Gray Area

By Adrienne R.

To some, “GPS” means global positioning system.

To American businesswomen, GPS has come to mean Gray Pant Suit.

I was at a conference of government researchers recently, and about 30 percent of the attendees were women.

There were so many women in GPSs I nearly asked at the desk if there were a vendor somewhere giving them away for free.

I know the practicality of GPSs is hard to argue.

The color is safe any month of the year.

They are comfortable (usually) and comfort is important to women who travel and put in long days of meetings, presentations, banquets, media events, etc.

Most of all, GPSs are businesslike and professional, the look that most women agree is essential to be taken seriously in the business world.

Yet the number of women wearing them is starting to make us look like the graduating class at West Point.

There is a theory that suggests to succeed in the business world, you have to distinguish yourself from the pack.

One would like to think that a woman can distinguish herself and be recognized through her hard work, competence and results, but we all know that isn’t always the case.

So, can the way we dress help distinguish us, or is it better to wear a GPS, blend in with everybody else, and walk around in female equivalent of the navy blue pinstripe men still wear?

I think there is a middle ground.

Women cannot go to a conference wearing halter tops and sundresses.

But a lightweight sweater and conservative skirt seems like a pretty good option to me.

And nice skirted suits seem a great tradeoff, too.

For those who insist on clinging to the GPS I hope they will consider at least dressing it up – a small maroon scarf, a nice leather handbag and shoes, or a pretty gold necklace can all make a difference.

It’s one thing for an outfit to be considered a “standard,” the way LBDs are for occasions.

But the GPS is looking less and less to me like that kind of standard and more and more like a flag of surrender.

Designers—I hope you are reading this.

Maybe “conference wear” is a small niche – like a subset of office wear—that you haven’t fully explored.

Can you help us out with some more options?

Or should we leave it a gray area?

Photo Credit: Tyler's New Couture