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We edit ourselves as we go about life, don’t we? Not in the wholly condemnable Photoshop way employed by magazines etc, but we do present ourselves differently depending on the situation. Sometimes we choose to. Other times, we have to.

Now with this in mind, I am about to tiptoe into semi-dangerous territory as I essentially attempt to dole out advice on what people – well, women – should and should not wear. To work. Yes, I am mad.

We (most of us) do, of course, have the right to dress in whatever bloody way we like. Feminism is about the right to choose, after all. But for God’s sake ladies – pull it together when you are at work.

Just as we can’t be as gobby as we perhaps are in our personal lives, we can’t really be as loud with the clothes we wear in the workplace also. There is a time and a place, as they say. Being greeted by a crop top and leather leggings makes me uncomfortable at, say, the doctor’s surgery reception. Everywhere else – fine.

I am aware I am coming across as a ragingly conservative anti-feminist, but hear me out. Like it or not, you cannot get away from the fact that how you dress does project an image, a message to others. And at work, the only thing you want to show off is your professionalism.

I feel (relatively) passionate about this subject. On my commute to work I see a lot of other people on their way to work. A lot of young women. And there are times when when I involuntarily tut out loud as I watch one of them topple into an office in Spice Girls-eqsue trainer wedges. Cringe as a I catch a glimpse of the pants of another under a too-short skirt. Too much denim. Sports wear (literally, like they are going to the gym). A lot of skimpy, downright uncomfortable looking outfits that just seem plain incongruous with the workplace.

Maybe I’ve just been brainwashed by decades of fashion magazines – you know what I mean, those hilarious work wear sections that I’m sure most of us just flick through, yawning. Forever  dispensing the same advice, the same rules. It’s all pencils, body-con, shirts, cardigans – basically stuff that makes you look like a sensible grown up in the day, but will let it’s hair down with you as you ‘transition’ into a raucous evening. Stuff that says you’re ‘serious’, ‘strong’ but still ‘feminine’. The language is silly but it does ring true. This style of dressing gives us the flexibility, that armour we need.

And far as I’m concerned, flashing the flesh hasn’t really got much to do with empowerment, other than that you have freely chosen to flash it. But, more importantly, what you have almost certainly chosen is to mark your card as someone who can mis-read a situation.

Look, I’m not deranged – I can see how in some workplaces a relaxed dress code, a controversial one even, is accepted. Welcomed, even. Hairdressers spring to mind (the kind where people have beards and piercings, tattoos a-plenty… not Nicky Clarke). Bars, too. Trendy shops. Some PR companies maybe? I don’t know.

But take my place of work, for example – a creative small business founded by an artist who went around for three years in her twenties wearing the same boiler suit everyday. So you can imagine the atmosphere is a little loose – we can pretty much wear whatever we like. However, we are also a training provider, working with vulnerable school children. So, whilst we are not exactly your typical school, we do have a duty to be good role models for the kids. We also have a responsible image to project to our partners in the schools. Plus, there are times we have to look even more grown up for the local authority.

We are also, coincidentally, an all-female team. Each one of us has to re-edit ourselves a bit, depending on who we’ve got coming in – we constantly have to meet other people’s expectations. And, as a tiny company competing with the ‘big boys’, we have to push even harder to be taken seriously. How we dress plays a part in this. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but it is. It’s obviously especially true for women, but men do have the same standards and expectations to meet also – a man coming into a meeting in a vest and shorts wouldn’t be tolerated in most workplaces.

It would be nice to think we could all just go about life true to our own code, the whole time. But this is not a reality for anyone (well, maybe Kate Moss). Perhaps this is a good thing, anyhow – I imagine we would turn out to be a pretty selfish race if we all did exactly what we wanted to, all of the time.

This mini-rant is brought on by something that happened this week, at work. One of our female students came in wearing a sheer lace corset dress and stiletto heels.

Now, we have a policy where our students are treated as fellow staff members. They are ambassadors for the company. Plus, this girl is just 14 years old. It was genuinely frightening that she had thought it was acceptable to come in dressed in the way she was – that she even owns such clothes. After a frank talking-to about self-worth and choice (my boss actually likened the get-up to that of a prostitute’s…not the most pc of strategies but I could see where she was coming from…) we had to send her home.

It can be difficult enough being taken seriously at work as it is. At the end of the day, inappropriate clothes make you look out of place. Not in a ‘I’m asserting my individuality’ way. But in an ‘I’ve judged it wrong’ way. And this does nothing for selling your skills.

I feel quite uncomfortable writing this post. I know it will rankle people. I would probably find myself a little rankled if I wasn’t the writer. But I do maintain that you can stay true to yourself as you present different versions of this self to the world. It’s not about conforming, or changing yourself. It’s about making considered decisions.

