MP defends choice to wear off-the-shoulder dress in Parliament

Labour MP Tracy Brabin has defended her choice of attire after she was criticised for wearing an off-the-shoulder dress in the House of Commons.

The shadow culture secretary received negative comments about her dress on social media, including suggestions that it made her look like “a slag”, like she was “hungover”, and that she was “about to breastfeed”.

She told the BBC that the responses were “sadly” routine and “another example of the everyday sexism women face”.

Her response prompted other women to share their stories about how they had been shamed for their choice of work attire. One Twitter user said: “This rarely happens to men – calling it out is the only way to educate”.

Sarah Evans, a partner at JMW Solicitors, said the issue highlighted the difference in the way people often speak about how women and men dress in the workplace.

“Women are, generally, judged more harshly than men in the workplace, illustrated by the existence of a so-called ‘grooming gap’,” she said.

“From a legal perspective, it’s appropriate to have a dress code that specifies the need for employees to be clean and tidy – they are representing the organisation and it’s values – however, it’s a completely different scenario when it’s about what outfit style someone has chosen to wear. A dress code need not usually be too prescriptive and mustn’t be gender specific.

“Male members of parliament have also come under fire in recent years for their appearance and choice of attire – Boris Johnson being likened to a “scarecrow” and Jeremy Corbyn criticised for failing to wear a tie, for example – however, they were not criticised in the same vitriolic way.”

6 Responses to MP defends choice to wear off-the-shoulder dress in Parliament

  1. Avatar
    Sir 5 Feb 2020 at 3:20 pm #

    At a time and in a place where the really important things are who you are, what you stand for, what your values are, what knowledge and compassion you have in the execution of your role in our democracy ….. we focus instead simply on what someone is WEARING ?
    Someone has really got their priorities wrong here and it throws into sharp relief the vacuous nature of our society.

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    Sir 5 Feb 2020 at 3:25 pm #

    Can we please have an article that doesn’t define a difference in anything as “a gap”.
    Is our vocabulary so limited that we have to resort to popular clichés ? (with thanks to Sally Evans)
    Do we have a ‘literacy gap’ amongst our legal professionals ?

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    Claire 5 Feb 2020 at 3:31 pm #

    She is right – she is none of those things but that is hardly a dress to wear to work. Where I work we have an appropriate dress code by which all staff abide. Not surprised she received comments. It is her right, but in my view it is not appropriate.

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    Sophie 6 Feb 2020 at 8:16 am #

    It’s “not appropriate”? I’m sorry, am I looking at a different picture? It is just a shoulder. Under no circumstances does a person deserve these sorts of comments. Instead of blaming the recipient for the bullying based on their choices (i.e. their outfit) we should be focusing on educating those with the poor behaviour. Because that is what this is, bullying.

    Tracy Babin is no less able to do her job based on what she wears. A person is no less of a human being based on their choice of outfit. We should all learn to practice a little less judgement and a little more kindness!

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    Julian 6 Feb 2020 at 5:55 pm #

    A shabby outfit worn by a shabby minister. “the apparel oft proclaims the man”. If you want to be taken seriously when participating in running the country, then do your country justice. Don’t try and use the house of commons as a vehicle for exhibiting your physique, no matter how pulchritudinous you think you are, especially as the taxpayer is funding your wardrobe.

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    Chris Pheric 21 Apr 2020 at 10:38 am #

    The woman looks as stupid as do those men who bend down and reveal their backside, because their trousers/jeans have been cut that way.
    Why would anyone want to look so sloppy?
    Fashion, as anyone with any intelligence knows, is pointless and often ridiculous, and the bare shoulder and bare arse must count, eqaully, as extreme examples of brainlessness.

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