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Your personal style: Whose business?

MORENIKE TaireIs it a human right matter or is it a matter of personal style the way a lady chooses to dress? Should women be told what to wear?

Funke Ajomale

I remember when I was in secondary school where I had to cut my hair and I was told what to wear, I felt bad about it and was sad. I believe, yes, we should think about the environment where we are in, where we work, where we are going to and dress appropriately but I don’t think it is right and fair we should be talked down at or told how to live or how to dress.

Bukky Karibi Whyte

As women, I think we owe it to ourselves to know how to dress. I feel that there is appropriate dressing for every situation and every occasion and I also think that sometimes, we are our own worst enemies.

Vanguard women’s round-table

I went to a wedding and saw a lady who was looking hot. I felt that if it was my wedding, I would have probably told her to go and change. I feel you should dress the way you want to be addressed as well. I knew I was coming to Vanguard so I chose to put on my power suit. Usually I wear jeans and a nice tee shirt on Fridays. But I knew I was coming to meet some fantastic women and I wanted to be seen as professional.

Temitope Ogunniyi

On Fridays I usually wear jeans. I had to think of where I can stay comfortably in between. If it didn’t really matter, I probably would have picked up anything. For me, I think it is personal. Funke talked about growing up and we were told what to wear, I am in class and there are children who want their uniforms to be as trendy as possible. We have really evolved. We should be able to draw the line. As parents, we probably tell our children what not to wear and we do not put the why. We have them dressing the way we want them to dress when they know that in their bags they have what they are going to change into.

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Who determines what is appropriate?

Clara Chinwe Okoro

In branding, they actually say that perception is stronger than reality. The fact that you have the freedom to choose could also become a fatal error for you. Let’s take for example the present first lady of the United States, she’s had nude pictures in her past but never in her wildest dreams did she ever think she would become the first lady of the United States of America and it is coming back to haunt her. For all the time her husband will be president, this will keep coming back in the press. Cultures are very deep rooted. There will always be those intrinsic things that will never change. It’s not that we must be so strict but there must be a line somewhere.

Busola Ogunlolu

What may look lovely to the beach may be very inappropriate to church, what may look lovely to the church, may be inappropriate for the night club. It takes a good understanding of knowing what the occasion is, or the event, and that will determine what you should wear. Research has shown that when people meet you especially for the first time, more than half of their impression of you comes from what you wear.

Research says that at least 55 per cent of people’s impression of you comes from what you wear and the rest is dictated by how you comport yourself, how you talk. Only seven per cent comes from the content. It is important that if you don’t project the image you want to project, people will assume that image for you and like my colleague here rightly said, perception is the reality. When we really come to the root of what dressing is really about, you find out that the origin of dressing is to cover up. When you dress in such a way that you are looking naked, the question is, are you dressed?

Bukky as a manager of many celebrities’ images, you sometimes find yourself in a funny place?

When it comes to entertainment, obviously you are wearing costumes. Costumes again can be very provocative but that is what entertainment practices. But if I was going to bring Seyi Shay here, she would not wear the bra and hot pants that she wore in her video to this office. Knowing how to dress for the occasion seems to be what we are saying. I have a very active social life, I am very big on trends. One of the latest trends I seem to be very big on is wearing pyjamas during the day time and outside. My pyjamas are in silk and I wear them with heels, but again I am very picky about what I wear. Now people are wearing nothing even to the award shows. On the red carpet, there is a lot of skin, as naked as you can go seems to be what it is. But if they were going to church, I doubt if they would wear what they will wear to the red carpet. The venue, where you are going and the occasion is what determines the dress.

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Funke, as a stylist do you often find yourself  disagreeing with clients?

Funke Ajomale

I had an argument with somebody over this issue. She was going for a friend’s wedding and wanted to wear over the top kind of white, I told her not to wear the dress and she was upset. If it was my wedding I would have said to her not to enter. It is the bride’s day and you are meant to give her that respect and not outshine her. Where I work, we can wear whatever we choose to wear but my subconscious says to me, you are in the office. However I dress could cause me to be harassed. I am wearing a long flowing skirt and I still get harassed, so if I now wear something that would expose me what would now come from that?

I believe that if you want to look expensive, cover up. I was in a church one day which was my first time, I saw a particular dressing. I asked someone if it was normal to dress that way and he said yes it is personal choice. I know that God looks at your heart and not your dressing, but how does it make the other person feel, do or say about your dressing? It now goes beyond personal rights, Is it culture confirmed? Is it culture allowed? Would people see you and insult you? If you go to the market dressed inappropriately and get stoned at or insulted, if you report the case to the police or any body, the first thing your lawyer will ask is why did you dress that way?

