Monday, April 20, 2015

Female Life: Does Our Audience Matter?

Occasionally a woman will relate an experience on her blog which stuns me. Its truth is plain and its existence startles me. As much as I study women, I haven't had many of their life-experiences so I'm not fully aware how it feels like to be female in modern society.

One blog just reported an experience I'd like to relate with the question: Do you do this?

Amber is a pleasant young woman who recently switched jobs. She used to work in an all-female environment. Now, she's the only woman among male co-workers. She blogs that her wardrobe and makeup have changed solely due to her audience at work. Here are her words:

"With my new job I am the only woman in the office. I have found that more thought and planning now goes into my outfits as a result. Even my makeup has changed - where I would normally feel free to experiment with a bright lip color or even false eye lashes, I now wear more neutral and natural tones."

How does our audience affect our presentation as women? Men often believe that women "dress up" for them, yet many women dispute that and say the opposite -- that because men don't appreciate fashion and beauty, women dress up only for other women (such as on Girls' Nights Out). Dressing for the workplace adds additional concerns 'cause ambitious women want to be taken seriously.

My first question is: When you're deciding how to dress and present yourself, does it matter whether your audience will be male or female? My follow-up question is: If it matters, how does that affect your choices?

28 comments:

  1. That is interesting. I have never thought about that. My clothing and make up is always a result of occasion, venue, and weather. I have never considered the audience which dressing, not necessarily by their sex at least.

    ∞ tanvii.com ∞

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  2. Very thought provoking.
    I think I dress depending to where I am going - for example, last time I went to the National Theatre to see a play I dressed up. When I got there most people in jeans. It's THE National Theatre… of course I was the oddball.
    Then again I rather be overdressed that under.
    I think that if I worked in an all male environment, I would dress differently.

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  3. I have only noticed mine changing for my audience based on the situation I'm in. Like I don't show off my tattoos at work, or I usually cover my arms in general because it's more conservative. In my last job, which was more free, I wore whatever I wanted because no one was judging. So, yes, I do dress for an audience, but I don't think it's based on gender for me.

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  4. Yes, I'm sure I dressed differently when I worked in a predominantly male office environment. But, for me now, I am in a different environment, so my work dressing is based more on location and tasks set for that day. For example, what to wear for a presentation or investor meeting at the office vs. going to a warehouse or travelling for business with co-workers.
    FASHION TALES

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  5. Not ever thought about it! Er, I remember wearing longer skirts at my previous admin job because a really sweet professor told me I looked like a princess in a long skirt I had and bought me a cup of tea and a cake because of it. (this is his autistic equivalent of calling me pretty) and so I donned a few more maxi skirts. Otherwise, I work with women, pretty much! I do tend to not care what I am wearing and have more fun dressing upx

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  6. I work in an environment that is 30% women, 70% men. The only adaptation I make is to ensure that I don't have any cleavage showing (no sexy at work, ever!) vs. my going-out clothes (not that I show a lot of cleavage anyway, old bag that I am).

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  7. I have a uniform at work so I cant really show the real me. I used to work in the city and would make more effort with my hair and makeup but now I am in head office in the Burbs and I wear flats and more natural makeup. No point in going all out when nobody will see you.

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  8. I completely agree. Men seem to only appreciate or respond to sexy, suggestive attire. Women dress for other women who will actually appreciate the fashion and the fine details. I get excited when I am going to go out with the girls as I can pick interesting outfits and know they will appreciate it and not judge. When I go out with my husband I tend to dress more neutral and simple as he prefers it that way.
    Daphne.

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  9. This is very interesting. I certainly dress for the environment and I guess that would include the audience that I will be associating with. Women normally appreciate the details in an outfit whereas men will appreciate the fit or shape it takes on the body. If I'm trying to avoid any attention I will tone everything down and cover everything.

    bisous
    Suzanne

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  10. Audience affects what I wear A LOT. With my family, I feel more comfortable to try new things, take things up a notch, and not really care what they think. With my husband's family, I often find myself paralyzed in making outfit choices, because I don't want them to judge me. It used to be my family had more females than males, and my husband's more males than females, but both have balanced out. But the energy (essence?) remains the same. The only thing that has changed is that pre-kid, going to my inlaws had me thinking "No, not that shirt, it'd be too easy for my boob to pop out" and now, it's like "Yup, that shirt'll be great for popping my boob out". Sigh, the joys of motherhood :)

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  11. For about 7 years, I had a boss at my previous job who was female. At work, especially on a day I had a meeting with her, I felt perfectly comfortable dressing however I wanted. Our office didn't have a dress code, and whether I felt like wearing a mini-skirt or my oldest pair of jeans, I felt like she would "get it" and wouldn't have any reaction to my clothes.

    When she left and my new boss was male, even though he was 100% personable and polite, I couldn't help feeling much more conscious of my clothing choices. Like if I wore a mini-skirt, maybe he'd have an opinion about me intending to be "sexy," or if I wore old jeans, maybe he'd consciously decide I wasn't putting care into my appearance. This all doesn't necessarily mean I actually altered my choices, but I thought about them in ways I never had before. I think this definitely speaks to a phenomenon within our society that assigns men the role of "audience" to women's presentational choices.

    Thanks for posing this question. As cliche as the phrase is becoming these days, it's so positive for there to be a dialog. :)

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    1. Thank you for contributing!

