Monday 16 October 2017

Comment: Women have a responsibility to wear appropriate clothing during serious interviews

First Lady Michelle Obama meets with Melania Trump for tea in the Yellow Oval Room of the White House, Nov. 10, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
First Lady Michelle Obama meets with Melania Trump for tea in the Yellow Oval Room of the White House, Nov. 10, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
US First Lady Michelle Obama gestures after speaking during Day 1 of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia
'Michelle Obama gave a masterclass in how to look the part when she met with Melania Trump in the White House. There were no Louboutin heels for the First Lady and the sleeves of her dress were bracelet length.' Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Kylie Jenner leaves her apartment just after being rescued by the NYFD after being stuck in the elevator for 45 minutes with Hailey Baldwin, Kendall Jenner and Jordyn Woods on September 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Pierre Suu/GC Images)
Michelle Obama features on December's issue of Vogue
US First Lady Michelle Obama (R) meets with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace on May 24, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Ita O'Kelly

Every woman has the right to decide what to wear. But if the messenger becomes the message, due to her clothing choice, then the message gets lost and I have a problem with that.

Let's not kid ourselves here. What you wear is not just an outfit. What you wear as a woman is a statement, and a powerful one at that. And it is utter nonsense to suggest that all outfits are equal. They are not.

Any woman in the public eye knows the pitfalls of being unsuitably attired.

Hillary Clinton wears a pantsuit for pragmatic reasons. Her one-in-every-colour trouser suits - as we call them on this side of the Atlantic - take scrutiny of her clothing out of the equation, with good reason.

Model/TV Personality Kendall Jenner attends the Kendall + Kylie Launch on February 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images)
Model/TV Personality Kendall Jenner attends the Kendall + Kylie Launch on February 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images)

Michelle Obama gave a masterclass in how to look the part when she met with Melania Trump in the White House. There were no Louboutin heels for the First Lady and the sleeves of her dress were bracelet length.

If a male media analyst appeared on a couch on a daytime television studio to talk about something serious such as fake news, and he appeared in a crop shirt or had his shirt sufficiently open to reveal his six-pack, would I take him or his message seriously? The answer is, of course, no. If I am honest, I might be sniggering inwardly at his questionable garb.

If a female financial analyst appeared in a pair of over-the-knee boots and a micro mini-skirt and she was talking about a serious topic such as equal pay for women, would her message have my undivided attention? In truth, it is more likely that I would be distracted and perplexed by her attire.

The big issue here is this: If the message about equal pay or fake news is given coverage, that's great. If instead, the interviewee's clothing choice trends on social media, then the message has been either obscured or lost.

That being said, she still has the right to wear whatever the heck she likes.

There is a trickle-down effect from female celebrities whose image is not only their brand, but their lucrative livelihoods as well. In order to garner attention, they regularly wear risqué clothing to promote whatever it is they are selling - movies, clothing lines, books or make-up.

Movie stars have always done this. It's business and it is called the 'red carpet'.

We occasionally get a glimpse of what the famous look like if they are snapped in normal clothes without the glitzy kit on.

Kylie Jenner leaves her apartment just after being rescued by the NYFD after being stuck in the elevator for 45 minutes with Hailey Baldwin, Kendall Jenner and Jordyn Woods on September 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Pierre Suu/GC Images)
Kylie Jenner leaves her apartment just after being rescued by the NYFD after being stuck in the elevator for 45 minutes with Hailey Baldwin, Kendall Jenner and Jordyn Woods on September 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Pierre Suu/GC Images)

It is then we realise that they are very much like the rest of us. With one vital difference. Celebrities have security to protect themselves.

Young girls who dress like their Instagram idols, including the impossible-to-walk-in shoes, are leaving themselves open to danger. While no outfit ever, ever implies either availability or consent whatsoever, young men who live in our porn-saturated culture may not be getting that message loudly enough.

Women, and young women in particular, need to evaluate what they are wearing in order to protect themselves.

We females have great choices when it comes to clothing. Our clothing allows us to express our personalities and our creativity. A great outfit boosts your confidence and makes you feel terrific.

A quick walk through the men's department in any store shows a sea of pretty boring trousers, shirt and jacket combinations in a variation of navy, grey and black.

By comparison, a woman's clothing store is full of endless possibilities, enormous choices and the full spectrum of colour options. But so many pitfalls too.

If your clothing screams 'look at me', you need to have the skills to deal with this attention.

Very young girls, in particular, can easily put a look together from the high street, which may be bang on trend and match the current aspiration to look 'hot'. Hot means sexy. It doesn't mean beautiful or alluring.

However, they may not have the life skills or the maturity to deal with the resulting and possibly unwanted male attention. Social media means that the comment line is never closed.

Mae West once said "It is better to be looked over than overlooked."

In this connected world of often toxic social media platforms, I personally wouldn't be inclined to agree with her.

Irish Independent

Independent.ie Comments Facility

INM has taken the decision to remove the commenting facility on its online platform Independent.ie to minimise the legal risk to our business that arises from Ireland's draconian libel awards system.

We continue to look forward to receiving comments through direct email contact or via social media, some of which may still be featured on the website Independent.ie


Editors Choice

Also in this section