It was a rotten Wellington day and the kids at Parliament Primary were in their first week back at school. They’d had a lovely long holiday but cabin fever was starting to set in already and Mr Carter could see all the kids growing steadily grumpier, he had a feeling the day was not going to end well. Little Metiria had been looking forward to bad weather because she had a brand new coat, it had toggles and an excessive amount of pockets and everything a proper coat should; Metiria looked good.
Metiria, Anne and Judith had been friends once but had grown apart and to be perfectly honest Judith was terrifying, so Metiria and her best friend Russell usually kept their distance. When it came to interval Metiria found a corner and sat down to paint a tree for her wall at home. She kept the jacket on even though she was indoors, because it really was a great jacket.
Anne didn’t think so. “Is that a new jacket?” She said with a tone half gleeful and half threatening. “Yes” said Metiria, shyly. “I thought you only bought clothes from Save the Whales?” chimed Judith. “I…it was a gift?” said Metiria, which it wasn’t, but a girl deserves a nice jacket once in a while. “You’re a hypocrite!!” said Anne, who had very advanced vocabulary for an 8 year old. “AND YOUR JACKET’S UGLY” shrilled Judith, loud enough for the whole class to hear. Metiria
called them both racists because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. They had after school detention for a week.
What should women wear to work? It’s a banal question on the surface, but it’s also a conundrum of the highest order. The reason is because there is no answer, the reason for that is because what women wear is always wrong.
I discovered this on one of my first days at work in Windy Wellington, the nickname really should have given it away, it’s just that I wasn’t prepared for the force, (like 5000 invisible bullets burying themselves in your skull) or the direction, (up your skirt, always).
I had many a beautiful skirt and was very keen on showing my colleagues and the greater community that I was a very classy lady with an excellent taste in skirts. That ended approximately 0.02 seconds after I introduced everything previously under the skirt to everyone on the waterfront including a man who wasted his sandwich because he choked on it. I turned various shades of red and decided to wear tights the next day. “You look like a nun”, one colleague said. “Why all the layers?” said another. It was all very confusing.
Intent on getting it absolutely right, I clothed myself the following day in a dress that felt a bit tight and a bit short but was bought for me by a person whose job it is to buy appropriate work clothes for people, so figured it must be fair game. I concluded the fact that my butt looked like two small moons was simply down to the fact that my butt is the size of two small moons, and was on my way. “Great dress!” said gay colleague, “Love your dress!” said probably gay colleague. “Ooh Kris, scandalous, showing off that bod!” said the last non-gay colleague. And my heart sank. My aim had not been to show off my ‘bod’ whatever that is. My aim had not even been to look hot, sexy or otherwise enticing. It had simply been to look presentable in a way that didn’t invite immediate commentary and/or underskirt ventilation. That was until I realized that that’s impossible.
‘Jacketgate’ as I like to refer to the above playground tale, is not about politics or racism or about playground bickering. It is about how the simple act of putting on clothes opens women up to a whole new level of criticism, and we are the worst perpetrators. Your long pants will always be frumpy, your frilled shirt too slutty, all that black is too draining, the pink too youthful. So take comfort ladies, in the knowledge that you will always, always be wrong. Long live the jacket.