How To Be Both: On Style + Intellect

A Girl, A Style _ Little Black JacketA Girl, A Style _ Marc Jacobs BlouseJ.Crew jacket // Marc Jacobs blouse // J.Crew skirt // Chanel bag // Charlotte Olympia heels // Celine sunglasses // Charlotte Tilbury lipstick

This post was originally meant to be about those wardrobe staples I rely on – the little black skirt, a white silk blouse, my well-worn Chanel bag – but lately I’ve had so many emails from younger readers asking for advice on how to juggle an interest in style and fashion with their first job, a career, or a social conscience. This somewhat took me by surprise, until I remembered that I was that girl not so long ago.

When I landed my first big internship during university – working for a US Senator on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. – I had no idea how to dress for my first entry into my future career in politics. So the week before my departure, in a panic and on a student budget, I raced to every shop desperately trying to find anything that would make me look serious, intelligent, and like less of an outsider than I was.

A Girl, A Style _ Little Black Jacket 5A Girl, A Style _ Little Black Jacket 3A Girl, A Style _ Little Black Jacket 7A Girl, A Style _ Charlotte Olympia Kitty Heels + Chanel Timeless Bag

I knew no women in politics from which to ask advice, there was no such thing as style bloggers, and there were as yet no political dramas that portrayed strong female characters who were both stylish and brilliant. So I presumed that to be taken seriously, I should show up looking as ‘serious’ as possible, and eschew any signs of femininity – lest an interest in fashion marked me out as frivolous. My suitcase was full of cheap black suits, boring shirts, and ‘sensible’ shoes I thought would make me look professional. I didn’t look ‘more intelligent’, I just looked like an 18 year old trying to dress like a boring 40-something. And because I love you all, here is the hideous photographic proof to illustrate my point.

I went far in that internship, and it opened so many doors when I got back to Australia and started my career in politics. But I wasn’t noticed because I was wearing sensible shoes and no makeup; it was because I showed up at 8am each morning and didn’t leave until 8pm, volunteered for more and more responsibility, worked hard, and knew my stuff. Wearing lipstick and a pretty blouse wouldn’t have changed my success in that role (and for what it’s worth, I was still sexually harassed by two male Senators regardless of what I was wearing, simply because I was young and female – not because of how I was dressed).

Of course it’s important to be well-groomed and mindful of dress codes in the workplace, and in much the same way you wouldn’t wear a silk ballgown to the beach, or denim shorts to afternoon tea at Claridge’s, some things will never be office-appropriate. But over the years, thanks in part to having more female role models to look up to, but also due to my growing confidence in my own abilities, I learned that you don’t have to sacrifice your own style, feminininty or personality to be taken seriously. I still wear a suit from time to time (though now it’s a black tuxedo that I team it with a silk top + a great necklace rather than an ugly shirt), but nowadays you’re more likely to find me in a dress or a skirt in which I feel like myself.

A Girl, A Style _ Little Black Jacket 2A Girl, A Style _ Chanel + J.Crew Lady JacketWearing: J.Crew jacket (I also love this spot versionthis navy version) // Marc Jacobs blouse // J.Crew skirt (past season, but very similar style here) // Chanel bag // Charlotte Olympia heels (also in flats + this summer version which I’m definitely going to need) // Wolford tights // Celine sunglasses // Michael Kors watch // BaubleBar earrings c/- // Chanel brooch.
Beauty note: Charlotte Tilbury ‘Carina’s Love’ lipstick // Deborah Lippmann ‘Shape of my Heart’ nail polish. 

Because an interest in fashion and intellect are not mutually exclusive, and a preference for Louboutins over sensible footwear does not diminish the fact I have three university degrees, graduated top of my politics class, or have successfully negotiated a bill through Parliament.

Putting on a pair of cute heels for the office won’t lessen your intelligence, caring about fashion doesn’t make you less of a feminist, and you won’t be taken less seriously for wearing lipstick to a political rally.

So here’s to all the brilliant, smart, and politically-aware girls in the great outfits! You deserve to be there as much as anyone.

Love, Miss B xx

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Photos by Joe Galvin

9 thoughts on “How To Be Both: On Style + Intellect

  1. I adored this. I get so frustrated at those that think you can’t be intelligent and passionate about fashion or beauty; they’re not mutually exclusive and you don’t have to dumb down to get ahead. x

  2. Such a great post – very womanly motivating. I know getting the balance of fashion & professional can be a challenge but just because you work in a corporate environment doesn’t mean you cant add your own style or that you have to live in ill fitting suits that do nothing to flatter any figure. Love this look especially the kitty heels, very polished but chic xx
    http://www.theglitterfashionista.com

  3. I really love this post, I’d love to read more of this sort of material from you! It’s so refreshing to hear thoughtful, non-patronising advice. You make me think it’s possible to achieve my career goals while not feeling frivolous for my outside interests in fashion!

  4. Bravo. It’s so incredibly patronising that this *still*has to be explained. On a separate but related note, it made my heart soar when I saw the Boots ad with Chimamanada Ngozi Adichie.

  5. I love this post. The reason I started following your blog was because you were someone who combined an interest in fashion/style with politics and it was just incredibly refreshing (as someone who currently works in UK local gov).
    Love the shoes too!

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  8. Such a great post! I had no idea you were from Australia, me too! I also love your J.Crew lady Jacket, I picked one up recently which is navy with a peter pan collar, gold buttons and ruffles and I love it (and wear it to my first corporate job with pride and joy!)

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