As a woman who welcomes warm weather, even of this week’s muggy variety, with a joyful dusting off of my Birkenstocks I’m offering three cheers today for Nicola Thorp who stood up to bosses at accountancy firm PwC, by refusing to comply with their edit that a corporate secretary must wear heels of between 2 and 4 inches. Taking them to task and then presenting her demand to government with a petition with 7k signatures and rising, she demands “that women have the option to wear flat formal shoes at work”.
It’s hardly a revolutionary ask and in an equal world there’s no justification at all to demand a particular form of footwear choice from one half of the work force that’s both impractical and a fashion choice rather than an indication of competence for the job. Small acts like Nicola’s in bravely facing down sexist presumptions for women’s attire, gladden the heart and offer a perfect example of how each and every one of us can “be the change we want to see” as Gandhi so succinctly put it. It doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the myriad forms of self-expression that fashion allows, just that we should have the right to choose for ourselves, not on the basis of what male bosses deem ‘sexy’… for is there any other plausible reason to make such a demand?
I may not be a fan of the killer heel but I do love dressing up every now and again and with a trip to the Cannes Film Festival just around the corner, I had a practice run this week. It’s always a treat to do a photo-session and experience the sort of grooming, make up and styling that Hollywood A listers enjoy on a daily basis. If you’d seen the swat team that turned up in a crumbling Kensington mansion for the Daily Mail’s Event magazine shoot, you’d have thought they were the SAS were taking over the Royal Borough rather than simply the squad numbers required to make yours truly fit for public consumption. By the time I’d had my attributes enhanced and my shortcomings disguised by lovely Amanda Grossman, looking in the mirror had become a bearable experience and once Alice Theobald snapped my hair extensions into place and my fit for purpose bob was reinvented as a tumbling Bardoesque dishevelment, I had to pinch myself to make sure the apparition was for real!
It struck me that having a classroom of eleven year olds there to witness the lengths taken to make a woman magazine ready would have offered a salutary lesson in why aspiring to such extremes in real life, without professionals to tweak and twizzle, is an impossible and redundant ambition.
Reality bit when the delightful young whippersnapper photographer David Venni suggested my beautiful white Mulberry trouser suit, would look better if I dispensed with the sleek Cos camisole and instead allowed the tuxedo to plunge down my bare chest. You could have heard a pin drop in that busy room when I announced that at 53 I really wasn’t going to be baring either my body or indeed my soul for strangers delectation and that readers would I’m sure be grateful to me for sparing them!
The longer I live the less I want to be exposed to my fellow females bodies arrayed before me, as though we are nothing more than the sum of the body parts we’re prepared to flaunt.
Standing up instead of piping down must be our favoured position on these matters and Nicola Thorp definitely qualifies as this week’s heroine on that front!