What we wear is important, for better or worse. Like the inviting cover art on a novel, the glossy previews for a blockbuster or the packaging for a luxe imported candle, our exteriors tell the world much about our intentions, capacities and desirability.
This is, of course, unfair. To be beautiful, to have the joy of health, to have the chance of education and the funds to choose what we wear is a trick of fate. But there we have it: how we present ourselves matters. The social signifiers of dress project strength or weakness, in-ness or out-ness; they are the very keys to class mobility and opportunity. In other words, clothes and costume are tools to take us where we’d like to go.
I myself have never been too fixed to appearing any one way. I’m a bit of a chameleon. I recall having a friend at school who felt like her school uniform was tantamount to a prison boilersuit. She was always cutting the hems of her skirt, dyeing her hair in wild colors, getting tattoos and wearing her school kit incorrectly. To be fair, traditional schooling probably wasn’t for her. She ended up leaving school, so important was personal expression to her. I never really understood this anger at the uniform: I felt that education was such a privilege and that this crucial time of learning was an investment in my future. Toting the uniform was just a passcard to what I wanted, which was knowledge and opportunity. It didn’t impinge on my identity.
When I began work in the real estate industry as a young woman a few years later, I wanted to convey great capacity and expertise, intelligence and appropriate seriousness. When you’re a 22 year old woman wanting to sell someone’s million-dollar-plus asset, you need to be bulletproof; your costume needs to overcome your youth and potential inexperience. So a suit it was, with high heels, makeup and most importantly – glasses. I peered over them, pushing them down my nose. I took them off my face and used them to point at contract notes. I knew what was going on. I was glasses lady. There was something about those glasses that gave me such confidence. Such weigh. They were a signifier of seriousness in some way. I’m certain that my demeanour and natural talent for negotiation – paired with my sartorial choices – allowed me to connect and communicate with my clients more effectively.
Now I’m in my own business, dressing remains a chance for enjoyable theatrics. Ruby Slipper enjoys the trust of clients from so many different categories that one suit and a pair of glasses won’t cut it anymore. And although I’m not concerned about coming across as an ingénue any longer, I remain focused on creating the path of least resistance in communication. If I have a client who is used to a corporate environment, my dress will reflect their sensibilities. If I have an arts or fashion client, again I will chameleon their likely expectations of what a writer might be. And this isn’t because I’m slavering for their approval or disingenous: rather, carefully considering my appearance shows my respect for another’s comfort and boundaries.
This beautiful suit from Sprinkle Emporium Brunswick‘s Winter collection ‘Corporate Coup’ reflects a pairing of maturity and personality in traditional women’s workwear. Aptly titled the Boardroom Blazer and CEO Wrap Skirt, Sprinkle’s unique designs are just the thing when you want a little business up the front, and party at the back. Because a suit is never just a suit: it’s a conversation waiting to happen, and a relationship waiting to be built.
Shot on location at Aquabelle Apartments, the Mornington Peninsula.
Photographer Breeana Dunbar.