If You Can Do it Naked, It Really Isn't Work
So what's the dress code?
Victoria Coren - The Observer (U.K.)
February 26, 2006
I am thinking of becoming a nudist. In fact, we should all become nudists. This 'clothing' idea just hasn't worked out. As London Fashion Week recedes mercifully over the horizon, let us admit defeat when it comes to getting dressed. Naturism was an idea ahead of its time: now, at last, it is ready to take centre stage.
My plan began to hatch when Alan Sugar complained about women wearing low-cut tops to the office. This, said Sir Alan, equates to using 'feminine wiles' and is therefore 'not fair game'.
I don't think our collective boredom threshold can withstand this dull old debate again. We have been arguing for 30 years about whether a woman who goes to work in a skirt is using her sex appeal to get ahead. Unfortunately, a thick tweed trouser suit doesn't suit everyone.
Most women now get dressed in the morning without much thought to 'the signals' they are sending out. There isn't really time. If something is clean, it'll do. And yet there are clearly still men who believe that if a woman is wearing something vaguely feminine, and a smile, she is 'flirting'.
This misunderstanding can get us into awkward situations, particularly in stationery cupboards.
In the entertainment industry, women have been given more scope for skimpy outfits and welcoming faces: this is considered performing rather than flirting. Last week, however, Anita Roddick damned these performers for coming across like 'whores'. (One newspaper illustrated Roddick's comments with a picture of Beyoncé Knowles in hot pants. I'd like to see her turning up to Alan Sugar's office dressed like that.)
Just as I was sticking pins in my knee with the boredom of women's clothing choices being debated again, Melanie Roberts and Stephen Gough completed their 874-mile nude walk to Land's End. Gazing at Melanie's innocently naked bottom, I thought: now there is a woman who couldn't be accused of having a flirtatious dress sense.
Nobody can say Melanie's neckline is too low. And in her complete nakedness, she looks businesslike and straightforward. If the rest of us still can't get dressed for work (even song-and-dance work) without the risk of accidentally sending 'whorish' messages, perhaps the solution is not to wear any clothes at all. The naturists were right all along: nudity is the only straightforward, wholesome way.
Besides, think of the fringe benefits. No more miserable hours in the till queue at Top Shop. No more ethical worries about fur and leather. No danger of outfit-doubling at parties - the only risk would be someone else turning up with the exact same pair of breasts. And how much more interesting Newsnight would become, if everyone on it were nude.
Naturism, I discovered after an eager search, is still alive and well as a political movement. It may sound like a Seventies throwback, which existed mainly to provide amusing plot twists for Jim Dale and Robin Asquith, but the 21st century sees it thriving.
'The younger generation is very supportive of free speech and free will,' says Andrew Welch of British Naturism. 'There is a much reduced perception of us as "strange".
Naturism isn't about going off to live in a colony any more, but about the healthiness of fresh air on skin, respect among like-minded people, a lack of discrimination between different types of human body, and the environmental benefit of not having so many bathing suits to wash.
'But our principle remains the same: we were born naked, and there is nothing shameful about the body. Why spend hundreds of pounds at Calvin Klein to cover it up? 'These sound like excellent modern values to me. Eco-responsibility, mutual respect, additive-free health: you'd think the movement had been invented yesterday. Andrew Welch is the 21st-century man, while Alan Sugar is the old dinosaur still nudging and winking about Miss Jones's mini-skirt. Miss Jones should ditch the skirt, turn up naked, and end the argument once and for all.
I asked Andrew Welch what he made of the argument that skimpy clothes are unprofessional in the workplace.
He said: 'I suspect this says more about Alan Sugar than it does about the women concerned. Unease about somebody's clothing is all in the mind of the person looking. Anyway, if you ask me, things don't become erotic until you start to conceal them.'
"Then you agree!', I shouted triumphantly at Andrew Welch. 'We must all go to work starkers, and the problem will be solved!"
'Unfortunately not', he said, sadly. 'In February, it simply isn't warm enough.'