‘Tightsgate’: The truth about how women judge what others wear

Radhika Jones attracted the scorn of her co-workers for what she wore to work.


Radhika Jones attracted the scorn of her co-workers for what she wore to work.

OPINION: Last week it was announced that a fabulous, accomplished 44-year-old woman Radhika Jones has been appointed the new editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair magazine, taking over from the man, Graydon Carter, who’d been in the top job for a quarter of a century. Hooray.

Jones has two degrees (from Harvard and Columbia) and has held senior roles at Time magazine, The Paris Review and the New York Times.

“In Radhika, we are so proud to have a fearless and brilliant editor whose intelligence and curiosity will define the future of Vanity Fair in the years to come,” said another impressive woman-on-top, Condé Nast’s artistic director Anna Wintour.

Meryl Streep's role in The Devil Wears Prada showed what the fashion world is like.


Meryl Streep’s role in The Devil Wears Prada showed what the fashion world is like.

Coming so soon after a black man was hired to helm British Vogue, here, surely was yet more proof of a new glossy media era, embracing diversity and modern thinking. Reading headlines about Jones was a lovely heartening thing. Until, for a moment anyway, it wasn’t.

* ‘Tightsgate’: What women wear matters, sadly
* How to reinvent your look in 8 weeks
* There’s a lot wrong with Victoria’s Secret

That moment came when WWD, a former Condé Nast title that these days specialises mostly in fashion business stories, but in its print heyday under the late John Fairchild was famous for stoking the fires of fashion feuds and peddling gossip, ran a piece titled, Vanity Fair Fashion Staff Nonplussed by New Editor’s Personal Style, penned by a young female journalist, Misty White-Sidell.

Jones had arrived in the office in a navy dress that allegedly didn’t impress and a pair of kooky fox-print tights. According to WWD, an unnamed fashion editor pronounced Jones’s outfit “interesting,” and said, “I’m not sure if I should include a new pair of tights in her welcome basket.”

We’ve all seen The Devil Wears Prada; that some people in fashion are b….. is hardly news. We’re talking about an industry that celebrates Karl Lagerfeld’s “wit” as a man who said of Pippa Middleton, “I don’t like [her] face; she should only show her back,” and thinks Adele is “a little too fat.” 

Man Repeller recently ran a feature in which a bunch of anonymous fashion insiders were asked to what extent the aforementioned movie is an accurate depiction of the inner workings of a fashion glossy; the overall answer was: yes.

One interviewee responded, “if you’re insecure you should probably do something else with your life.” The fashion world, being overly concerned with surface and status, can be a veritable viper pit. This, we know. But the tightsgate story took off anyway.

My first thought (so shoot me) was that fox-print was not a great idea. First impressions do count, and cutesy hosiery doesn’t obviously send the message that you mean business. It would be nice to say that no one is going to judge you on how you dress, either in Fashion Land or elsewhere, but it would not be realistic. They will, they do. We do. We judge people all the time on how they present themselves – it’s human nature.

It is dumb and annoying that Jones should make headlines for her tights. We should be talking about her professional abilities not her clothes. Had Carter worn fox-print socks, it would not have been reported. Men can wear what they like and no one cares.

But whose fault is it? Not Jones’ obviously. And not really Carter’s either, except to say that as an old, white male boss he is part of the patriarchy, ergo part of the problem of affording men unequal privileges. No, the fault, I fear, is entirely our own.

White-Sidell, who is WWD’s accessories editor, used to write silly stories about magic weight loss corsets for the Daily Mail so she knows what gets clicks.

It is often said that women don’t dress to impress men; but other women. The flip side is that women judge each other relentlessly, on everything from whether they are good or bad mothers/friends/bosses to how they apply their foundation, and of course their style “failures”.

Who do you think is reading all that tabloid guff about red carpet missteps, stars without makeup or so-and-so’s post-baby weight gain? It’s not men. We women are the ones who pick over this rubbish even as we feign outrage. “That’s terrible! Humiliating!” we tut-tut, as we eagerly turn the pages of some gossip rag in the queue at Coles.

“I can’t bear to look.” At least, not for long. We have to be quick, if we’re going to take in the latest cruelly annotated snap of some poor cellulite-ridden celeb in a bikini before we reach the cashier. Goes without saying, we’d never buy a magazine like that … No harm in looking though!

Tell me the truth now, if you’re read this far, have you not been mostly thinking: SHOW ME A PICTURE OF THE FOX TIGHTS?

It’s interesting (and also disturbing; people say the vilest things) to scroll through the comments beneath the WWD story. Some understand the true core of the problem: “A woman is made editor-in-chief and they pick her outfit apart…” More zero in on the snobby fashion angle, which has become a sort of popular entertainment. But this comment stands out for me: “The biggest problem for women in the workplace is……WOMEN! Nasty, condescending, mean, haughty, judgmental, and will turn on you like snakes.”

The sisterhood is actually bollocks. It doesn’t exist. Women behave just as badly as men, and when it comes to being snarky about clothes, far worse.

 – Sydney Morning Herald

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