I genuinely hope that, sooner rather than later, we get to the point where men and women are finally considered as equal in the workplace, and in society in general. In such a society I imagine men will be able to choose to come into work in a skirt and feel no shame or recrimination. Women could choose to come in wearing an embellished bin liner.

But I still wouldn’t get my hair cut there.

Recycling. I think we can all agree it is a crucial and moral act we must all make some effort to incorporate into our daily lives, however small.

Whether it’s putting your empty cardboard coffee cup into the correct bin at Pret A Manger.

Or donating that Steven Seagal DVD to your local Age Concern, brother, hated work colleague etc instead of just throwing it away.

This is all our duty, right? Apparently I was wrong.

I will admit upfront that I am not exactly a recycling evangelist – I am very aware that I could and should do a whole lot more saving-the-planet-wise.

I do wash all my clothes at 30 degrees. However, I buy most of said clothes from the High Street, and not often from the pricier sustainable organic cotton range…not that organic cotton actually is all that sustainable anyhow…but more on that later.

But I’ve got my basics covered. Paper (no matter how small, scrappy and incredibly irritating when you’re trying to shove into the recycling bin), appropriate plastics, tins and cans all get recycled, and I make sure to donate any of my unwanted stuff.

I’ve done so since childhood and as a result it is ingrained in my psyche. Recycling is in my code.

So I just cannot believe it when I see people throw their newspaper in the bin, or worse, on the floor (aargh littering! Separate issue).

I just can’t believe every other person on earth wouldn’t make the effort to put something in the recycling bin instead of the regular bin. It’s not even an effort now, is it? It is so damn easy to recycle with facilities available in the street, in shops and cafés, at your home – you almost have to go out of your way to not recycle. There really is no excuse.

Which is why my wrath knew no bounds when, last year, the recycling facilities were withdrawn from our apartment building.

Why the hell would they do that?! I hear you ask. Can they even do that? I don’t know. But it happened and, a year later, I am still having to travel three and a half miles (in the car – sorry Earth. It’s too much stuff to carry and I’m not sure travelling with rubbish on the bus is acceptable. Even on the 50) to use the recycling bins in the car park of the Asda supermarket I used to shop in when I actually lived in that area.

The apparent reason for this outrageous removal of services was because the recycling bins were being abused by residents.

Now bear with me here because I can imagine why you’d struggle to understand how and why a recycling bin could be abused, but I’ll try my best to explain.

People – grown men and women – were dumping their normal rubbish in the recycling bins for paper, glass and cans.

I know of other residents who would argue this is actually an improvement on alternative behaviour witnessed, which is to simply leave the rubbish – not always even secured in bags – right there on the floor, just next to the perfectly acceptable bin. Sometimes, not even in the designated bin area at all – just out in the street. A number of times in the hall. One time even in the lift. But I digress.

Unfortunately this confirms for me that I am forced to share my living space actual idiots. Here we have grown adults, who have worked hard enough to be able to afford to buy or rent a city centre flat, who are unable to dispose of their waste in a socially acceptable manner. How can they go about the world with such little pride in themselves and their surroundings? Life shouldn’t have to be like this.

It is, of course, frustrating when others do not share the same standards and vision of a happy social balance as you. I suppose it is one of the common problems of modern life in the city. Sharing your space with ever increasing numbers of people. Increasing numbers of whom are leaving their manners behind when they leave home. You just have to become resigned to it. Accept thy inconsiderate neighbour – otherwise, you may just kill them.

Are plain basic good manners an abnormality now? Not even good manners – just ok ones…

It may just be me getting older, and a city dweller to boot, but I can’t see what hope social responsibility has if a person will spit in the street, leave a used nappy in a public lift, or dump their general waste in a paper recycling bin before they will swallow, or before they will remove their child’s nappy in their own home a matter of feet away. Before they will use a recycling bin.

I hope the cynic in me is wrong. Maybe as soon as people start recycling old-fashioned manners, the rest will follow.

We all have to face up to the fact that we can’t go on living in and with such waste. We can’t get away with it forever. Something has to give. People have to give. Even if we won’t be here to see the impact we make, and it’s our old curtains that are getting taken away by end-of-life recyclers.

And on the subject of fabric, I must take this opportunity to mention The Ecologist Guide to Fashion, one of an amazing series of books WHICH YOU MUST READ. You could be forgiven for considering the fashion world simple and frivolous and a world that plays no impact in your life – but it is a complicated business that affects us all. This book will open your eyes to the real cost of the clothes you buy and wear.

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