It was reported by Courtney Comstock for The Business Insider that multiple women have been spotted wearing leopard print shoes at Goldman Sachs. “[Shoes] can’t be wild,” says a source, “but you can wear any color that looks professional.” This rule also applies to purses. It can be any color as long as it is in a professional style and shape (so that is a no on the Hello Kitty purse.) One thing Comstock noted in her report was that, “When you’re new (and particularly if you’re young and inexperienced) at the firm, don’t take chances.”
This is an interesting point to look at. Often young women are faulted for not knowing how to dress. It is true that there is a learning curve when it comes to learning how to dress, especially for a conservative company. Young women often struggle with the difference between dressing up and dressing for work. It is tough to learn and sometimes even women at the executive level have trouble with it like Christie Clark, the premier of British Columbia, did last week. She was called out for wearing an inappropriately low cut top for a professional event even though the rest of her outfit was perfectly conservative. But besides learning how to dress right there is also a time hurdle you have to get over in order to earn the right to dress a bit more edgy. Once you have really learned how to dress right then you can start experimenting a bit more with different colors and accessories, but it helps if you have been there for a few years. A woman higher up at the company has proven she is serious about her job so she can get away with and even complimented for wearing leopard print heels while the 23 year old just starting out may get more flack.
And apparently it will be women giving younger women most of the flack. According to a new survey from LinkedIn, when it came to employees dressing inappropriately (too low-cut, etc) in the workplace, 62% of women said that this bothered them versus only 29% of men. “Women pay more attention to how people dress,” says Brooke Moreland, the CEO of Fashism.com told The Grindstone’s Lilit Marcus. “I think a lot of women have a group mentality and feel that if one woman dresses inappropriately it represents us all in a negative light. We don’t want our own sexuality to be a factor of how we are perceived in the workplace so we resent the women who ‘take it there’.”
Rachel Aubie, a Research Administration Analyst at McMaster University, says that clothing and age/status in the office are irrevocably linked. “Office attire is affected by the ‘stigma’ attached to being a young person in the workplace,” she says, adding that she overcompensated by dressing more formally than she was required to. “Women rise to this challenge exceptionally well, because we have to, and we are very fashion savvy. But it’s just another highlight of how different the workplace is for younger people who are just trying to move-up and succeed.”