Wisdom//

Why the Style Gap Is Costly for Women and How to Close It

Find something you love and wear it… again and again and again.

Ben Gabbe / Getty Images North America and Larry Busacca / Getty Images Entertainment
Ben Gabbe / Getty Images North America and Larry Busacca / Getty Images Entertainment

I love clothes. Most women I know love clothes. But that doesn’t mean women should have to spend as much time as we do thinking about how to put together different outfits each day or for each event. It’s what I call the Style Gap, and it’s time to close it.

This might seem trivial, but it’s not. Yes, as the saying goes, time is money — and so is mindshare. And in today’s world, it’s a competitive advantage when you have a little bit more time and a little bit more mindshare every day to spend on what really matters.

I see examples of this all the time. One of the starkest examples was at an AdWeek conference in 2016 on the changing attitudes in the business world around burnout, productivity, and unplugging and recharging. First, I interviewed Mark Cuban on stage, after which I was joined by five panelists, all women. Both parts of the discussion were great, and there were many points of consensus about the topics at hand. The big divergence was fashion, which definitely broke down by gender. Mark, of course, was in jeans and a t-shirt, which is what he usually wears. 

Mark had likely spent not more than a few minutes getting ready. The women had likely spent… a lot more than that. Which also meant they had less time for a lot of other more important things at work and at home. And over time, this adds up to a serious competitive advantage for men.

The way to change this is by making repeating the same outfit as acceptable for women as it is for men. Dress codes are on their way out, but according to a TotalJobs survey, over a third of women said they feel pressure to dress in a particular way, and around three-quarters of them find the decision of what to wear difficult. For the men, 88 percent said they’ve never worried about what to wear.        

Finding something you love and wearing it again and again and again is a great way to equalize the competitive disadvantage of the style gap — in the form of time and money and mindshare. Time isn’t just money — it’s creativity, productivity, downtime, the chance to complete projects, prepare for that meeting, or just unplug and recharge.

I’m not suggesting women go full Silicon Valley tech guy and throw on jeans, a t-shirt and a hoodie every day. It’s about buying things we love and then… wearing them again and again and again. Who cares if you’ve been seen in it already this week? Men do it without a care in the world. Why don’t we?

One reason is how social media fuels these cultural assumptions, making many women afraid to be seen on Instagram wearing an outfit they just wore. But instead of abandoning social media — which, let’s face it, isn’t going to happen — we can harness its cultural power to reverse these norms. Instead of hiding repeats, let’s normalize them by celebrating them.

I love repeats and make a point of Instagramming my “transgressions” every chance I get. As you can see here. Several years ago, I wrote an entire piece about my devotion to a certain black Nanette Lepore dress, and how I refused to stop wearing it, again and again and again.

Fortunately, the repeats movement is growing, with repeat offenders like Tiffany Haddish, who wore the same white dress on the red carpet of the premiere of her movie, Girls Trip, as she did hosting “S.N.L.” and at the Oscars — three events visible enough that she knew her repeat would be noticed. Which, in her typically fierce and funny way, she completely owned. “I feel like if I pay good money for something, I wear it when I want, however many times I want, as long as I Febreze it,” she said. There’s Gayle King, who made a point of showcasing six years of repeats with a collage. There’s Diane Von Furstenberg, who says she’s “all for repetition.” There’s Anna Wintour’s daughter Bee Carrozzini, who recycled the same dress twice in 48 hours. And Alex Berenson, who found an occasion — the Emmys — to recycle her wedding dress.

And then, of course, there are the Royal Repeaters, chief among them Kate Middleton, who loves repeating, including this white dress coat, which she has in heavy rotation. The royal role model is having an effect, not least on “Queer Eye”’s Jonathan Van Ness. “Kate Middleton gave me permission to re-wear things, ’cause honey, if the Duchess can do it, like, why can’t I?” he said.

These might seem far afield from the world of workplace fashion, but they’re not — this is part of how culture shifts happen. Closing the gender gap is of course about equal pay and hiring and promoting, but it’s also about the many factors that push the bar of success higher for women. And one of those is the competitive disadvantage of the style gap — in the form of time and money and mindshare.

So if you have outfits you love — and we all have our favorites — repeat them! You can look chic and stylish, feel good about yourself and give yourself the valuable gift of more time — and less stress — in your life.

Subscribe here for my Weekly Thoughts Newsletter, where you’ll find my take on the week’s news, my favorite pieces on how we can thrive even in our stressful world, and some fun and inspiring extras. 

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

What We Wear to Work//

5 Fashion Tips to Get Out the Door 20 Minutes Faster

by Nora Battelle
What We Wear to Work//

Introducing Thrive Style: The New Power Dressing

by Arianna Huffington
Thrive Style//

Inspirational Influencer Series: Introducing Manda Lee

by Catherine Grace O’Connell

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.