Even if we’d rather not admit it, there’s a lot of stigma around female delegates and what they choose to wear to conferences. In almost every single dress code, female delegates are urged to remain modest in their western business attire. I’m not saying that female delegates should be wearing jeans and t-shirts or their ‘clubbing attire’ to committee sessions (this would be highly inappropriate). The issue is that there are far too many ideas and standards involving dress code that are given for female delegates to abide by. Quite frankly, some of them need to be addressed.
“Female delegates shouldn’t wear high heels.”
Some faculty advisors and staffers may advise delegates to opt for a more comfortable pair of shoes, to avoid looking ridiculous or to avoid feet pain. I see no issue with a delegate wearing a pair of high heels that she can comfortably walk in and feels confident in. While this may not be the highest pair of heels for every delegate, there’s certainly nothing wrong with a delegate dressing to feel confident. In my personal experience (being a 5’3” female), wearing high heels is confidence booster. Rather than having to physically ‘look up’ to other delegates during lobbying, I am able to confidently look delegates in the eye. Using an extra few inches can definitely make the world of a difference in confidence levels for any delegate, and by no means should they be scolded for their choice to wear high heels. That being said, if you struggle to walk in high heels or find them very painful, it would be suggested that you find an alternative pair of shoes (perhaps opting for a lower, chunkier heel). There are plenty of insoles that can be put into heels to make them more comfortable. Having to take your shoes off halfway through committee session because of foot pain is irritable and looks unprofessional. The bottom line? If you have a pair of heels that make you feel confident and comfortable – go for it. If not, keep looking for alternatives.
“Female delegates shouldn’t wear a lot of makeup.”
Many faculty advisors will frown upon “excessive makeup” on female delegates. “Excessive makeup” is usually classified as bright lipstick, dark eye makeup, and a full face of makeup. Personally, I believe that makeup can be a device to boost self-confidence in young women and see no issue with girls wearing whatever makeup they feel comfortable with to a conference. It’s not uncommon to see girls wearing red lipstick or other bold makeup choices in committee session. It’s easy to interpret and associate the more formal western business attire dress code with the need for more makeup, as one would do for formal events. It shouldn’t matter whether or not you go for a more natural look or choose to opt for something a bit bolder, you should wear what you feel comfortable in. A pop of red lipstick can be a huge confidence booster for female delegates and they shouldn’t be scolded for that choice. Makeup is very insignificant in the grand scheme of how girls present themselves at model UN conferences; therefore, these choices shouldn’t be treated as a huge deal.
“Female delegates should always wear modest necklines and hemlines.”
This particular criticism creates perhaps the most controversy and conflict between faculty advisors and delegates. It’s a touchy subject, and there are definitely valid points on both sides of the equation. First of all, a committee session is not a party or a club. Save the tight, short skirts and low-cut tops for the delegate social rather than committee. Most dress codes state Western Business Attire, and some even offer specific suggestions for lengths and what is appropriate. However, this does not mean that female delegates are required to dress to the extremes of modesty and conservative dress. Skirts and dresses are tricky – most dress codes suggest hemlines that hit the knee, but if it’s a couple inches above the knee, it really shouldn’t be considered a huge deal. The same issue with dress shirts arises. Dress shirts should still be buttoned up to an appropriate level. A good rule of thumb when deciding whether or not your conference outfit is appropriate is whether or not you would feel comfortable running into your boss or a potential employer in what you are wearing. Not necessarily in a situation as formal as a job interview, but imagine them running into you outside of work. If your outfit looks like it fits in easier at a night out with friends than at the office, it might be time to revisit your closet. There’s such a fine line between embracing the self-confidence you feel from whatever outfit you choose versus dressing appropriately for the formal nature of a committee session. Let your words and resolutions speak for themselves, not your clothing.