Make an Olympic effort with your work wardrobe... like Helen Skelton
The BBC's Helen Skelton hired supermodel Cara Delevingne's stylist to dress her for the Rio Olympics coverage - with controversial results. Bairbre Power looks at the fallout of showing a bit of leg
Published 12/08/2016 | 02:30
Give that girl a gold medal for style and attitude. You have to hand it to the BBC's swimming presenter, Helen Skelton, who certainly livened up our poolside viewing from Rio with her fashion choices.
Who would have thought that the navy Zeynep Kartal dress she wore presenting the swimming heats would have sent Twitter into meltdown and erupted into a sexism row?
There were of course the silly TV distractions, like whether former Olympian Rebecca Adlington was flirting with Mark Foster after touching his leg for a second time. But when Helen started trending on Twitter over the tailored dress - which I thought was an inspired choice (and which revealed an enviably toned leg when she swivelled in her chair) - it put the spotlight back on sexism and what a woman should wear in the workplace.
The fact that Helen's colleague, Mark Foster, was perfectly free to sit across from her in the sauna heat of the humid Aquatics Centre wearing a pair of shorts, and wasn't criticised for flashing a hairy, if slim, leg, seemed to be lost on everyone. And all of this when there's TV images of boys in micro swimming shorts, showing off their sculpted six-packs and chiselled groins.
There were complaints that she was showing off "too much flesh", and some observers claimed they caught a glimpse of her underwear during the coverage, but I suspect they were sitting too close to their screens at 2am.
What we are left with is complete double standards, but then what's new for women who make workwear choices to suit them and get shamed by keyboard warriors?
Helen, a 33-year-old mother of one who is married to the Catalans Dragons rugby player, Richie Myler, was strategic about her Olympics wardrobe. Her fellow female BBC presenters at the games, Gabby Logan and Clare Balding, tend to play it safe, preferring a wardrobe of white skinny jeans and tailored 'county' looks.
Meanwhile, Helen displayed chutzpah and engaged the services of celebrity stylist, Cobbie Yates, who styles Cara Delevingne. It makes total sense. Cobbie finds the frocks and former 'Blue Peter' and 'Countryfile' presenter Helen concentrates on swotting the facts.
I've no doubt the misogynistic scrutiny of Helen's workwear will only make her swivel in that commentary chair even more, because clearly her clothes have not prevented her from doing an ace job. Between the prurient comments and the fans lauding this mum for being so confident about her body, this Rio sideshow puts the focus back on that very interesting conundrum - what is appropriate workwear?
Well, Helen was certainly weather appropriate. Heck, it was 40 degrees in there. I suspect, from the photo (right) that when she sat down, the hemline shot up. Was there no studio floor manager to tip her off?
Today, women aren't afraid to show off their toned bodies - even in the workplace. A sleeveless dress revealing sculpted arms and a defined calf is quite the norm. The 'window panels' that reveal flashes of flesh can be troubling for some office managers, so maybe best to keep those for desk-to-dinner Fridays.
In the workwear debate, there are some obvious no-nos - flip-flops, sheer tops, onesies and, my pet hate, the low-cut jeans that reveal the high rise thong.
People are encouraged to show their true self on dress-down-Fridays... just no S&M gear and overly slashed T-shirts.
The rise of the athleisure trend on the catwalks means that trainers are now very acceptable in the office, as well as the nightwear as daywear look - so before you have a pop at a female colleague about whether she forgot to take off her pyjamas this morning, zip the lip. Such blouses are the height of mainstream fashion and should not be confused with boudoir wear.
We might not know who won the mens' 200m backstroke, but we all know who Helen Skelton is and I, for one, am intrigued - not just by her clothes, but by the fact that she kayaked 2,000 miles down the Amazon, cycled to the South Pole, walked a 150-metre tightrope and ran a 78-mile marathon through the Namibian desert. You go girl.