Alright—time for a brief history session. In 1869, two women (Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton) came together to fight for women’s right to vote. In 1920, women were granted the right to vote. In 1963, the Equal Pay Act was passed (even though women still make considerably less than men who work in the same professional roles today). In 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1983, Sally Ride became the first woman in space. In 2005, Hillary Clinton became the first First Lady to be elected to public office when she entered Congress as a U.S. Senator from New York. In 2012, Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, becomes the youngest self-made female billionaire. And on February 2nd, 2017, Donald Trump reportedly told the women who work in his cabinet they have to “dress like a woman.”
This statement from this 70-year-old president poses several important questions but one question stood out on social media: What does it even mean to “dress like a woman”?
A new media company created by the co-founder of Politico, Axios, had two reporters who spoke with sources that worked on Trump’s campaign trail. Among the many revelations that surfaced, one that stood out was how he feels about aesthetics—particularly, women. He thinks women should dress a certain way and wants women who work for him to look a certain way.
Various social media users took it upon themselves to answer the question of what it means to “dress like a woman.” Twitter erupted with a stream of photos showing women dressed for the jobs they hold and the lives they lead. Women who work as police officers, firefighters, soldiers, and astronauts, just to name a few professions.
Many of the tweets were aimed at rejecting the idea that women should be restricted to some narrow sartorial category. But the “dress like a woman” phrase, which was co-opted as a hashtag, actually didn’t come directly from Mr. Trump.
The phrase was attributed through a newsletter reiterating Mr. Trump’s preference. It was stated by a source who worked on Trump’s campaign: “Trump likes the women who work for him ‘to dress like women.’ Even if you’re in jeans, you need to look neat and orderly.”
Basically, women who worked in Trump’s campaign field offices — who are the folks who spend more time knocking on doors than attending glitzy events — felt pressure to wear dresses just to impress Trump. It’s clear that appearances matter bigly to the president.
Mr. Trump, who is the former owner of the Miss Universe Organization, has regularly criticized and mocked women for their appearance. He has received criticism for hurling insults at female critics and for rating women’s appearances on a scale of one to 10.
History has shown that past presidents have had an influence on style so Mr. Trump’s style preference is somewhat part of a historical pattern but his methods are seen as a way to target women specifically.
According to its Press Office, The White House does not have an official dress code, but every administration has its own norms. Wardrobes have tended to be more relaxed in Democratic administrations. Under President Clinton, “aides frequently attended meetings in jeans and T-shirts,” which was reported in 2001 by The New York Times and President George W. Bush restored a formal dress code to the West Wing. President Obama was so relaxed that he broke with protocol, and scrapped the traditional suit jacket on his first full day in the Oval Office.
Women’s history has shown progress; but there are still a ton of setbacks. While it may seem like women have come a long way, the new 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, just proves that women still have a long way to go.