Tabatha Wharton



Over the last fifteen or so years (in intermittent intervals), whenever I’ve been interviewing for a job and it gets to the part about do you have any questions for us, I have, without fail — and often with a full head of jewel-toned hair — asked about the dress code. Even at my very first job, a big-box mall retail store, I pushed the envelope of what was considered within the advisos of the employee handbook. I have yet, to date, to have ever been sent home for my outfits, but I have been told occasionally not to wear what I have on to work again (and once, to take a sweatshirt off of the rack and put it on because my t-shirt from that store was too see-through, and then I had to purchase the sweatshirt at the end of my shift. That was dumb and towards the end of my employment at that particular retail job).

Now I could go on a real tangent here about dress codes and how they are a restrictive function of the patriarchy and one of the most glaringly obvious functions of the inherent misogyny in modern society — because they overwhelmingly affect women, not men, and they hold the onus of responsibility for boy’s/men’s ability to function on women and girls and in the case of school settings, overtly sexualize children and detract from the learning processes of female children by interrupting their days and punishing them for the inferences and prejudices held by and being displaced upon them by the adults in charge and how ALL of it is a function of the greater rape culture of modernity … never mind how mass market fashion and the financial burden/social rewards of performative femininity also operate to further this dichotomy … but instead I’ll end the longest run-on sentence in the span of this blog with that I’m fortunate I had a mom that Did Not Take That Shit when in middle school one teacher (not even my teacher!) took offense to the shorts I was wearing, not accounting for the fact that (a) I’ve been this tall since 5th grade (b) I have VERY long legs (c) it was like 90°F in June in a school with no air conditioning and (d) there were only so many options for shorts for teen girls in the mid/late 90’s. They tried to send me home and my mom basically was like, fuck you and the horse you’re riding on YOU go take this tall child clothes shopping and find something that fits your standards and YOU buy it for her SEND HER BACK TO CLASS AND QUIT WASTING EVERYONE’S TIME and I never got shit for my shorts at school again, the end.

So of course, in the meeting I had with my thesis adviser/internship director/professor where we finalized the details of my assistant teaching in Spring Semester, being who I am, I asked about the dress code. And because sociology, we talked briefly about the interesting intersection in higher education between appearing professional enough to be taken seriously by the students, but not being either too rigid or too casual so as to seem either inaccessible or as if you’re trying too hard and therefore not a serious authority. They said that based on what I’ve worn to class (which, for this one, is on the days I also work usually) I should be fine, but it still gave me a bit of pause. Mostly because I feel like this is my eternal struggle — dressing in a way that reflects my knowledgeably (in the realm of employment) but also is true to my sense of style (and self) so that I feel comfortable in my presentation and thereby am able to confidently perform my duties to my best ability.

Anyway, all of that is to say I’m working on finding that sweet spot a little more intentionally now and also I perform magic in these photos, and I don’t mean that I wore colors. Also now I kind of wish I’d chosen to do my thesis on fashion (there is already scholarship on it, trust) but I think I’m too far in it now to change. We’ll see.

Green cotton high-neck shell tank, leopard print twill pencil skirt, & black knit duster cardigan: Old Navy
Black druzy necklace: Nordstrom Rack
Octagonal hoop earrings: Target
Black tights: Spanx
Studded leather booties: Catherine Malandrino