Sue Kedgley

“Business attire”

by Sue Kedgley

Intrigued by the Speaker’s ruling today that all women MPs should wear “business attire”, I sought guidance from Google. It appears that directing women to wear “business attire” is code for telling women to dress like men.

So what I have deduced from the Speaker’s ruling is it is okay for women MPs to wear anything as long as we look like men. And, presumably, behave like them as well. This ruling is indicative of the fact that Parliament is still the male citadel that it was when I entered it 12 years ago – based on male rules, male culture and male values.

Here is some of the advice to women about wearing “business attire” that I found on Google:

  • Conservative colours and fabrics remain a standard in business attire for women. Plaids and subtle patterns, that appear solid from across a room, are conservative and safest. Wide stripes and fabrics with a high sheen are too distracting for business meetings.
  • Typical formal business attire has an advantage because it can easily direct listeners to your eyes. A light blouse under a closed dark jacket forms an area of brightness near the face … a contrasting scarf can heighten the effect.
  • Avoid clothes that are the latest fad and choose a more conservative look. Keep your hemline conservative, about one or two inches above the knee. Do not wear flashy jewellery or jewellery that makes a clanging noise when you move.

These posts show how ridiculous it is to instruct women to wear “business attire.
It also shows how confusing the ruling is; you get a different interpretation depending on which Google post you read.

The Speaker is going to have to spell this ruling out more clearly to avoid confusion. For example, is it okay to wear a cardigan in the House? What about a dress with short sleeves? A clarification of the Speaker’s ruling is urgently needed.

Published in Parliament by Sue Kedgley on Tue, June 7th, 2011   

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