In an email exchange with the creative fiber artist, designer and blogger Kiwiyarns, I told her that I had decided to never again wear dark business suits: I don’t think they’re flattering, and they make me look as if I’m ready to help someone pick out coffins and burial plots. Her wonderful response was that she thinks suits are “so last century.” I LOVE that phrase and believe she hit the proverbial nail on the head.
So what happened last century? Well, in the U.S., the Civil Rights Act of 1965 made it illegal to discriminate against women in employment. Though women have made inroads in the professional sphere, remember, however, that sphere was designed by and for men. Women are in a playground where they were not involved in making the rules and setting expectations.
Thus while breaking glass ceilings, etc., to be taken seriously women also emulated men: They donned severe business suits, carried briefcases, and “looked serious.” Granted, professional women had to fight to be taken seriously, so this was undoubtedly necessary. I did that (and yes I had pearls too) and so, given the picture above, did U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (the first female president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and later first female mayor of San Francisco), a woman who broke through many glass ceilings. (pic source)
To the left is a picture of Meg Whitman perhaps best known as an ex-CEO of e-Bay and California gubernatorial candidate; she’s now the CEO of Hewlett-Packard. (pic source).
But why are so many powerful, professional women still dressing like men?
Anyone who wants to underestimate either Senator Feinstein or Ms. Whitman – no matter what they’re wearing – does so at their own risk. Granted, Ms. Whitman and Senator Feinstein have age and a lot of education and experience on their sides: It’s a little harder to not take them seriously. Neither is exactly the flirtable, chuck-under-the-chin female. So why stick with serious, uncomfortable business suits?
Don’t get me wrong; I think professional women should look professional – but I think we can do it differently (better?) than men, with a bit of color and flair.
So I’m keeping my dark slacks, skirts and skirts but replacing the jackets with stylish sweater/jackets out of lovely fibers.
Here are the ones I’m working on now. Note: While I’ve provided the Ravelry links, I encourage you to look at the designers’ websites so you can learn more about the designers.
- Norwegian designer Linda Marveng‘s lovely Dewdrop Shawl Jacket (also available at Ravelry). I’m knitting this out of a wool/silk blend in a very bold blue.
- Finnish designer Adelheid‘s dramatic Hulda Jacket (also available at Ravelry). I’m knitting this in a blue-green wool/silk blend. (As you can seek, I’m partial to wool and silk!)
- U.S. designer Julie Weisenberger’s Cocoknits‘ flowing Sofia (also available at Ravelry). For this I’m using a suri alpaca yarn in a deep wine color. I generally shy away from three-quarter length sleeves (memories of being the tallest girl in school whose shirt sleeves were never long enough), still haunt me. So I am going to knit up a pair of long, cabled fingerless gloves called Strong Heart (by Kiwiyarns), probably out of black silk blend.
In my recent stash exploration, I came across a heavily cabled sweater I knit 20 years ago but never finished (it’s missing the buttons!). I knit this out of a beautiful, soft, blood red worsted weight alpaca, but as it’s heavily cabled and alpaca’s not a crisp fiber, the cables flatten out. So I’m going to unravel the whole thing and turn it into another elegant sweater-jacket for business wear. Haven’t decided what to make out of that yet.
So, fiber artists who are also business people, have you already tossed the severe dark business suits? If you still wear them, do you accessorize with your art/craft and, if so, how?