I’ve written about this before as recently as June, but I just wrote a whole screed as part of an online discussion and realized it was basically a blog entry. A bunch of women were bemoaning how uncomfortable women’s clothing is than men’s , and that hasn’t been my experience at all.
I have found that the flip side of the expectations for women’s clothing means that I have more choices available than my make cow-orkers. I can wear what they wear; they can’t get away with a lot of what I wear. Some of it is luck; I’m not skinny, but am small enough to be able to buy clothing that’s on the loose size – jeans and trousers excepted due to rower thighs and current styles. I’m small-busted enough to be comfortable in less-constructed bras, and my feet are a size 8, which is dead center of the US women’s size range so all styles come in my size. I’ve worked in offices ranging from casual to business casual (the main difference between those, in my experience, is how OK they are with jeans). I have had friends who worked on offices where they were required to wear high heels – not often, but a few – and I know a lot of women who need underwire bras because wearing anything less constructed is even more uncomfortable.
My nearest male coworker is wearing a polo shirt and jeans; I could wear that (except that I’d freeze to death and that I don’t find polo’s terribly flattering on me – they are on some women). I can’t even claim that the freezing issue is gender based, in this case – it often is, but not here, judging by the number of women working near me in short sleeves or with skirts and bare legs.
Much of the clothing I wear most frequently is knitted, not woven (though all of my jeans and trousers and most of my skirts are woven). As mentioned above, I do have a fit issue with jeans; for a while now the trend toward skinny jeans has affected even supposedly-relaxed fir jeans and trousers. I don’t think tight jeans look professional on me, but I can’t find ones that are looser. I can at least find comfortable ones, with enough spandex to be forgiving, and low-enough waists that they’re not trying to cut me in half.
Today I am wearing a black bralette, a black tank top, merino-blend black leggings, and hand-knit socks. Topping that to make it office-professional, I have my Thera (designed by a Waffle!) and an Ibex skirt I originally bought from a rowing company that was selling them as a comfy cover-up over a rowing uni. (I have gotten so much use out of this skirt that if they still make them I’d buy one in every color.) Also, boots that really were made to walk in. I could go to a yoga class right now and all I’d have to take off would be a bit of jewelry. From the inside, it feels pretty much like pajamas, and I feel a bit sorry for the guy in the next desk who can’t wear this stuff.
To be fair, though, I did dress extra comfortably on purpose today; yesterday was one of the days when I really felt restricted by my clothing. Ironically, I was wearing men’s trousers; unusually for me, I tucked in my shirt and wore a tight belt, which had the effect of pulling the trousers upward so they were slightly binding at the crotch. (An effect of wearing pants designed for a male on a female body – they’re supposed to sit below the waist, and are actually a little higher on me than they’re meant to be, but I’d belted then tightly enough to bring them up to my natural waist.) I had a turtleneck collar ringing my neck, I had my hair pinned up tightly (which I also rarely do) and my bra had uncomfortable lumps in the seams. My shoes were comfortable, but nothing else was. I had big pockets, but they didn’t make up for the discomfort. I won’t be doing that again soon, but I’m glad I don’t have to.