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Dress Codes That Require Makeup

Is Requiring Makeup at Work Sexist?

At 24 years old, Brit Melanie Stark embraces her youthful complexion by forgoing makeup. Unfortunately for her, the British department store she worked at has a two-page ladies' dress code that requires makeup far beyond a little mascara and lip gloss. Due to her refusal to ditch her natural look, Melanie was sent home twice from work, offered a makeup tutorial, and eventually, she claims, forced to quit.

The Harrods employee handbook says female workers must wear "full make-up at all times: base, blusher, full eyes (not too heavy), lipstick, lip liner and gloss are worn at all times and maintained discreetly." Since service employees like Melanie come face to face with the public, Harrods might defend its face regulations as furthering a glamorous image. And it isn't the only retail store to have a controversial dress code including makeup regulations. Across the pond, American Apparel has dictates on makeup, but it takes the opposite stance, requiring a natural look. At American Apparel there must be no expressive eye shadow, blush, or lip gloss, no eye liner, and no heavy makeup in general.

In addition to requiring full makeup, Harrods's female dress code also mandates earrings (one in each ear) and bans visible tattoos. How does this compare to the rules for Harrods's male employees? Men cannot have sideburns longer than midear nor wider than one inch. Piercings and visible tattoos are banned, and deodorant is explicitly required for the gentlemen. Comparing the men's rules to the extensive makeup rules for women, do you think Harrods's dress code unfairly regulates the appearance of its female employees vs. the men?

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Join The Conversation
Bettye-Wayne Bettye-Wayne 6 years
I've heard the name Harrods before... their website looks nice. $100-$300 for a pair of jeans, so I think that puts them above JCPenney but below Saks. Business is what I think too. In fact most places I've worked frown on a full face of makeup. I can't even imagine what my last couple bosses would have said if I showed up with full eyes and lipliner on.
mixedpie mixedpie 6 years
I don't think it's sexist and unbalanced since there are appearance restrictions for men, BUT I don't like the idea of a strict dress code beyond "nice" unless a company is explicitly TRYING to emulate a certain look (like don't wear a dress and pumps working at a hardware store, and dress nicely for working at a department store, etc). Being anal about certain things (like you MUST wear foundation, no exceptions... personally, I sweat that off in 10 minutes usually because my skin happens to hate it, or we WILL measure your sideburns!) is a bit too much, and I'm not sure how many people ACTUALLY care about it.
danakscully64 danakscully64 6 years
A monthly makeup bonus could be a compromise. Even wearing earrings for 2 hours makes my ears swell, burn, and get infected. The nickle-free earrings cause irritation as well. The only thing I haven't tried is Platinum and if the company wanted to provide those, I would be happy to accept :P I think Hooters is the exception to the rule. Being a Hooters girl is partially being a model and if you don't fit the mold they're going for, I can understand why you wouldn't be hired for the job. Kinda like understanding why they wouldn't hire a 5'4 stick guy to be a bouncer. People who sue Hooters are often just sue happy and looking for money. For example, a guy who sued for not hiring him. I've never even heard of Harrods, is it something known for their employees looking a certain way? When I think of department stores here in the States, I think of "business" looking employees, but makeup isn't my first thought.
Bettye-Wayne Bettye-Wayne 6 years
Agreed about the outdated part Venus. I have worked places where light makeup is encouraged, and I did wear it then, but this it ridiculous. I'm the same way Dana with earrings, I can wear them for a few hours on special occasions, but there is now way I could wear them day after day. Maybe they should give women a monthly makeup bonus to even it out. With the Hooters dress code, I heard once that some obese woman applied there and was denied due to her weight. She sued and won- but- she actually had to work at Hooters in the skin tight skimpy outfit for two weeks.
Venus1 Venus1 6 years
Forgive the follow up but I think this is another important point. The actual make up requirements are not only very strict they are equally dated and out of touch with make up worn in today's society.
danakscully64 danakscully64 6 years
I normally side with the companies because often the dress code is laid out before the job is accepted, but I think this is wrong. It's forcing women to spend more money than their male coworkers and makeup usually isn't cheap. Forcing earrings is wrong too, as I myself can't even wear them because of severe metal allergies. While I do understand how important appearance is to a company, this sounds over the top. Some people genuinely look better without makeup. I know Hooters has pretty strict rules on appearance, but that's to be expected at a restaurant where men come just to see the women.
stephley stephley 6 years
A dress code is a dress code, but as a consumer I believe in substance over style and I won’t support companies that waste energy on rules like this. I'll take my money elsewhere. Hair maintenance issues apply to both sexes, make up does not.
testadura67 testadura67 6 years
I think Melanie can take heart that she doesn't have to maintain her beard and mustache like I'm sure the men are required to do with their dress code, and she only has to adhere to the make up in the women's dress code. If she doesn't like it, she can work somewhere else. That simple.
Bettye-Wayne Bettye-Wayne 6 years
This is so sexist it makes my blood boil. I am 100% proud of my make-up free look, the idea of someone telling me my face isn't pretty enough to be seen unless I cover it up is ludicrous.
jazzytummy jazzytummy 6 years
A dress code is a dress code. If people don't like it, they don't have to work at a high end department store like Harrods. I personally wouldn't like to wear pancake makeup to work everyday, but if that is the code and I really want to work there, so be it. I can assure you there will be plenty of other people who will be there to take her job when she protests having to put on more makeup than she is used to.
Venus1 Venus1 6 years
For starters I would not go to work without makeup. But to enforce it? In my view this is so wrong.
eastcoastkate eastcoastkate 6 years
I worked at Abercrombie & Fitch in high school, and they require the opposite- minimal makeup, no heavy eyeliner, no dark nail polish- it used to drive me crazy that they wanted us all to look like clones! Makeup is about accentuating your natural beauty to the level you are comfortable with, and whether that is no make up or a full face, it should be your decision as long as you look professional.
lizlee89 lizlee89 6 years
I have no problem with strict dress and grooming codes being enforced by businesses in order to represent their company. Requiring makeup, though, is unnecessary and, although I personally don't like the idea of men wearing makeup, completely sexist - why would you require one gender to do so but not the other? It's just seems like a dumb policy...
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