This International Women’s Day, Sarah Jessica Parker would like to address female workwear constructs.
The actress, designer, book publisher and producer feels that women should not be afraid to embrace their personality, and live life through a colorful lens — regardless of their corporate role or function.
“I work the shoe floor [for my SJP Collection brand] and a big part of my conversations with customers is to tell them that if you are wearing a purple shoe, that doesn’t make your brain any less capable. You are still the same person that comes with all the same information,” Parker said of her ideology surrounding office dress code norms.
Her commentary runs parallel to Monday’s debates within an English parliamentary committee, which highlighted companies that force women to wear certain wardrobe items to the office. The discussions follow a petition by Nicola Thorp, who was dismissed from her temporary role as a receptionist at PWC after she refused to wear heels – a requirement of her employment agency, Portico.
In January, a report published by the same parliamentary committee – the Women and Equalities committee – noted numerous issues raised by working women regarding hair, makeup and clothing requirements. Helen Jones, member of Parliament, said of the report’s findings: “We decided to investigate these issues. It is fair to say that what we found shocked us. We found attitudes that were more [relevant to the] 1850s than to the 21st century.”
Parker’s two-year-old label SJP Collection has given the actress and designer insight into women’s aesthetic preferences. She is known to appear, unannounced, on the shoe floor of Bloomingdale’s where she works directly with customers, listening to their sartorial thoughts and desires.
One hurdle that Parker has encountered in selling her largely candy-colored heels to American consumers, are preconceived, societal notions about the types of shoes that women feel they need to wear to work.
According to Parker, the movement for neutral career shoes has remained in place since women first entered the workforce. “As women were moving into the workforce in all positions, I think people thought that it wasn’t a threat to be as close to a male as you could be, and that’s a hard habit to break but we’ve seen women make different choices [recently].
“I’ve been on the floor dozens of time and asked women, ‘Do you need another pair of black pumps?’ and once you start talking to them and discover what they really want, and that it doesn’t in any way marginalize them or diminish their capability [to wear color], they want in.”
“Men are allowed to wear any color of tie to the office and for women, shoes should be their tie,” she added. “We tend to think of the black pump as what’s appropriate for the office and my goal is to introduce the idea of color.”
Parker says that in the last year, the American market has begun warming to the idea of alternative fabrications like satin, and brighter colors as everyday options. But the tide has yet to completely turn.
“It’s exciting to see that over time our color is selling better, in the way of women differentiating themselves, telling you who they are — they’re able to take some of those social constructs. We are not trying to make you a rogue colleague, but we are giving you the option to be your own person. You can still be intelligent, but we are giving you something special to wear.
“It’s a matter of time and images sinking into the consciousness.”