Bank Of England Issue Controversial Memo to Female Staff

office workers in the 50s

Via Jezebel and the New York Times I read -  with an increasing sense that I'd just time-traveled back to a pre-feminist era - a post about how the Bank of England recently issued female staff with an edict about their office attire. It came on foot of the bank's Dress for Success day, when a memo was circulated to female employees giving them some 'helpful' advice on how they should go about it.

The hugely influential fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily got hold of a copy of said memo, which included:

“Look professional, not fashionable; be careful with perfume; always wear a heel of some sort — maximum 2 inches; always wear some sort of makeup — even if it’s just lipstick.” Shoes and skirt must be the same color. No-no’s include ankle chains — “professional, but not the one you want to be associated with;” white high heels; overstuffed handbags; an overload of rings, and double-pierced ears."

I had two immediate thoughts.  A) I'd love to know who wrote it; man or woman? And B) did the guys get one warning them off Lynx and cheap Burton suits?

Obviously common sense comes into this: the term 'office appropriate' was invented for a reason, and we all know if you work in the banking sector the dress code is going to be on the side of sober colours and tailoring, and likewise if you're in the arts or media you'll get away with more. But telling women to wear makeup to get ahead seems to be a step too far to me. Are times so hard that the Bank of England has been forced to take sponsorship from Estee Lauder or L'Oreal?

It also reminded me of the time I got a fussy email off a man who was obviously outraged at a female colleague's make up choices. "Is red suitable for the office", he whined. I think he wanted me to reply that all women should be rounded up, locked away and not allowed into the workplace ever again lest they contaminate it with brightly coloured lipgloss. Because as we all know, the wearing or not of foundation has a serious impact on your ability to do your job properly.

While is undoubtedly a blog about cosmetics and beauty products, because we're all into that, I'm also firmly on the side of anyone who doesn't enjoy or buy into the business of making up/epilating/depilating or similar. We're not all the same, us women, and hurray for that.

So what do you girls think? Is there a grain of office-appropriate advice in here, sadly lost under a barrage of ill-advised stuffed shirtedness? Or do you agree with the bank's memo? Let us know your thoughts on fashion and beauty in the workplace, and who should dictate those choices - if anyone -  in a comment.

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