Not long ago, a fellow Vermont Mom writer shared a piece of writing about the importance of “looking your best” even now, during Covid. While I know in this person’s heart it was written with the best of intentions, I took it personally.
Honestly, during this time of stay-at-home orders and balancing working from home with two small children, I don’t really care if my appearance isn’t entirely my “best.” I don’t care if my leggings offend you.
Some days, between work meetings and diapers, endless snack requests from the toddler and nursing the baby, it’s all I can manage to put my hair up in a messy bun. I wear my flannel shirts and black leggings like a uniform, ready for the battles of the day. I am trying to keep two tiny humans and a non-profit organization alive during a global pandemic. I have spent a lifetime getting over and working through society’s expectations of what it means to be a “good girl.” I balk at both the “good” and the “girl” part of that. And you know what? I really don’t care if my leggings offend you.
Don’t get me wrong, I love makeup. I like to get dressed up once in a while. But dressing up daily is simply not a priority for me right now. As a part of my job, I know to dress for the occasion, which during the pandemic means that if I’m meeting with politicians or officials I might put on my blazer for a zoom call. I also might have a nursing baby attached to me and have forgotten to look in a mirror. But you know what’s still on the bottom half of me? You guessed it, black leggings.
I show up consistently, am good at what I do, and treat others with kindness and respect. Shouldn’t these qualities take precedent over what I wear?
Also, why are women wearing dresses? Why aren’t men? Why is a dress a symbol of femininity in the first place? What if I don’t fit society’s idea of traditional femininity? I have a lot of questions.
But, even with all of my questions, I still don’t care if my leggings offend you.
You see, I don’t just like my black leggings, I LOVE them. They don’t ever let me down. They are comfortable and stretchy. They don’t bring up my body image issues when the button won’t close. I don’t have to hike them up constantly because my butt is considerably (and deliciously) larger than it was before I started my quarantine Oreo habit. Black leggings go with pretty much anything, from a sports bra to yes, even dresses! Leggings always fit and they’re always comfortable.
All of this reminds me of a conversation I had over a year ago, at my new writer’s training for the blog. We had a spirited debate about whether or not it was acceptable to wear pajamas to the airport. You can guess what camp I’m in. If I’m going to inevitably be stuck in O’Hare for nine hours with a delay, you’d better believe I’ve got my comfy clothes on. My female ancestors are probably shaking in their skirt suits right now at the very thought.
When you see me in the grocery store, wearing my finest sweater spotted with spit-up stains, a beanie covering my unwashed hair, and yes, black leggings, are you judging me? When I show up for school drop off in ripped jeans, are you questioning my choices? Are you thinking to yourself, “God woman, take some pride in your appearance!” Because if so, I really don’t care anymore and neither should you. I have bigger things to worry about than what other people think about my clothing.
In my opinion, the only piece of fabric on my body that should be of concern to others is whether or not I’m wearing a mask.
In a time where society is coming to terms with the idea of gender being a social construct, and supporting all identities and forms of self-expression, the idea of “proper” dress for men and women is outdated and limiting. What if a woman feels more comfortable and confident in slacks than a skirt? In 2020, are we not past the idea that women and men have to dress a certain way to be taken seriously?
My worth and intelligence don’t shrink away because I have on my black leggings, whether they’re the sleek compression ones or the pilled, fraying, stretched out ones. Who I am as a person, and how I show up in the world, isn’t determined by how I dress. For me, fashion is a form of self-expression, and one’s interest in it or not can convey so much about them.
I can remember when I started working at Inclusive Arts Vermont, and about two months in I finally wore a pair of jeans. I asked the then director to please excuse my appearance, I didn’t think anyone else would be at the office that day. That was when I was shown the section of the personnel policies that states that we don’t have a dress code. Mind blown.
At my organization, we believe that fashion and dress are a form of creativity, and people should be allowed to express themselves freely.
That said, we do encourage dressing for the occasion, which includes following the dress code of a specific setting. For example, I wouldn’t encourage wearing a bustier to teach at an elementary school, but if an intern wants to come to the office in a tank top and shorts, that’s fine by me. I mean, if Kamala Harris can wear sneakers to work, why can’t I?
In my own case, a really fascinating thing happened when I stopped focusing so much on what I was wearing in an effort to “fit in” or please others: I became a better employee. By choosing my own comfort over societal expectations, I was actually able to focus more on my work.
I encourage us, as women, to support each other in our choices and not judge based on appearances. Before you comment on or judge someone else’s clothing choices ask yourself, “Does this really impact me?” If not, then maybe it’s best to ignore it and move on. In the words of Amy Poehler, “Good for her, not for me.”