I spent time recently working with a female politician when I styled her for a magazine photo shoot. Three generations of her family were in the room and we all participated in making the morning flow smoothly so that she could be present to her job and to the newest member of her family who joined us for a short and delightful time. A scenario that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago.
During the shoot we talked about how far the world has come, how grateful we are to be alive in a time when there is a wider opportunity for choice for women. Then the conversation turned to discuss how far we still have to go with equal pay, equal rights, and equality for women period.
As a stylist I pointed out the inequality I perceive in what women feel around clothing, around covering up, around loving our bodies and being happy with what is. In my career I witness women making choices to hide themselves. To conform, to minimize. I pointed out that when we hide our perceived ‘flaws’ that we do each other a disservice. If we could demonstrate that we can accept ourselves fully as we are instead of waiting until we are 5 kgs lighter or 2 inches taller or with a bigger or smaller cup size, then that in itself would be giving ourselves permission to be perfect as we are. My physical self today is as equal in status, rights and opportunities as I am when I am at my perceived ‘ideal’.
Caroline Caldwell articulated this lack of equality and acceptance perfectly when she wrote “In a society that profits from your self doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.”
I pointed out with dismay that a male politician does not face the scrutiny that a female in the same role does. I can’t imagine J F Kennedy obsessively worrying about his thighs, his upper arms, or how low his shirtfront was? These things are on the minds of women constantly, especially when working in and navigating the public eye.
Still things are improving. I’m grateful that customs and laws restricting clothing are evolving and changing with the times. In 2019 women can wear pants in public, we have abandoned the painful and restricting corset, we have burnt the bra, we wore the bikini, we have embraced establishments once forbidden to us.
This all sounds like ancient history – but its not. As recently as 1967 Katherine Switzer was forbidden to run the Boston Marathon because she was a woman. Nevertheless she prevailed, registered under her initials and became the first ‘numbered’ woman to run the race. The rules were only changed in 1973. Switzer was a trail blazer: “When I go to the Boston Marathon now, I have wet shoulders—women fall into my arms crying. They’re weeping for joy because running has changed their lives. They feel they can do anything.”
—Kathrine Switzer, The Nation (2013)
This level of sexism might be unimaginable to some of us today. But it was a very real fact back then. It was only in 1993 that women were finally permitted to wear trousers on the U.S. Senate. Of course, in some places & cultures in the world, women are restricted by law in their clothing choices. We still have some work to do in these areas.
In my style workshops I talk about letting go of clothing restrictions by loving and accepting ourselves as we would love and accept our best friend. Think of that person and how much love we have for them, now imagine feeling that for ourselves? Lets try it.
Here’s my innovative suggestion to Kiwi women for International Women’s Day: What if for this one day we thought equally about ourselves as we do for someone we love unconditionally? What if we innovated for change within our own hearts and attitudes and instead of dressing to hide, to blend in and to not be noticed, how about we dress to highlight those parts of ourselves that we liked. What if we wore our favourite colour purely for the joy it brings us?
What if we stopped worrying about what others thought of us for 24hours and dressed to make ourselves happy?
Friday 8th of March is International Women’s Day
The 2019 theme is “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change.”
Let’s start the change with our choice of clothing on that day, make an innovative choice, an empowering & loving choice for you. Make that day fun! Encourage your girlfriends to stand togetHER, join me in exercising our right to a joyful expression of rebellion: Like. your. self.
‘Embrace your POWER’