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The Code to Women’s Work Wear

Fashion is an art. It is a form of self-expression and a wearable insight into one’s personality. This art, specifically women’s fashion, is known to be restricted and tamed in workplaces. It is outrageously difficult for a modern woman to dress appropriately for work whilst effectively expressing themselves, but Marie Lilly assures there is a happy medium.

Marie Lilly, associate director for Foundation Relations & Community Partnerships, was invited to UMBC’s Women’s Center on Oct. 17 to speak about the Power Dress Code. The Power Dress Code isn’t a typical dress code, Marie Lilly insists: “Dress codes don’t help us [women]. They are insulting and often unspoken.”

Lilly endorses the Power Dress Code, a loose set of rules a woman can regard when shopping for office-appropriate clothing. Fashion should be empowering across all work hours. Individualism is essential to style, and fashion should be a way to portray one’s distinguished personality whilst presenting pride in said personality.

Every person deserves to love his or her body. Clothing is the paint on the canvas. Lilly explained how most dress codes are generalized and biased toward body types that don’t fit the American ideal. For example, an office space may encourage female employees to wear a blazer and professional pants, but this standard outfit may not suit every body type.

Women with heavier busts are more likely to be penalized for wearing the same exact outfit as women with smaller breast sizes simply because it doesn’t fit “appropriately.” Because of this, Lilly suggests women wear what their body needs. Hem pants with legs too long. Sew in some darts in blazers that fit too loosely. Individualize clothes to match the wearer’s individuality.

But, above all, Lilly recommends to dress comfortably. She says, “when you dress comfortably, you feel calm, composed. You have better work ethic.” If a woman is not physically comfortable in what she is wearing, it is likely to show in her effort. It is important for a woman to cater to her own fashion needs before even considering fitting a work dress code.

As for work dress codes, Lilly says it is easiest to learn from fellow employees. Neatness is a necessary component for work wear. However, it is also important to observe workplace culture to form an understanding of what is expected of the employees in terms of dress. Lastly, employees are encouraged to dress for the jobs they want, not the jobs they have. This is a safe way to conform to the culture of desired profession whilst yielding to the dress code. A woman should be able to look in the mirror and see who she wants to be.

Fashion is outstandingly powerful. It can determine how employers and peers see each other. It can show the world a person’s interests and values. It can even just be viewed as an art to be appreciated. Art has a place in the workplace. It’s just important to find a way to fit self-expression in a conformist culture. Luckily, this is perfectly plausible.