My expertise is not defined by my outfit

Too short, too low cut or too sheer. How dare I, a female, have a body and flaunt it so openly.

In a world dominated by pantsuit corporate culture, dressing professionally has become arguably one of the most important factors when it comes to interviews or first impressions. A hint of cleavage can make the difference between a shiny new job or frantically emailing cover letters out to hopeful employers.

I once heard that a man who wears a bowtie to a job interview clearly does not want to be hired. A bowtie. A simple, small piece of clothing used to express individuality and a flair for fashion can result in the lack of employment.

It is an unfair system to require that suits and pencil skirts be one of the most defining factors of a person’s qualification for a job. I once wore a high-necked, red floral dress that hit at my mid-thigh to an interview and was met with the comment, “You’re wearing that? A bit inappropriate, isn’t it?”

No, no it is not.

What I wear should not define my work ethic or skill. I am more than my blouse and it is ridiculous that people still can’t look past the necessity of me completely covering my body for the fact that I am skilled at what I do, and it is not because I am wearing slacks.

Yes, to some degree there needs to be a standard in professional wear. Shower regularly, clean your hair up a bit and don’t wear a swimsuit to work, but should a woman in a summer dress be seen as unqualified for her position as a manager, a lawyer or a professor? Absolutely not.

The fact remains: Bodies exist, people. We all have shapes and different sizes, and forcing us to overspend on clothing from Banana Republic certainly does not change that.

Some of the snappiest dressers I have ever seen have been men in printed blazers and boat shoes, or women in lace blouses and tight pants. They looked sharp, trendy and confident in the fabric with which they adorned themselves.

As a woman entering the professional field, I have seen my fair share of dress codes having gone to private school my entire life. I never felt like they were set out to maintain modesty and limit distraction, but rather, to shame me for something I cannot control. It is my responsibility to understand what wearing certain things may or may not convey, and it is the responsibility of others to not consider my fitted dress an invitation to my body.

I can be a professional and not dress in clothing I cannot afford or would wear otherwise. I am more than my clothing, and my ideas and work are not contingent on how short my skirt is.

About Chloe Tokar

Managing Editor

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