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Shouldering out power dressing

I hear the term and I think shoulder-pads. Not the nouveau space-age gaga spikes, but square upholstered mega squares that were de rigueur for my mother and her career set in the 80s.

The pads gave women the shouldering power they needed while smashing their way through the cigar sucking man-clans at the office. Dynasty had a lot to answer for.

As much as it is a twee term that is used now more for mockery more than real commentary, I remain at odds with the particular styles associated with ‘power dressing’.

Shoulder pads debatably worked in a strictly aesthetic sense. They countered the leg hugging pants and skirts of the eighties. To put it bluntly, they distracted the eye from the ass.

But more than that, they aspired to a silhouette that was not classically feminine. Renoir would have been appalled by the lack of lady lumps. But he probably wouldn’t have appreciated how much those lovely lumps distracted men folk at meetings.

Women of the eighties had their bra burning sisters to thank for opening the door to the office, but when they got inside, their arses were slapped for thinking they could.

But their soft curved frames and pretty faces belied the beasts within. They disguised themselves cleverly in the clothes of their broad-shouldered oppressive adversaries. Shoulder pads and pants suits thanks very much. And no, I will not get you a coffee!

Before I am slapped in the face with a first edition copy of The Female Eunuch, let me assure you that I don’t enjoy the idea that the only way to climb the ladder is in costume.

But it is naïve at best to believe that our clothes have very little to do with the position we are assigned in the workplace.

Tune in to any kitchenette conference and chances are there will be a discussion of female colleagues and their attributes. No, not their brains and business acumen.

It speaks volumes that Jules Gillard has suffered the embittered mockery of media commentators for her physical attributes and wardrobe choices throughout her career and never so much than when she was battling to lead the country.

Excuse me Ms Gillard, before you tell us how you plan to save our environment, please discuss the far more pertinent issue of your hair colour and whether your butt looks big in that?

That is precisely why it is still worth fighting to disconnect our work status from our clothing choices. The real victory will come when every work day is no longer a question of ‘what will they think of me in this?’ but ‘how brilliant will I be today?’

One thought on “Shouldering out power dressing

  1. I think there’s subtleties in power dressing. I like to look cute, but i dress down at the office – otherwise i find myself being mistaken for an admin assistant, when really i’m an IT professional. But that’s a quirk of the industry, I think. People expect the database guru to be wearing jeans and sneakers.

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