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Can We Stop Telling Professional Women What to Wear?

Women attorneys in Vermont are at the center of conversation concerning what employees should and should not wear to work.

On July 13th, multiple speakers at the Vermont Bar Association Trial Academy made statements concerning what they believe is inappropriate for women attorneys to wear, including bright colors and high heels. One presenter boldly stated that the wives of attorneys should assist them in picking out the ties they wear to the courtroom.

According to an email sent from State Court Administrator Patricia Gabel, the Vermont court system does not have an official dress code; however, judges may opt to have a “standard of appropriate dress.”

Prosecutor Ashley Hill is angered by the comments made at the July 13th training session and wants a formal apology from the Vermont Bar Association.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

In a letter she wrote that she also posted on Facebook, Hill stated that she wishes for “a formal and meaningful apology to attendees and members that outlines a plan for the VBA to address sexual harassment, gender bias, and diversity inclusion in its membership.” Additionally, Hill wants to see a more diverse panel of speakers at the training session in the future.

Unfortunately, conversations about the way in which women dress for work have been going on for years. In December 2015, a London receptionist named Nicola Thorp was sent home without pay for refusing to wear high heels to work. These unreasonable rules for women set companies back decades in terms of discrimination and mistreatment.

These dress codes are presented to women long before they enter the workforce, too. Many young women and girls in the American school system are given a set of strict rules over what is appropriate to wear to school. Within schools, these rules include lengths of shorts and skirts, width of tank top straps, and even how much skin can be shown.

All of these rules send the same message to girls: they are a distraction to their classmates and it is their responsibility to not draw attention to themselves. This dated message that is being sent to young girls still exists as dress codes even if unofficial – for working women.

Photo by antas singh on Pexels

The nature of the comments made at the VBA Trial Academy are disappointing and unfair, but they are nothing new for women in the working world. While men are encouraged to ask their wives for fashion advice, women are still being told what to wear by their superiors.

But men, too, should be outraged at these ridiculous rules that are put in place. It’s completely unnecessary to suggest that their wives should pick out their ties. These dress regulations only stifle employees’ creative freedom. Neither women or men should have to tone down their personal style in the workplace.

This outdated double standard begs the question of what can be done to finally rid the workplace of unfair standards of dress for women.

Featured Image by Christina Morillo on Pexels

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