“Katie’s on the search for practical and feminine workwear for female farmers, in a sea of shapeless nylon overalls and clumpy steelies.”
I have already touched upon this issue in an earlier tweet (@femalefarmeruk) but I feel that it touched a nerve with so many female farmers out there that it really deserved some world wide web attention. Now I know it is not a life or death situation but what a lack of female farming workwear does do, is make female farmers still feel slightly unwelcome in what is commonly known to be a male dominated industry. In 2017 are we really saying, yes women are welcome but you have to dress in male clothing if you want to take part! Maybe I have been watching too many ‘Mad Men’ episodes or maybe I am on to something here.
It also seems that it’s not just female farmers that face this issue, it is an issue across the entire workwear industry! Mechanics, decorators, factory workers, doctors, plasterers, chefs – it is evident that there are women rolling up to work in clumpy, unforgiving, shape-less, often hideous workwear across the nation. In fact, I think I would be safe to say it is a global concern!
Does this woman really look impressed with her “workwear”? She’s not even smiling. If anything she looks furious and she hasn’t even had to buy male workwear and try to pull it off by ordering an ‘XS’! I do like the enthusiasm with the hand on the hip however, top marks ‘Zuomn’ for making her womanly figure totally disappear in your grey nylon.
Now the image of a female farmer in many non-farming folks’ minds is that of a busty blonde wearing a red check shirt tied under the bust, with daisy duke shorts, cowboy boots, maybe a straw hat and heck why wouldn’t she be chewing on a head of wheat? A few images just for fun… ok then…
Well newsflash, that is totally unrealistic! Sorry, I know female farmer fantasies across the nation have been destroyed but really?! Bare legs amongst livestock, hair down when there’s the chance of flying sheep crap, and there certainly are not enough pockets in those hot pants?! Now while I would love to look like just one of those women, I never will and farming may partly be to blame (although genetics, laziness and greed are probably the biggest culprits).
My daily farm ‘get-up’ is extremely weather dependent, I daren’t use the word ‘seasonal’ as August has proven that in one month a heatwave, flood, thunderstorm and hailstorm can all make an appearance! Regardless of the British weather, I always have my hair scraped back, largely to remain faeces free, and if I am in with any heavy livestock my heavy, manly, extremely un-sexy steel toe capped boots regularly make an appearance. I will brave shorts in hot weather, though after stinging nettles, pig mouths, mosquitos, goat feet and barbed wire have all embraced my skin I often rather wish I hadn’t. And dare I mention the dreaded sweaty welly rub around your calf!
My go to winter wear and typical look for Autumn-Winter 2016-17 were these rather dashing thermal coveralls made by ‘No Bull’ that I purchased from ‘Mole Valley’. They are amazing and during the nightly cade lamb feeds were often worn 24-7, I recommend them to everyone and I will honestly shed a tear the day I have to trade these bad boys in for something new.
Practical – certainly, comfy – definitely, warm – ohhh yes! However, womanly, shapely, something you’d wear in front of anyone other than your mum – errrrr no!
I do also have a pair of Dickies Redhawk women coveralls that I purchased from Screwfix. I think they are quite possibly the only pair of specifically made women’s overalls on the market, as nearly every female farmer I see has them and they are the only ones I have ever come across online. They actually fit really well, with a little nip in at the waist, they are pretty flattering (as flattering as overalls can be) and come in normal women’s sizes – hooray! The only down side is they are a little thin, not waterproof and my gosh it is annoying when you need to pee. Stripping down to your undergarments in an outdoor toilet is certainly not for the faint hearted.
Now my ultimate favourite workwear staple are my trusty bibs and braces! Also known as ‘bib ‘n’ braces’ or ‘work dungarees’. Though once again you will really struggle to find any made for women. Unless hot pink, slightly ghastly, flimsy versions from America tickle your fancy, you’ll have to stick to a design made for men. Which is exactly what I did. Mine were nice and cheap at less than £20 each and I got them from Goldstar Workwear, who do a full range of male workwear for a really reasonable price. They even have a ladies and junior section but you won’t find any farm appropriate attire there, it’s just tunics and fleeces. Unfortunately they do nothing for your figure, are too big in pretty much every area and are not sold in sizes smaller than a ‘S’, which in women come up at around a size 12-14. They even have a fly-zip so men can avoid the stripping down to your drawers situation, previously mentioned, that us women can only dream about. Still I love them so and they are super hard-wearing, with enough pockets to fulfil any farmers requirements!
And this is where I experience an internal conflict, should workwear be womanly, should it make you feel sexy, or is it just there to be practical and serve a purpose?
Do men wear overalls and think yes this fits well and I feel manly in it or are they also wondering how workwear could be a little more desirable?
Am I asking too much? Surely with the increase of women working in the industry there is now, more than ever, a demand for practical, fashionable, dare I say it ‘womanly’ workwear? (Designers please take note – it doesn’t have to be hot pink to be feminine!)
Have I possibly given away some multi-million pound idea for a niche in the market? Possibly, but I want, heck NEED, some better alternatives when shopping for farm appropriate clothing and denim hot pants are just not going to cut it!