Women in Ties

posted in: Style advice | 15

I don’t watch much TV, but politics in the UK got interesting recently and I have been tuning into Newsnight, and similar programmes.  I saw Allegra Stratton, the political editor of Newsnight, wearing a tie. This she did at exactly the point when one of her competitors Robert Peston, the political editor of ITV, rails against them.

Peston claims he wears “an inner cravat” but can’t stand ties. Allegra says she “needed a bit of help tying it”. Really? I wore one for school for years and have no trouble tying one, on myself or on a man.

Manchester school girls in uniform ties
Manchester school girls in uniform ties

And although Allegra looked a bit messy with her soft collared shirt, untrimmed hair and bulky tie, I rather liked the look. It matched her “ballsy” personality.

I have a theory – that just as men are giving up on ties (and at my workplace no-tie is the norm, even for suit-and-shirt wearers) women are taking them up. Or at least having a go. This experiment by another competent woman journalist is less successful, but perhaps it has potential – maybe she could have chosen a more fitted waist coat and a smarter shirt to wear with the casual red tie. I don’t think the rolled and tabbed sleeves are quite right either. She looks like she has put on something from the “Oliver!” dressing up box.

Emily Maitlis in tie
Emily Maitlis

Women in the public eye – as models and film stars – seem to have carried off the look superbly. But the message is always interesting. Is the idea to make the woman look more feminine than ever? Are women “sexier” when their sexuality is suppressed and hidden, rather than completely obvious (as Playboy has recently discovered)? Or is this an androgynous look that has universal appeal?

I would like to have a go with a tie myself, but probably won’t. The bow tie appeals more as it remains rather feminine. I like the idea of breaking the rules. I am angry that men can’t wear skirts, or women ties.  I am sorry to say that the last time I tried on a tie to go out in (aged 14 or 15) my father said “You look like a Lesbian”. At the time this bothered me, and I took it off.

What about you? Would you wear a tie?



15 Responses

  1. SewRuth

    Like Ruthie, I often tie a scarf in a tie knot to wear. It’s softer and wider than a tie and covers the strain on the shirt’s buttons!

    I like the Oliver Twist look though.

  2. Sam

    I love menswear on women, trouser suits and waistcoats but I’m never sure about women in ties. I think they can look amazing if the outfit is spot on, but almost impossible to get spot on – if you know what I mean. Emily Maitlis in the photo above looks awful, far too scruffy. I think you have to do it in a super smart way if you’re going to do it at all.

  3. Jay

    Ties pop up in fashion every now and then. School uniform has put me off the man’s tie look. I’m happy about the distinction between menswear and womenswear. They get the boring grey stuff as a backdrop to our prettier fashions. The Dad comment was typical of that era – I won’t repeat what mine said about my going out with someone wearing a shirt in pale pink, about the colour of Robert Peston’s!

  4. Jane

    I think I’m with Jay – wearing a tie to school for years has put me off them for ever. I could still tie one though – and I can tie a proper bow tie!

  5. patsijean

    I wore a tie in the 1960’s. After watching 8 seasons of the Murdock Mysteries, I realize that women wore ties in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Many male friends and accquaintences wear kilts on fan convention weekends and many swear by how comfortable they are.

  6. mrsmole

    Sometimes when I see a woman wearing a tie, it look so costumey and like they are trying too hard to make a statement. It was refreshing to see Nehru jackets in style back in the day when even men could ditch wearing ties.

  7. neucarol

    Good article. The gender issue of Ties repeats periodically but I find it a non-issue.
    Do women need to wear a tie to be powerful? More like men? Really???

  8. cressid

    I only had to wear a tie for primary school, so I think that bit of muscle memory has probably evaporated, a bit like Allegra Stratton’s experience. But I’m still unsure about women wearing ties; I live in Oxford, and pick the right time of year in the run up to exams and at 8.30 in the morning, the High Street is full of men in white tie (yup – honestly!) and gown (called ‘subfusc’ in institutional parlance) and women in bastardized versions of this garb, i.e. black skirt/trous, white button up shirt – and a pathetic piece of black ribbon tied round the neck in a bow. I always feel it makes women look they are out of place, rather than working in a place by right (not under sufferance). Ties in general feel a bit like adopting male garb as a claim to accessing a formal male space – as pseudo-men. I rather like the fact that men are shedding ties – although as Pesto proves – there is such a thing as too much of a plunging neckline for men and women!

    As for why students wear this get up, it’s compulsory for taking exams (students) and starting exams (staff). Students get asked periodically if they want to get rid of it (usually by hopeful staff with better things to do with their day than turn up in fancy dress to start an exam), but always seem to vote it back in, as they did this summer.

  9. Lynn Mally

    I was just thinking about the phenomenon of women wearing ties at the beginning of the twentieth century. Then the message was definitely “we belong in the public space and don’t mess with us.” Now I’m thinking that ties for women are a way to add color near the face without the fussiness or intricacy of a scarf. And they do still have a little “don’t mess with us” appeal.

  10. Susie

    I like the look, but wouldn’t be comfortable wearing myself, only because I don’t like the feel of most button-up shirts, or having something taut at the high neckline. Purely physical comfort. The second lady does look like she is wearing a costume, but some can pull it off nicely.

  11. Amanda

    IDK, for me a woman wearing a tie smacks of the androgynous look of the 1980’s and I’m not personally a fan of it. If I am going to incorporate masculine elements into my dress (and I do, frequently), I prefer a tailored jacket or trouser, or something with military influence. I love a garment that’s inspired by menswear but tailored for a woman’s body – somehow it enhances a woman’s femininity. With a tie, it’s like she’s playing dress-up, rather than wearing something uniquely for her.

  12. Mary

    I was such a Diane Keaton fan that in my 1980 high school yearbook you can see me wearing a tie AND a vest. This was in a high school in California where surf culture ruled. I thought I looked amazing and sloughed off the less than admiring comments from my classmates. Every once in a while I will don a tie loosely tied over a Brooks Brothers shirt and feel very powerful. I think it has something to do with adopting the white male power norm look.

  13. Lesley

    I’ve just taken delivery of #1 son’s kilt – so he’s all over the skirt thing as is hubby when he wears his. I have a very interesting male friend who regularly wears a sarong and thinks nothing of it, but he’s spent a lot of time in Fiji I suppose. I like ties on women, but on me it feels abit costumey. Like Mary I am a big Keaton fan and love androgyny. Though as I age I worry it will come soon enough!

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