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    2. Cammila, I can relate! My two previous jobs were in fashion, and quite literally, anything went. I could show up to work in a sheer blouse with a lace bra if I wanted. I did once. Of course I would NEVER do that now, for several reasons.

      I have found that with my new job I am conscious of cleavage, hemlines, and the tightness of my clothing. I believe that all persons are responsible for themselves and for their actions, and if one day I decided to waltz in something that was tight, short, and showing a cleavage, that the men in my office still wouldn't have a right to speak or treat me in any disrespectful manner. But for myself, and for my comfort levels, I dress in what puts me at ease.

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  12. Very interesting! I would say it does matter. If you want to be taken seriously in an all male work environment, you have to definitely wear looks that are more authoritative and conservative. After all you want them to respect what you bring to the table as a professional and let them know that you are much more than a pretty face. Anything from how much make up you wear to the length of your skirt changes. Great post!

    www.dressed2dnines.com

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  13. Excellent topic for both of you to raise. Though I'm certain that gender has factored into how I've dressed at times over the years, for me, the age of audience and the degree of professionalism that needs to be conveyed usually trump whether the group is male, female, or a mix of both.

    ♥ Jessica

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  14. Audience definitely matters. But that's part of the fun (and work) of fashion and beauty. What do you want to convey? Seriousness? Capability? Intelligence? Gentleness? Humor? Athleticism? Sexual availability? Modesty? Humans are visual creatures and power belongs to people who understand this and act accordingly. Of course, it's also fun to fly in the face of convention and surprise your audience, too!

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    1. Yes, audience matters. Fashion conveys a message just as you said. It's very much an expression of ones "tribe" if you will. That's why there are different attitudes associated with certain styles of dress.

      I completely agree with everything you've said!

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  15. Yay, Amber ! She is a great blogger, I follow her posts :-)
    It is a bit true that women dress more for the other women than for men ! I work in a mixed environment, but there is a majority of women, and we often talk about clothes and accessories during our break. I think most of men don't notice what we wear that much, LOL. Kisses

    Fashion and Cookies - fashion blog

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    1. Awe thank you for your kind words Vale! I follow, read, and love your posts!

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  16. Thank you for the feature, and encouraging such thoughtful discussion. I'm still learning so much with my new atmosphere, and what makes me comfortable in it. How I dress and present myself for work is changing, as well as how I speak (I have a pretty foul mouth, and in order to keep myself in the 'lady' category, I try to keep things as clean as possible. That way the men - who also have *not* had a woman in the office before, will continue to treat me as a lady, and not as 'one of the guys').. It's uncharted territory for me. But, I'm having fun, and I love the opportunity to experiment!

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    1. Thank YOU, Amber, for sparking the conversation. We all learn from listening to each other and our experiences. I certainly do.

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  17. That's a great question and not one I have given much thought to. When I was teaching, and taught in a variety of different schools, I encountered different styles of dressing amongst the female staff and I would say that I usually noticed if I fit in or not. For example one school was in an area where there were lots of people who had originally been hippies (our area was popular with draft dodgers) and they still basically looked it. Another school had very fashion conscious women who loved to shop and show each other their latest finds. Men were in small numbers but they had no interest in clothing, their own or anyone else's. I think I was more inclined to dress for myself first and my students second. xo

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  18. Depending on the environment, sometimes dressing down is a smart way to avoid sexual harassment at work.

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  19. You know, I dress the same either way and wear the same type and amount of makeup everywhere, when I bother. I think it's because I dress for MYSELF first and foremost...although I'm a Leo and looking for validation everywhere I go, let's be honest...but I think actually everyone else is second. Hmm. I think I only just now realized that, oddly.

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  20. I tend to tone down my look when I'm around men--more "natural" makeup and no statement pieces/anything that attracts undue attention. I worry more about unwanted attention and being taken seriously--looking "too good" is an invitation for trouble. I'm also more conscious of dressing modestly when I'm in public/a mixed crowd for the same reasons.

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    1. Thanks for contributing your thoughts, Batya.

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  21. No... always been a Free Spirit when it comes to my Wardrobe. Even during my Corporate Life in Banking I resisted the trend, at the time, for Females to dress Masculine just to be taken seriously in what was, at that time, a Male dominated field and Good Ole' Boy Network. Guess I've always been somewhat of a Rebel when it comes to just dressing to please myself regardless of outside influences or opinions. Funny thing tho', once when I was going to a Parent/Teacher Conference for the G-Kid Force I'm raising I tried to look more Mainstream and less Gypsy Dawn *LOL*... other kids can be so cruel and I wondered if the Grands were sometimes embarrassed that I'm so 'different'? I came out in Jean Capris and a regular T-Shirt... the Grandkids were stunned and asked why I looked so 'Normal'? *Bwahaha* Princess T told me I looked like a Farmer... and they both told me to go back and change because they like me as I am, different... they weren't embarrassed by me... what a relief coz I sure felt odd in that get-up even tho' I probably LOOKED more like everyone else! Yet I never feel odd in my peculiar style that probably looks odd to most people... go figure! *ha ha ha* Dawn... The Bohemian

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  22. I tend to dress less for the audience and more for the occasion. I had a super casual job and I wore flip flops and tanks with jeans every day. In my current position, I sometimes need to wear a suit. It never has mattered to me what other people think because often times co-workers have been more or less put together than me. Interesting notion, though.

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