In some situations, wearing business casual skirts and dresses in the workplace has drawbacks. Several reasons were mentioned by readers in their comments on a recent post about business casual beyond skirts and dresses:
“A skirt says: Hey, I´m a woman!! Sometimes that´s not the message you want to send in a professional environment.”
“For me, my limited wearing of skirts/dresses is about fitting into an environmental norm. I live in an area where many men still feel that woman should not be in position of high authority — and often it feels as though wearing a skirt/dress draws attention to the fact that I am a female, which distracts them from focusing on the point I am making or the work that I am doing.”
“I struggle with looking professional in skirts/dresses. I don’t *try* to look sexy, but my curves just always do.”
“I’ve been wearing dresses more frequently lately, but I’ve also been getting unwanted attention from men more frequently as well. Maybe this is one of the reasons women sometimes feel more comfortable in pants? I feel feminine and pretty in a dress, but I do have to put up with more stares, honks, “compliments” from strange men, and so on.”
“I do agree with previous posters that skirts and dresses make you stand out more as a woman if you work in a male-dominated field (like I do, in technology.)”
“In a science world women just do not wear skirts and dresses. Ever. Anything feminine totally undermines your credibility.”
“Some girls in the office wear the trendiest skirts and dresses, but I just don’t think it’s professional.”
“Last time you brought this up, I mentioned that I work in tech, and that wearing skirts or a dress is so huge a divergence from the office wear norm that I might as well be wearing a prom gown.”
I found these comments very interesting. And I’m familiar with the territory. I dress clients who work in male dominated fields like technology, science and engineering, and who will wear skirts and dresses to work without giving it a second thought. They are completely comfortable wearing ultra feminine clothing items and standing out as a woman. But I also dress clients who feel that they won’t be taken seriously by their peers and superiors when they wear skirts and dresses. So we build a work wardrobe around dress slacks and trouser jeans instead.
As someone who has only ever worked in the dressy and creative fashion industry, I never had to think about whether I would be taken more seriously in a pair of slacks. As long as I look trendy, professional and modest, I’m free to wear what I like.
Do you think that women can be taken seriously when they wear skirts and dresses in male dominated professions? If the answer is no, to what extent do you rebel against the environmental norm and stand your feminine ground? Or is it best to stick to slacks so that you’re dressed more like your male peers.