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.
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.
Wearing: J.Crew jacket (I also love this spot version + this 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
Photos by Joe Galvin