Having a career in fashion and magazines has always meant that I have not had to follow many of the stricter dress code rules that some of my female friends have had to over the course of their careers. Of course, we've got our own codes in this business, but that's a different matter. I remember the first summer we all lived in NYC after college and the envy I witnessed in the eyes of my friends heading off to their jobs at Goldman or McKinsey, their looks completed with panty hose and closed toed shoes. I was in a skirt (sans hose, of course) and sandals. I thought of this when reading Robin Givhan's piece in the yesterday's Washington Post on the sartorial choices of Sonia Sotomayor during last week's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings.
Obviously, had a man been up for the Supreme Court spot, this article would never have been written. But women in every field are frequently judged on their attire. But the fact remains that this is especially true when they play in what has long been considered a boys' league. Givhan posits that while femininity has become more acceptable in boardrooms, etc, Sonia Sotomayor opted to go rather old-school, in the form of the "lady power broker" of the '80s, with very little in the way of accessories.Givhan writes "She didn't take advantage of the freedoms that fashion offers, and she expressed little personality. Instead, her clothes said simply, in matters of law and justice: 'I am palatable. I am familiar. And in addition to my ethnicity, I also know how to leave my gender at the door.'" Now, this may just be Sonia Sotomayor's personal style, and if so, that's great. But the larger issue for me is that, well, this is still an issue and that there is a strong likelihood that she did indeed think about the exact things Givhan points out. And I recognize that it is a challenge for so many women. I just really wish it wasn't so, don't you?