work in offices and go to job interviews. But I couldn’t find a nice suit that would sit neatly on the top of a pair of Oxfords, so instead I had to resort to a nice leather pair of ballet flats. There’s nothing wrong with ballet flats, I find them quite comfortable actually. But they’re totally not autumn/winter wear. My feet freeze in them. I perhaps could have got away with a pair of ankle boots, but they’d have had to be high heels, and I’m going for an interview with the armed forces (with aptitude testing that requires using a foot pedal) and hopefully an interview with a leading construction firm (with a 15 minute walk to the station and an hour on the train). Somehow, high heels don’t really feel appropriate. Nor do they feel smart to me.

Ok, well, I’ve made some compromises. But I have a suit that fits reasonably well and a pair of shoes that at least are leather so my feet won’t get totally wet if it’s raining. (Dry feet hardly seems like much to ask for when going to work or to a job interview, but apparently it is. Can’t wear bloody socks with them either.)

So then I order some shirts. I want double cuff shirts so that I can wear cufflinks. I like cufflinks, they make me feel smart. And as if I get to wear (almost) the same clothes as the men as part of my interview/work uniform. I look at the main shirt manufacturers and I discount anything in a stretch fabric, anything that isn’t 100% cotton, anything in a pattern other than stripes or checks, and anything that is cut tight to the body. I end up with two gorgeous shirts from Hawes & Curtis. Shirts are one of my favourite things. I love them. The fabric is so beautiful and the garments are so light and practical for workwear. Again though, I have to order in a size 12. But this time because a size 10 clings tight to my breasts and gapes slightly at the front. Now just for the record, I don’t have massive breasts. I’m a 32C/D (more or less) which isn’t actually particularly large. But despite my petite frame, I have to go up to a size 12. Unfortunately, everything else is too big. The neck gapes – I can’t wear it buttoned up because it’s a few inches too big. I certainly can’t wear a tie with it. The sleeves are far too long, and the shoulders a little too wide. I won’t lie, I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed that I can’t have nice things. Well I can have nice things, but the nice things don’t really fit me. I don’t understand why I can’t buy a women’s shirt by collar size. Which leads me on to the main thing that bothers me…

Why can’t I buy a women’s shirt by collar size? Because women’s shirts are ‘fitted’. I’m not entirely sure why, other than because the people that design them assume that women want to show off their bodies at work. If you’re wearing a shirt with double cuffs you’re going to tuck it into your trousers, so why does it need to have darts in the back and front in order to fit it close to your body? Why can’t it fit like a men’s range shirt where it’s loosely cut and just tucked into the trousers at the waist? I can only imagine that if it’s not to make women look more sexy at work, then it’s to make women spend more time ironing their clothes getting ready for work. I can iron a male cut shirt in no time at all. It’s so simple. But women’s shirts? Forget it. You can’t just press the front, back, front, yoke, collar, sleeve, sleeve flat on the ironing board.. no. You have to press each piece carefully because it is turned into a 3D garment with the darts designed to make it fit close to your body. It takes me three times as long to press my shirts as it does to press a man’s shirt. I suspect that it might be quicker if I invested in a decent large tailors ham, but why should I have to use specialist pressing equipment just because somebody has decided that women’s work shirts have to fit close to the body? Come on shirt manufacturers – sort it out. Just give me a shirt that fits close to my neck and has enough room in the body to go round my breasts without gaping. You don’t need to put darts in it. You don’t need to make it sexy. Just give me a practical garment that I can wear every day to work and doesn’t require me to give up half my Sunday evening to get five of them ironed.

On top of that – you can’t transport women’s shirts easily! Because they have so many shaping darts in them, they don’t lie flat in a suit carrier! The shirt will basically always need ironing again when you get to your destination (which is why I bought a striped shirt for the interview that requires an overnight stay the night before…). I don’t understand why everything is made so difficult for women compared to a man’s work wardrobe.

You know what? Should have bought the bloody shift dress that went with the suit jacket instead. It would have at least travelled better and taken less time to iron. I might have felt smarter in it too, because I’m not missing a tie from my outfit…