Bukky Karibi Whyte

I have a problem with that. I have heard different situations of women being sexually harassed and then it goes, why did you wear a skirt? But when dressing now breeds violence, I no longer blame dressing. It is you as a person that is displaying the violence. You have a problem.

Funke Ajomale

But I still feel that it is always best to erase that particular notion from the beginning. I was wearing a long dress at work and I still got harassed. It is a human right thing to wear whatever you can afford. But if I am going somewhere then I think I should be covered, it doesn’t mean I should be over the top covered but then I should be comfortable and should be able to presume the right image.

Bukky Karibi Whyte

When Cossy first came into the entertainment industry, a lot of us gasped. But I think if she’s outside the entertainment world, she will dress differently.

Busola Ogunlolu

Dressing is a language. You say something with what you wear. It says something about you, what you are wearing and what you are trying to communicate. What you wear also shows the value you ascribe to yourself. You must also have at the back of your mind that what you are wearing is a very strong communicator. That is why some organizations will say this is what we want our staff to wear.

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What do you think about dress codes?

Clara Chinwe Okoro

We simply have not been able to make up our minds. Inside of every woman is a spectrum of so many things trying to express herself. Yes, I want to feel sexy; what am I inviting or who am I trying to be sexy to?  What is my intention? And if I get that reaction, why then should I be offended? I just wanted freedom for air to go down my body but that’s where your right stops. You cannot determine the action of the next person. Men are animals. It’s just some civility their parents should have imbibed in them that carries them. That’s where we have to be a little bit careful in our freedom. Freedom is expensive and dangerous.

Funke Ajomale

We are very lucky we are not in an environment where we have to wear traditional clothes like the Indians. I still have an issue with dress codes, maybe it’s because I had to conform to a particular dress code in school. It started with us wearing what we wanted and after a while, it was changing over time. I didn’t like it. I felt my rights were being infringed on as I always liked dress up. When you dress so well, it brightens up your day. You feel empowered. So when you are put in a particular box, sometimes your right is taken from you.

Temitope Ogunniyi

I have a younger sister who studied law and I always feel sorry for her. I call her Miss Black/White. After leaving school she is still dressing in white related clothes. If she sees probably red or coloured shoes in her closet, she will think it is a gift.

Why do they have to do white and black? In school environment; I am thinking the school management says, allow parents to allow their children wear whatever they feel because your background is different? What about if summer comes to Nigeria and we decide to wear bikinis?

I have a facebook friend residing somewhere in France who put up something on her facebook. She was holidaying and within her neighbourhood, ladies were wearing some hot and sexy clothing, including bikinis unabated. Thus, she wrote; ‘right now I am feeling sorry for men, because what I see around me calls for alarm’. I might want to wear what I feel comfortable with but I am thinking when someone wears transparent material because she feels that way, I am already sending wrong message to the other person who may not say anything to me. The whole idea is not just about me but the language.

Bukky Karibi Whyte

Every office space and every sector knows what their brand is and what image they want to project. I remember when I finished university as a young teen and it is very restricted in the US that under 18 you can’t do anything until 18. So the day I turned 18, I got a tattoo, pierced my tongue, my eyes. When I was set for a job interview, the lady who was to hire me was focusing on my piercing and at last, I couldn’t get the job. The whole thing continued with other interviews. I called my mum. She replied and said, ‘send me a picture of your look now’. After seeing what my picture looked like, she said, take off your rings and go for the next job. That’s what I did and the next job was it, without any hassles.

Busola Ogunlolu

Lawyers are very conservative just like banking profession, because banking is built on trust. Every organisation determines the brand they want to project. I don’t see dressing code or policies as infringement of right because you can either choose to comply or not. For example, where I work, we are very particular about how we dress. Not to bother anybody’s right but because we have an image we want to project and sell. We can’t teach what we don’t practice. For us at Poise, even when you dress casually, you still look professionally decent. If you leave dressing to people’s interpretation, everybody will wear anything. In my organisation, if your skirt or dress is one inch above knee, it is termed wrong.

Clara Okoro

For example, the African Magic -the older ones which is epic- movies, you see women wearing wrappers, covering their breast and above knee. In that era, we didn’t have men sexually harassing or raping women like we tend to have now in the western civilization. There was value placed on other things aside the fact that you are dressing to show who you are. The women probably didn’t sleep with men before they got married to them. In psychology we call it ‘conditioning’. A young man who’s looking at a woman is not looking at her as an object, probably saying, this is going to be the mother of my children someday, but then, civilization came, and we have more women sleeping with men before getting married to them. So, we have to dress in a particular way as a competition to attract the man’s attention. That’s where we now have the clash of interest. The man now has to view me as an object. He is decoding my dressing as an invitation to him. But where do you then draw the line?

