Op-Ed: Why Some People Think DC Fashion Is Boring: 5 Style & Attitude Rules To Climb to the Top
by ATFDC Contributor Sophie-Marie
There might be a reason why some people think of DC as a boring place when it comes to the fashion scene. Women have only recently begun to infiltrate the workplace here, and it seems like there are a set of unofficial rules that forbid us from being as fabulous as professional women in New York or LA. But the thing about rules is that they’re meant to be broken.
Opera singer Maria Callas (whom I… worship, to say the least) said, “Don’t talk to me about rules, dear. Wherever I go, I make the goddamn rules”. I will be applying this quotation to DC and re-making the rules to reaffirm womanhood in a city mainly dominated by men.
1) Don’t be afraid to be a woman.
I find it a shame when some women who work in politics dress in dark, unflattering clothes and cut their hair short. I can’t feel a woman is representing me when she’s rejecting femininity and acting as androgynous as possible.
It is a whole attitude that I find shameful. If you are trying to break into a workplace dominated by men, trying to be one of the guys isn’t the right thing. So don’t be afraid to wear clothes that highlight your feminine features instead of hiding them. Don’t be afraid to wear skirts; don’t be afraid that this will label you as subservient to men rather than equal to them.
And if you get criticized because you are fully assuming your womanhood, then you can always resort to the good old American fashion of suing for harassment.
2) Don’t be just another employee in a navy suit.
Or yet another who’s sporting the ever-common bob cut on mousy, shapeless hair. Three words: Go for fabulous. Do you know this feeling of awe when you meet a Hollywood star or a beauty queen? They’re perfect – seamless make-up, the slightest touch of a delicious fragrance, soft skin, stunning hair that doesn’t look overdone. This is what you want to go for.
And yes, it will take work. You might have to give up an hour (or more) of precious sleep to style your hair so it looks shiny and bouncy, to apply your make-up to perfection (No more make-up sessions in the Metro, it’s extremely tacky – or worse, on the traffic-congested beltway, tacky and dangerous). But don’t be afraid to look your most beautiful, your most charismatic, your best.
3) Dress for success.
Get up, now, and open your lingerie drawer. Now, discard anything that is shapeless, torn, discoloured or just plain ugly. It all starts with the foundations, and I firmly believe in wearing beautiful lingerie at all times, not just when you’re having gallant company. Although it will remain unseen (at least, I recommend it does at your workplace, because you know, scandals in DC… yeah, don’t be that girl.), it will make you feel confident, sexy and fabulous.
Also, have you looked at women in high professional positions, like Anna Wintour, for example? They are not afraid to dress for success and power. So invest in rich fabrics that give this impression of power; cashmere, leathers (with parsimony; you don’t want to go for the dominatrix look), furs (I think there’s nothing like real, but if you’re against it, go for a faux that doesn’t look like shredded plastic. If the real stuff’s out of your budget, begin with small pieces, like a collar, cuffs, or go to vintage or thrift stores).
And when it comes to heels, go for high (even if it might hurt…why do people seem to expect so much easiness from life?!) You’re symbolically saying that you want to be on top, no matter what the cost is. And hopefully, that’s where you will be. Not to mention, heels elongate your legs, make them look slimmer, give you excellent posture, and this stick-your-butt-out walk that might, well, just get you the little attention you need to be noticed and not to remain just another employee (Again… avoid scandal. Can’t repeat this enough.)
4) Invest in classics.
Find yourself an excellent seamstress, because she will become your best friend. Enough with the same shapeless suits that everyone wears. Your wardrobe needs timeless classic pieces that highlight your best features. The tweed jacket à la Chanel (preferably in black, trimmed with white) is an absolute essential because it adds this touch of sophistication most young people lack of. And then you’ll need pants, skirts and jackets that will look like they were made just for you. Here comes the seamstress.
5) Don’t act “desperate to stay young.”
I do read a lot of DC fashion blogs, and what I find deplorable is those women in their late twenties or early thirties who seem to desperately cling to their high school days. Whether we blame it on the society’s worship of youth is not the question, but the fact remains that… it is way too tacky. So, ladies, present yourself with the maturity and soundness of spirit of a lady who isn’t afraid deep down of the fact that nature’s gotta take its course and act your age. This means, forget the overdose of rainbow colours, glasses in silly shapes, flashy nail polishes, and trends that should only, I repeat, only be seen on tweens. Don’t act like a grandmother if you’re not one, of course, but try to infuse refinement and class in your life, à la Bree Van de Kamp (my favourite Desperate Housewives character!). Learn to enjoy wine (if you don’t already), cultivate yourself, read something else other than just Cosmo and Fifty Shades of Grey, listen to music that isn’t from the past ten minutes and don’t you dare shun classics!
Sophie-Marie was born in a small French-speaking Mediterranean country and moved to the DC area in 2006. In 2010, she started her freshman year of college at NYU in Paris and then took a gap year during which she used her free time to blog (http://sonushka.com) and cultivate herself as much as possible. History, languages, film, anything about the 1950s and before, literature (19th century French Romanticism is my favourite), opera, are among the many things that inspire her and her style. Follow her on twitter @miss_