Turning the (sewing) tables on fashion production

I have a friend who plans what to wear each day for work the night before, carefully laying out the items so she doesn’t have a sartorial crisis first thing. Me, I tend to ‘freestyle it’, flinging open my wardrobe doors when I’m already late for work and hoping that dress I really need to wear for an important meeting doesn’t have last week’s lunch down it.

Either way, we’re both in thrall to the way we dress for work. Even the science backs up something most women implicitly understand, that a carefully curated outfit will make you think and behave differently in the office than if you turned up looking like you spent the morning wrestling with your closet.

It’s called “enclothed cognition”, which describes the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes. It doesn’t matter if your choices resemble Chancellor Merkel’s ubiquitous line in pantsuits, or Liz Hurley’s sequence of plunging necklines; what we wear says a lot about Brand ‘Us’. Increasingly, women recognise the subtle difference fashion brings to how they perform at work.

And, boy, aren’t we paying for it. Continue reading

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The Hard Art of Standing Apart

I’m always struck by that question, ‘Are you a dreamer or a thinker?’ because it presupposes you can’t be both. I give you one example of why this isn’t true:

Lionel Richie, the silver-tongued musical god of such classics as ‘All Night Long’, was an accountant before he hit the easy listening big time. Irrefutable evidence that no individual is so binary that they must either have their head in the clouds, or their nose in a spreadsheet – yes, even accountants know how to let the music play on…

Increasingly, businesses are unlocking value by turning this misconception on its head and exploring the ways in which creativity across their organisations can drive commercial outcomes. Continue reading

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Are you happy at work?

What if you asked your friend if they were happy in their marriage, and they answered ‘not really – I’m bored, I don’t love them, but I don’t really know what else to do.’

You’d be quite clear they need to sort it out or end the relationship.

Yet how many conversations have you had with your friends about their job, and they’ve said almost exactly the same thing? Did you reply with the same conviction?

Perhaps you’ve said the same thing, yourself.

Matthew Taylor, CEO of the Royal Society of Arts, makes this point in his compelling and timely focus on employee engagement in the UK – and our failure to deal with it. Continue reading

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Man in the mirror

I never thought there would come a day when I would begin an article by quoting a Michael Jackson song, but I’ve been humming it for days and now it’s your turn to go silently mad when you can’t get Man In The Mirror out of your head: ‘I’m starting with the man in the mirror / I’m asking him to change his ways’.

There is method in my madness. You see, without realising it, Jackson was a trailblazer for something multi-billion pound companies the world over are beginning to realise the value of. Sure, he had a catchy chorus and a pet monkey, and some pretty natty white socks, but that was all a front for the real deal – The King of Pop was urging us all to drive innovation through a diverse workforce.

Honestly, stay with me on this one. Continue reading

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Being Human

“Flight versus invisibility? This question is only for you. Whichever you pick, you’ll be the only person in the world to have that particular superpower. You can’t have both. Which do you choose?”

The question’s from John Hodgman. He’s an American author and performer, and a little while back he decided that he needed a more interesting opening gambit at parties and weddings than the standard questions about where you live and work. Sure enough, he found that for most people having to choose between two superpowers opened up a passionate and divisive topic of debate.

Let’s be honest, who hasn’t thought about a new world reality in which we get to pick and choose our superhero qualities? Yet what was most interesting about this thought experiment was not so much which superpower people chose, but what they planned to do with it. Continue reading

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Big Blonde

I’m wearing my Mum’s coat today; it’s older than I am. An old-skool classic Burberry mac, a size too big and the hem hanging somewhere down by my ankles. My friends say I look like Inspector Gadget, but I love the coat. I love it because my Mum bought it with her first ever paycheck from writing. I love it because as soon as she bought it she found a perfect copy for 50p in a scouts’ jumble sale. So the real one went into storage 30 years ago, and she wore the thrifty ersatz version with as much joy and wear-and-tear as a young, fierce writer from Toxteth, starting her life and her family in London, could give it. Continue reading

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Getting our gym knickers in a twist

As part of my ongoing attempt to be as nauseatingly middle class as possible, I ran a marathon last week. I say ‘ran’ – it was more of a flat-footed lurch, evidenced by the grotesque photographs the organisers kindly sent me afterwards where I look like I’m standing still in every shot. I’m not entirely sure who the bugger was in my small circle of chums who suggested we do it, but before long we found ourselves chalking up the miles, the playlists and the carbohydrates. And the lycra. All the sodding wick-away-nasa-designed-microfibremyarse running gear you believe you can’t live without. This is the problem with running; I naively thought it was the sport of Spartans, requiring only the soles of my feet and a bowl of olives to get me round. Is it bollocks.

My own experience of shopping for running gear rendered plain the absolute lack of compassion some major sports manufacturers still have about women’s bodies when engaged in physical activity. Continue reading

Posted in Body issues, Celebrity, Feminism, Sport, Women | Tagged , , | 2 Comments