Temitope Ogunniyi

Bukky  mentioned that dressing for entertainment is for that purpose, but it will be confusing to them. I have two daughters. One said she wants an instagram handle and I said to her, fine, but I said, ‘give me fiver reasons you should have it’. She shrugged and asked that it reduced to 3 then to 1. You know the kids will dress the way they think its okay with you but will change to another dress when they are out of our sight. I think adults have not really let them know why they probably should dress that way.Anyway, I haven’t said to her, ‘don’t have any instagram handle’ but I know where she was going. But funnily, she disclosed to me that she can have the instragram with a pseudo-name without letting me know’.

The question is can they talk to us? I then asked her that if you open an instragram account with pseudo name, without my knowledge, what you will be doing with it, because for me, it serves the purpose of my work and what I do. My younger daughter was walking with me on the street, one day, when we came across an improperly dressed lady. She said, “Doesn’t she have anybody at home to stop her from wearing that, even no mirror?”

Busola Ogunlolu

There’s a repercussion for every act you put up. You have to make them understand rather than overbearing and chastising what drives  nuts.

Temitope Ogunniyi

If you set that foundation right, it actually makes it easier and seamless for you.

Bukky Karibi-Whyte

Right now, I dress according to the norms of societal acceptance in respect of where I am going or what I am doing. But as a teenager I dressed according to the dictates of the television but it did not affect my school grades and performance or who I am today.

Morenike Taire

What is real and what’s societal perception about dressing. Are we limiting ourselves when we limit our dressing code?

Efe Anaughe

I am very individualistic in my dressing. I dress comfortably. I just naturally dislike four or five women wearing the same design or same costume at the same venue and at the same time which you call vogue. If I am aware they will dress like that, I will dress opposite or totally different.

Bukky Karibi Whyte

It’s very easy to judge someone from the outside. I find that there are a lot of rebellious people that turn out to be so great. I think it’s very much inside. However, we should try as much as possible to be moderate.

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What about dress code at workplace?

Busola Ogunlolu

To a large extent companies are jealous about their brand, but somebody in entertainment for example if they should formulate dress policy, it won’t be anything near what banks would say. I still do not see anything wrong with that because it shows what an organisation stands for. Every staff of the organisation is a face of the organisation. We want to be careful that every time anybody encounters this organisation, this is what to expect. Every time I go to Buckingham Palace and I open a bottle of coke, it is the same I get at home, because the standard is the same everywhere.

When you enter into an organisation, you consent to abide to the rules of that organisation. Recently I was talking to some people and they were telling me about  law school dress now – you can’t wear this or that. This is all reactionary. I mean I went to law school and during my time, there was nothing like that. You are already a lawyer in the making. The thinking now is different. We have started seeing all kinds of interpretations. Organisations are pushed into putting these policies just to maintain some sanity. You can’t wear anything contrary to organisations rule and regulations which you have consented to.

Clara Okoro

In schools, when you click on some portals, you see pictures of some young school girls and because of the shortness of their dresses, you then ask, was there a policy in that school, but if you consent to it, why then do you complain? These things are actually control mechanisms. Just like what Bukky said that when she was in school, her dressing was the way she wanted it but it did not affect her  performance. In order for society to maintain a balance, the weaker ones have to be catered for by the stronger ones so that we have a level playing ground. They say power is nothing without control. We may have our power but what about the next person?

Efe Anaughe

What we should ask ourselves is what decency is.   In law, we say, ‘a reasonable man’s thinking’. What would a common man do in such a situation? Do you think, wearing your clothes, hanging everything out there is decent?   Of course, our religion plays a major role. I know culture too is there.     Under a reasonable man’s law, that’s what the court will use to judge.

I think some of these things are blown out of proportion. One day, I asked my account   manager why is everybody dressed in red? Your attitude or manners lose big time customers. You can dress to kill and have nothing up your brain. What about dressing well to suit your bank’s expectation but without adequate representation.

Bukky Karibi Whyte

In this country, I just know we tend to over-do things. If they say the new trend is the mini skirt you still see people take it higher.

Efe Anaughe

My younger brother works with British American Tobacco and there he met a man in dreadlocks who is up to manager level. Here in this country, you dare not keep such. They will see you as highly irresponsible and even beg you to cut the dreads.

Bukky Karibi Whyte

You will find handsome, good looking gentlemen anywhere in the world with clean dreadlocks, power suits and so on., then you will see ladies drool. But here, dreads means crazy.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.