We Have the Power

A friend and I were talking about an article I read on how several major designers, unnamed of course, refused to dress actress Melissa McCarthy for the 2012 Oscars.

I said, well, she’s overweight. Most designers are concerned with elevating their brands, not dressing the masses of people who she more accurately represents. They’re selling a dream, not reality.

My buddy was like, yeah, but we’ve given the fashion industry carte blanche to ostracize and depreciate people who don’t fit established molds. They abuse that power, and diversity is a casualty.

I thought about that, and I agree. The fashion industry does have the power to dictate what is beautiful and acceptable. Just like the world of business once dictated who was acceptable to work in offices and how they should look. In times gone by I never would have been able to sit in my corner office, natural hair balled on top of my head just how it grew and just how I like it. I’d have had to endure beauty shops — my own personal version of hell — perms and boring clothes in beige and navy blue <shudders theatrically> just to answer someone’s phone.

Now, keeping my goals and infrastructure and a reasonable dress policy in mind, I rock it how I like, and I can’t imagine life any other way.

Time and people changed those limited, old school ideas. Now, workforce leaders know it is ultimately the talent who has the power, and that talent has many faces and shapes. McCarthy certainly thinks so; she has a clothing line in the works, no doubt to ensure that she never has to beg some narrow-minded fashion diva for a frock again.

It’s something to consider, how certain industries like the fashion world influence what we do every day. They shape our thinking and expectations and desires often without our explicit permission or knowledge. Have you ever wanted to wear something, but remembered some arbitrary fashion rule that changed your mind? There you go.

At the end of the day you have to consider who has the power in your life. It’s not a zero-sum game. Not everyone likes natural hair, and some office environments would still prefer that you rock beige and navy blue and have pin straight, more comfortable hair. But power dynamics shift from day to day, sometimes from project to project, or even from job to job. You have to decide who’s really in control of your life, and are they pro or con about the diverse qualities that make you your own individual?