The Sociology of Style: Are Women “Dressing For Success” Only To Encourage A Corporate Culture of Failure?

I have been spending a lot of time in the past year doing work in the apparel and retail space…studying the cultural context that influences how and why different types of consumers choose the clothing styles and brands that they use to cover themselves up everyday or to uncover their unique personal identities.

Recently I was introduced to a PhD in Sociology named Anna who focuses on the Sociology of style: how our social structures and societal facts (rather than nuanced cultural facts) influence fashion trends. And I was immediately enamoured – with her brain and her point of view.

Below is a link to one of her more recent blogs on women’s fashion and the influence of masculine clothing styles on women’s apparel trends.

http://sociologyofstyle.com/2012/09/17/the-woman-in-me/

It started a long email trail between myself and a few other brand strategy, sociology and anthropology geeks / professionals on the issue of women in corporate america. Interestingly, a social structure run mostly by men, albeit social science has recently proven that corporations who have women in senior roles actually perform better.

The conversation turned my thought to how corporate style for women is very – seemingly intentionally masculine: slacks and suits and shirts with collars. ANd this is especially true in senior levels of corporate organizations. At the junior levels, and especially in more innately creative companies like ad agencies, women in the lower and middle rungs get away with more street-style and feminine allure. But that is something that seems to get lost as women rise up in the ranks and essentially start dressing for the job they want by emulating the mainstream masculine fashions.

But in reality, it would seem that if women in corporate settings that were running the show made a point to embrace more empathetic and diverse fashions that pervade “street” fashion and couture trends, then perhaps the empathy, intuition and diversity of thought that women bring to the table would become more mainstream – stomping out the outdated “kill or be killed” masculine mentality that has so far sent capitalism into a downward spiral.

So I beg the question: can we learn from the sociology of style about how we turn around our economic decline by simply letting our girl-power shine through with a more feminine sense of style?

And will this mean that I will have to start wearing skirts…or can I just wear pink? 😉

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