This post was written by former ShoutOut blogger SpongebobBloggerpants ! Enjoy:
Matilda Kahl of Harper’s Bazaar magazine recently wrote an enlightening piece about why she chooses to leave creativity behind when it comes to her professional wardrobe. After years of frustration and daily morning struggles, Kahle finally opted to dress in a simple “uniform” of a white silk top and black trousers to work every day. As a female art director, Kahl’s decision was met by curiosity and confusion from her co-workers—many questioned her motives. She recounts the question most commonly asked was a simple yet resounding, “Why?” Kahl attributes her peers’ relentless inquisition to the industry she works in. She explains, “We have been given the opportunity to reflect our true personalities in everything we wear, every day—to extol our ‘creative spirits’ in everything we do.”
But Kahle’s willpower withstood all the scrutiny and remained resolute in its effort to stop feeding the gender inequality that allowed male colleagues to be “taken seriously no matter what they wore.” Kahle admits feeling relieved when many of her co-workers stopped questioning her wardrobe choices after Mashable published the popular article, “Why Successful Men Wear the Same Thing Every Day.” However, she makes the profound observation that the article and its effects, made her feel like she “needed a male authority to legitimize her choice of clothing in order for others to truly accept it” (a little context: Kahle began her uniform-ensemble 2 years prior to the circulation of Mashable’s article.) Her observation struck a major chord with me. It wasn’t socially acceptable for her to wear the same thing every day until a male authority said it was.
Although I do not completely identify with Kahl’s aversion to making outfit selections every morning (most likely because I adhere to my own pseudo “uniform” of black, shredded attire and still live in a university setting), I understand her frustration with the patriarchal system that governs much of corporate American culture. To me, there is no setting in this country that depicts the patriarchy’s hegemony over social norms and customs more than the corporate workplace. Kahl explains, “The simple choice of wearing a work uniform has saved me countless wasted hours thinking, ‘What the hell am I going to wear today?’ And in fact, these black trousers and white blouses have become an important daily reminder that frankly, I’m in control.” To Kahl, removing the thought process behind dressing herself has provided her agency, freedom, and a symbolically powerful way to take back control from the patriarchal gender expectations that control her work environment. Her makeshift uniform gives her confidence to succeed and the power to level the unequal, gendered playing field at the office. This woman should serve as an example, reminder, and inspiration for us all. Smashing patriarchy one day at a time. You go, Kahl. #SCOM348