On Thursday my last presentable pair of office trousers split down the side seam. So I spent all of Thursday night trying to replace them. I needed a pair of trousers that fit me, preferably grey, preferably pin-striped, but other colours and fabrics would be considered if they were still “office-y” enough.
I went to many shops and tried on over 25 pairs of trousers. Not a single one fit. Eventually I had to give up. Apparently the dimensions of my thighs compared to the dimensions of my waist and hips are now un-trouserable. So I bought skirts. A UK size 12 or 14 skirt seems to have no problem with my waist and my thighs.
I was pretty distraught about not being able to wear what I chose to the office. But I didn’t have much option. So with uncharacteristic foresight I picked up a pair of “lady-shoes” (flat Mary-Janes) to go with the skirts.
Why was I so upset? I think a lot of my early exposure to feminism (although it was never labelled as such) revolved around a girl’s right to wear trousers. I say girl not woman because this was my childhood and such trouser-related conflict was attached to school uniforms, at both primary school (trousers not allowed) and senior (allowed when I was there but phased out as I was leaving). I received the message that enforcing skirt-wearing was bad, and extrapolated that therefore skirts are bad.
This message that skirts were bad was strongly enforced by my peers in the years around and just after puberty when hormones decorated my legs with copious amounts of hair. By the time I was old enough to choose my clothes and attire without adult influence I was a confirmed skirt-avoider.
In my first jobs I continued skirt-avoiding and believed that dressing in a more masculine way was dressing for success. Working in the library, a female dominated environment, I was rather surprised to find that there are women in senior positions wearing skirts. I didn’t know that was a thing (outside of television). There is even a woman in a position of seniority in IT who, while she does wear trousers, also wears pink ruffly things and big silver arty jewellery – decidedly feminine. Most unexpected for me.
So now in my mid-30s I am plunged into skirt-wearing against my will. And the world has not stopped turning. Yes, in the two working days of skirt wearing so far I have fielded many, many comments about the sudden appearance of my skirts, but they’ve all been well-intentioned. No one has suddenly stopped taking me seriously, told me to make the tea or inspected the quality of my leg-shaving. It would appear that wearing a skirt to work is not that dissimilar to wearing trousers. In fact, I’m learning that it’s far more comfortable to sit in the office in a skirt than in badly fitting trousers, which have been the only kinds I’ve had in recent years.
I feel like I ought to rant about trouser making and retailing. I feel like I ought to rage that they’re forcing women into a mould that doesn’t permit them to have muscles – this is true of course (although don’t let me kid you that my thighs aren’t also carrying plenty of fat). But, you know, I haven’t the energy for that and it wouldn’t do any good.
I feel like I ought to stand up and shout that this is significant, that I am one woman among many who must be having this issue, but I’m losing the will to care. Feminism is not globally set back by me wearing a skirt and wanting to wear trousers. If I excel in a skirt, that’s a good thing. If I am forced to get over my skirt-avoiding and find that actually there’s nothing wrong with skirts that’s a good thing too. Oh yes, in a perfect world I’d be able to get beautiful trousers, with drape and tailoring and fabulousness, that didn’t let cat-hair stick to them and automatically laundered and pressed themselves, but in a perfect world I’d never have become a skirt-avoider in the first place. I’d never have got the message that skirts were bad. Maybe I’d have tended towards the trouser anyway, maybe I wouldn’t.
In the big picture it’s not a big deal. So the trousers don’t fit. If I truly needed trousers I’d find a way to get some tailored. Why waste energy on that? If you want to get angry about clothing, there are so many more important battles to fight. While boys still can’t wear skirts without a fight, us women have it pretty good in the clothing department.