Yesterday, Arianna Huffington spoke at HR Tech World in Amsterdam wearing the same dress she's worn at other conferences and the same dress she plans to wear later this week at another conference. This is on purpose. "Why do women feel they need to buy a new outfit for every event?"
It's a good question, I thought, as I sat there in my new outfit that I purchased specifically for this conference. (Full disclosure, I do some work for HR Tech.) In my defense, I work at home and my daily wardrobe isn't what I want to wear to a professional conference.
Why do women focus so much on clothing? Why do we think we need new outfits, or at least different outfits, for every important event?
Do you remember when an Australian newscaster wore the same suit for a year and no one noticed? Remember when Megyn Kelly wore a spaghetti strap dress and the internet lost its collective mind? Why do we care so much about what women wear?
First, let's ask who the "we" are. Is it men? Men don't care all that much about wearing the same outfit over and over again. This morning, in the elevator, there was a group of HR people discussing Huffington's presentation. One woman said, "the man sitting next to me couldn't understand why all the women were laughing." A man responded, "Because he's been wearing the same suit for 11 years."
He's probably not far off the mark. It's women that care about what women wear. And while it's fine to care about fashion, Huffington points out that it's making it more difficult for women to succeed. Why? Because it takes time and decision making. We each have a limited amount of time and a limited amount of decision making capability. When we spend our time focusing on finding new things to wear, we use up that time and decision making space.
The outfit I bought for the conference took about two hours out of my day, I had to take a tram into town, go to several different shops, try things on, buy it and come back home. That is time I could have spent building my own business or even relaxing. (I will note that some people enjoy shopping and consider it relaxing)
There's nothing immoral about enjoying fashion or shopping, but we have to acknowledge that it comes at a price. Huffington wants to emphasize that it is okay to wear the same outfit to multiple events. If you follow her on Instagram, look for #repeat to see her wearing the same dress. If she can do it, so can we.