A girlfriend made a remark about the way I dressed today. It was in relation to the casual attire I frequent. The succinct comment left numerous thoughts whooshing in my head – a micro-awakening to a forgotten place.

You see, I haven’t really judged or evaluated myself via my appearance for a long time. My aesthetics seem to have stopped being a way I represent myself to the world, or one of my priorities in life. I rarely spend more than fifteen minutes getting ready in the morning. I don’t pick out outfits, I don’t wear makeup, I don’t straighten or really blow-dry my hair, and I don’t adorn myself with uncomfortable items. A lot of this has to do with practicality and utility – I’ve been riding my bike (the manual kind) around Melbourne for seven years and flimsy heels and pretty handbags don’t cut it. In fact, you’re more likely to see me with my Chrome or Crumpler laptop bag, a waterproof jacket and some Birkenstocks. Yes, Birkenstocks. I’ve been informed these are a fashion crime to humanity – even though I think I look like a cute import from Holland in my suede clogs.

This wasn’t always the case though, turn back to 2005 and you’d find me in fashion school for a year – on respite from my science bachelors. I used to spend my Saturdays pouring my attention over many magazine subscriptions including Vogue Australia, Vogue UK, Marie Claire, ELLE, Ruush and the rest. I could tell you what piece of clothing was from what designer, what collection, what year and who wore it. People still get surprised when I correctly guess the fabric blend of their jumper.

After a while I suppose I grew bored of it all and began to find the subject matter rather intellectually dull. Achieving and conforming to a certain look became tiring. Fashion began to no longer rhyme with passion for me.

In the past few years, I stopped consuming mainstream female-focused media altogether. I also found myself without a TV to watch. As a result, I wasn’t subject to advertising or supposed societal norms via the glossy photoshopped pages or slick ads. I forgot women were under pressure to continually lose weight. I forgot women were directed to alter their skin or hair colour to become more attractive. I forgot women needed to buy more things to make their lives better. I forgot women were told they needed to continually change to feel good. I forgot to dedicate the time and focus needed to keep up with the media’s message. I progressively stopped blowing a chunk of my pay check on clothes, cosmetics or beauty treatments. I started buying books, experiences and the odd tech treat – with most of my money going into savings. I was exposed to a more-democratic new media world – where real, diverse voices from around the globe could be heard first hand.

Don’t get me wrong, I never let my general presentation falter – rather, I began to feel better by being natural. I know that you can have fun with fashion and style – many of my friends do a brilliant job. It’s just I prefer to limit my time and attention on it – and direct more to decorating my mind and soul instead.

It wasn’t until today that I was reminded I’m judged on my appearance… that it meant something.

It’s a shame because I don’t need a floral dress to feel feminine, makeup to feel attractive or a black suit to feel professional, so why does society?

Isn’t it refreshing when people don’t try to make themselves a certain way in order to justify the expectations of others.

So, fellow human. Don’t go changing – unless of course, it’s for you.


4 thoughts on “How I dress

  1. It’s a theory and, in theory, sure I agree. What feminist wouldn’t? Melbourne (great city! lucky you!) may be a far more relaxed place than where I (a Canadian ex-pat) have lived for 22 years….a suburb of NYC with most of my work in NYC. There are few places I’ve ever seen with such (sigh) rigid ideas about what’s attractive: super-thin, designer clothes, groomed to a flawless sheen. Intimidating and expensive….and you choose to avoid these if you wish to remain on the professional sidelines.

    As an author I work at home; my second book is out this week. But the work of promoting it to the public now means a lot of events and speaking to audiences who expect me to look professional and successful, not show up with messy hair in leggings. I think it’s a sign of respect for their time and attention to look as professional and polished as I can (without blowing the bank or going crazy.)

    I miss dressing decently! So, even for a while, I look forward to upping my game.

  2. Kate – I loved reading this.

    Yes I am a fashion blogger but I’m hoping my work encourages/empowers people to put their face forward. whatever they feel that is – not as dictated by the latest magazines. When I cover a fashion week, I try to pick out the looks/trends that people might like add to their existing wardrobe as an update rather than saying ‘this is the latest look’ per se…

    And a thought, a question I get asked a lot when I tell someone who works in HR/recruitment that I’m a workwear fashion blogger is “how do you tell someone they have bad B.O.?” Which I found funny at the start but now am drawing a parallel and would love your (and your readers) input – are looks like body odour? Neither are everything but there is a limit to how much you can let yourself go in either department before people will start finding being around/working with you unpleasant??

    Love your work lady! X

  3. Thanks for the comment Cheryl!

    I can see where you’re going – I think my sentiment is akin to this:

    Imagine you have two workers – one smells neutral/indifferent (no B.O.) and the other quite obviously smells of a perfume.

    When I smell perfume, especially if it’s strong, I find it quite distracting. In some closed offices, even quite overwhelming. It can overpower someone’s personality.

    I would be more prejudicial against the perfume than the neutral, and yes if it’s the opposite end of the spectrum (body odour) the same can apply.

    As stated, it’s important to be yourself and express yourself how you like though – wear and do what feels natural!

    Generally, I think most women in senior positions look “dowdy”, as someone mentioned, largely due to the fact they have to sacrifice somethings to get where they are. This is likely to include five-hour weekend shopping sprees, 45-minute-long morning routines, ongoing trend analysis from the media and so forth. If they have kids as well, getting the time to even brush one’s hair could feel like a luxury!

    I would love to see more professional-looking quality activewear style clothing featured on BusiChic – something achievable and practical (which I know you’re already doing).

  4. Also, could some of the younger generation saying old women emasculate themselves to fit in with the workforce be just as bad as the public commenting on a female prime minister’s dress sense? We all need to give each other a massive break and pat on the back, and recognise the actual achievements. Is ‘looking good’ even an achievement? We shouldn’t panda to this inflicted societal-norm. :)

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