I’ve worked in the fashion industry for the vast majority of my post-college life, so occasionally, I forget what it’s like for people in more traditionally corporate or conservative environments, who likely constitute the bulk of women who have the funds to buy themselves designer handbags and shoes. When I read the Washington Post’s piece on White House council Kathryn Ruemmler, though, I found myself served with a stark reminder that not all workplaces are as welcoming to designer bags and expensive shoes, no matter how by-the-book-appropriate.
Despite all her qualifications, her high-status job and the recent controversies involving her and the IRS, the WaPo chose to spend paragraph upon paragraph discussing Ruemmler’s taste for expensive shoes, as well as giving them two paragraphs in a longer profile. There’s little indication in the article that her shoes are in any way in violation of the White House’s dress code, which is likely quite conservative, or that her shoe habit has become a problem in her life in any way (Ruemmler is, after all, a high-powered lawyer; she can probably afford a few pairs of BB Pumps if she so chooses). Fine shoes on a successful woman shouldn’t be any more notable than a well-tailored suit on a congressman, but I’ve never seen a profile of a senator mention his closet full of Zegna in order to give some sort of illuminating detail about his personality. Of course powerful men have business clothes that match their status; often, though, when women have bags and shoes that match ours, it’s derided as ladies-be-shoppin’ pedestrian frivolity.
The details of why these sorts of call-outs on women’s luxury goods are bothersome have been explicated in many other places around the Internet, so right now, we’d like to hear from you. How do you self-edit your handbag and shoe collections when deciding what to wear to work? Do you worry that wearing something flashy or obviously expensive will make your coworkers, both male and female, take you less seriously, or do you trot out whatever you feel like wearing and let the chips fall where they may? Why can’t we just carry our bags and wear our shoes in peace?