'Nice low necklines?' Time to stop dictating what women should wear

We’re not entirely in agreement with The Free University of Brussels graduation outfit suggestion

Lace high collar top, €88, Debenhams; Cut-out shoulder top, €775, Peter Pilotto, Brown Thomas

It doesn’t matter if you want to leave your house wearing a full on fancy-dress costume, a dress worth more than your rent or just simply a t-shirt and jeans -  what you wear is always your choice. Or at least it should be. And yet, throughout history, women have continually fallen subject to various restrictions and rules dictating what we can or can’t, should or shouldn’t wear. From the Trump’s White House #Dresslikeawoman remarks to the United leggings on planes scandal, society is still bafflingly obsessed with the way women dress for any occasion.

Jumper, €160, MoCo, Brown Thomas; Blouse, €34, Marks and Spencer

It seems the education system isn’t immune to prying eyes and sexist, outdated dress codes. A university in Brussels is facing some serious backlash after an email outlining what female students should wear to the graduation went viral. The Free University of Brussels (ULB) was forced to apologise after an email was sent to medical students outlining the dress code for a graduation ceremony. The email, sent from “a member of the secretariat” outlined that male graduates should wear a suit, while women were advised “From an aesthetic point of view it is better for young women to wear a dress or skirt, and a nice low neckline."

Here we go again, one rule for men and another for women. Of course, dress codes are one thing, and we can’t deny appearance does matters. The standard of dress for a customer-facing employees which can impact on a brand, but aesthetically pleasing compulsory low necklines for female students is quite another matter. No woman should be compelled to wear something unless they want to. It is sexist, uncomfortable and unfair. Woman are always told to monitor our appearance in a way mean are very rarely told to and not a day goes by with being faced with arbitrary rules that seem at times solely enforced just to make getting dressed as difficult as possible for women.

Clothes should be what you wear, style is how you put your outfit together, and with the democratisation of the high-street and accessible fashion, it gives everyone a language to express themselves. Fashion is still one of the most powerful ways to declare to the world your point of view and shouldn’t be curbed or restricted because of age or gender. A top USA magazine published a snapchat article about summer styles you can only get away with in your 20s. Once you’ve reached your 30s, apparently, crazy lip colours, ripped jeans, and revealing tops are out. A thread on Reddit tore into the article, the response is clear, woman are officially over being told what to wear and how to look, the Brussels saga isn’t the first and won’t be the last, every couple of months there are stories about women standing up to gender-biased dress codes, and each of these stipulations and regulations need to be called out for the ridiculousness that they are in order to create change.


Take Susan Sarandon at Cannes serving the naysayers with an elegant low neckline velvet off-the-shoulder dress and completely winning the red carpet. Women are also tired of being told that’s there’s only one definition of what’s stylish, you can go as low or high as you want with your neckline, the aesthetic is entirely personal. As amazing as plunging necklines are, they might not always practical for everyday life, and are a little more work in the underwear department while a high-neck silhouette can emphasise an elegant neck and add a strong frame to your shoulder, but mostly they can sometimes just be a easier and straight-forward choice, but what’s important is it’s your choice and as women we’ll wear whatever the hell we want, thanks.

From funnel neck, polo neck and victorian collars, our round of up of high-neckline

One shoulder top, €455, MGSM, Netaporter
Lace tired maxi dress, €74, Topshop
High neck blouse, €29.95, Zara