Power of the pantsuit

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Regardless of dress, respect for women and their work is key to success in workplace


By Lily Zhao

<lzhao@hilite.org>

The issue of women’s dress in the workplace was called into question recently when ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews was shown wearing a low cut sundress to a Chicago Cubs v. Milwaukee Brewers baseball game.

Mike Nadel, a Chicago sports columnist for the GateHouse news service, slammed Andrews in his column, accusing her of “flaunting her assets” and that she “flitted” and “flirted” her way to an interview. Her style of dress brought up questions about women in the area of sports, where professionalism and a thick skin are needed in order to hang with the “big boys.”

Some women disliked Andrews showing off so much skin because it gave a bad name to those women who are trying to break the glass ceiling—Andrews fans called them bitter and jealous because they don’t look like her. I’ll admit that even though I love Andrews, her sundress was a little too low and she should’ve dressed more conservatively, but come on, what’s a woman supposed to wear to a baseball game in the middle of the summer with a high of 100 degrees. A pantsuit?

It’s not the only time women’s dress has been called into question. It’s now the 21st century, yet the debate for what women should wear to the workplace is still brewing. Let me ask you, if a woman is at work doing her job well, does it really matter what she wears? I find it ridiculous that instead of discussing Hurricane Gustav or trying to help with the Georgia v. Russia debacle, news has turned to discussing office fashion.

Also, wardrobe attire for females is like a double-edged sword; there are double standards. While females get scrutinized for wearing a dress instead of pants, why can the men get away with their sometimes outlandish attire? Take NFL commentator Shannon Sharpe for instance; whenever he wears pink suits with bright orange ties, no one seems to criticize him, but with Andrews wearing a sundress, there’s a giant hoopla.

Considering most male anchors in sports are usually Heisman trophy winners, All-American athletes or even former NFL coaches, most individuals who follow sports do not question them. People think that since these males have been around sports for a long time, they have the experience and knowledge to do as they please. Females, not so much. And all the while, some females are making the issue of pantsuit discussions even worse.

For example, anchor Brian Kilmeade at Fox News said, “If I was to run for office, I’d run for the pro-skirt platform.” Really? I can sense all those feminists out there licking their chops. To make matters worse, co-anchor Ainsley Earhardt replied, “Here at Fox we like to be feminine. So we don’t wear the pants.”

Well, the epitome of pantsuit wearers, Hilary Rodham Clinton, would probably have more than her say on the matter because the double standard of work attire also applies to politics. A recent Glamour fashion article highlighted all the different colors in Clinton’s pantsuit wardrobe, with colors ranging from a deep turquoise blue to a feisty sunset rose. When Clinton was still on the campaign trail, her fashion and love for pantsuits was publicized even more than what Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman wore to the Oscars.

So now that Clinton is out of the presidential running, another woman making headlines in her skirt suit is Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. With her wearing a skirt suit, Washington D.C., bloggers are having a blast comparing her to Clinton with their epic “Pantsuit v. Skirt suit” debates.

But with that debate, why aren’t the fashion statements of John McCain or Barack Obama ever criticized? They could both use more color in their wardrobe, but instead of judging their outfits like they judged Clinton’s many pantsuits, a column appeared on ABCnews.com that said that if McCain couldn’t find a political career, he could be the fashion police in Washington D.C. Apparently, it was amusing and “refreshing” to see this side of McCain.

It might take a couple of years before women will be immune to the fashion police in sports or politics. Until then, they have to just stick it out.

There’s nothing wrong with pantsuits. If a woman feels confident wearing them, they should. But women who think that pantsuits are “unsexy” are wrong. Celebrities wear them all the time—Nicole Kidman, check. Katherine Hepburn, check. Katie Holmes, check.—by jazzing them up with jewelry or tailoring them to fit in just the right places.

The decision of wearing a pantsuit or not should ultimately be up to the woman. Women shouldn’t be defined by what clothes they wear, they should be defined by how they carry themselves in the workplace, pantsuited or not. Lily Zhao is a Sports editor for the HiLite. Contact her at lzhao@hilite.org.

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