Vilified Attire

“Does the way we look and dress really effect the way we work? I don’t think so! So why then does a woman have to accept lower wages when she does the same role as her male colleague. Why then does someone have to get victimised for having a bright personality that shows in their hair and tattoos. Time for a little respect, I think.”

I wrote this story for the following prompt.
Sadje’s What Do You See – picture above by Sean Robertson
FOWC with Fandango  — Bridge
Your Daily Word — Finicky
Pensitivity’s three things challenge — Attire – Desk – Hiding

Vilified Attire

Dress code — the appropriate, chosen attire an employee must wear at work.

Penny spent her weekdays as an office clerk. Her employer had set a simple uniform of black and white. An employee could wear black trousers or a skirt, and anything white like blouses and shirts as long as it was tidy. There were no rules pertaining to hairstyles or jewellery again so long as they were tidy.

This was one of the reasons Penny liked working here. She was the only clerk who couldn’t get away with hiding at her desk. Her marshmallow-pink shoulder-length hair stood out like a pink shirt at a funeral.

Everybody appreciated the bold, confident style. They even said it looked nice.

Then general manager Devin Sech entered the offices with a stern man at his shoulder.

“Somethings wrong I can feel it,” whispered Marsha in the next office cubicle.

“Without a doubt,” Penny raised her eyebrows.

“Ladies and gentlemen, your attention for a moment please.” Devin began loudly. “We’ve been a great team for seven years. Of all the companies offices, ours has always been most successful. We made and closed more deals than most of the others combined. That’s—”

“Does that mean the owners are finally giving us a pay rise!”

Penny craned her neck over the cubicles to see who had called out. She hid a smile and sat again.

“No, Kirsty.” Devin gave her a quiet look. “As of this moment, I’m no longer the general manager of this office. I have to go to the Barnsley offices and take over the operations there.”

“Boo! Let somebody else take over there,” Marsha put in.

“Yeah, sod Barnsley we need you,” Penny added.  

“Thank you, ladies. The decision has been made and it is final. This is your new general manager, Felix Smith. I want you to work as hard for him as you always have me.”

“Good morning, ladies and gentleman …” Felix began – his eyes lingering on Penny for too long.

Penny felt her heart sink. She just knew Felix was going to prove to be a finicky git and that she’d hate him.

The following morning, she arrived at her desk. Everybody was working with an unusual, heavy glumness about them. Penny logged into her terminal and navigated to the internal email box as she did every morning. One of those emails would always include the day’s work assignments. The first day was from new manager Felix Smith. It simply read:

Good Morning, Penny
Please come to my office the moment you get this.

Regards Felix.

Penny rose to her feet and smoothed down her silk-white camo vest and black pleated skirt. Taking a deep breath she walked down the aisle of cubicles.

“Alright, Penny?” asked Kirsty.

“No, I don’t think so.” Penny raised her eyebrows so high they disappeared into her pink hair for a moment. With that she made a right turn and knocked on the general manager’s office door.

“You may enter.”

Penny gulped down her fear and pushed through the door. At first glance, she could see a huge change. Devin had always populated the office with comical knickknacks matching his sense of humour and creating a warm friendly atmosphere. Under the thumb of Felix, it resembled a stone-cold doctor’s office.

“Ahh, Penny do come in and take a seat.”

Penny perched on the edge of the black leather seat without a word.

Felix peered at her over his glasses.

Penny felt like she was under the examination of an angry owl. The stony silence in the room filled her with an anxiety she’d never felt before.

“It’s come to my attention that Devin was a bit lackadaisical with the rules. He —”

Penny scowled, “Rubbish! He kept a tight ship and we all worked extremely hard for him and got great results for this office!”

“Indeed. However, he allowed things that I simply will not.”

“Such as?”

Felix climbed to his feet showing off his expensive black Italian suit. Strutting around the desk he came to a stop in front of her. “Your appearance is simply not acceptable in a professional business.”

“I beg your pardon!” Penny jumped to her feet. Her heart pounding in her chest.

“Sit down, Penny.”

Penny refused, “My appearance has been perfectly acceptable this last seven years. It does not have anything to do with you. It does not and will not affect my ability to work.”

“You look like the assistant to a circus clown. When you arrive at work tomorrow morning, I expect you to have a regular hair colour and smaller earrings. Oh, and wear a blouse; you’re showing off way too much flesh.” Felix demanded his eyes locked on hers.

“Want me to salute and kiss your arse when I walk in the door too?” Penny took a step back but refused to show her fear.

“Don’t be insubordinate with me. Disobey my orders and I will fire you tomorrow morning.”

“I —”

“You will go home now and address the issues I’ve talked about. See you at nine in the morning. Dismissed.” Felix pointed to the door.

Penny opened her mouth to speak but realised it would do no good. Settling for her angriest scowl, she stalked out of the office and slammed the door behind her.

“Ooh, that didn’t go well then?” Kirsty said.

“Horse’s arse!” Penny grabbed her handbag and left the office without another word

That night was the most sleepless Penny had suffered in years. Even still, when she got up to go to work, she was ready. Freshly dyed, her perfectly preened pink hair, looked brighter and shinier than ever.

Penny strolled into the offices at five-to-nine.

Felix was waiting. His face a picture of horror upon seeing her into the room.

“Morning, boss,” Penny gave a cheeky salute. “You put me behind yesterday. I’ll soon catch us up,”

“How dare you defy me!” Felix’s face flushed scarlet.

Penny removed a sheaf of paper from her handbag and slammed it on a desk in front of him, “Simple, fire me if you like. By the letter of the law, I will sue you for sexual harassment and unfair dismissal!”

“Ooh, this’ll be fun,” Marsha said.

“I’ve never known anybody to be so insubordinate. I’m merely upholding the companies —”

“Enough! Within the paperwork, you will see the company’s rules and regulations in which I signed when I started working here. Nowhere does it state that my choice of attire or appearance is unacceptable. Your move — I have a solicitor on speed dial. Do you?” Penny folded her arms and fell silent.

Felix appeared ready to explode. “Penny Earl, you’re fired!”

“Oh my!” Kirsty gasped amid a chorus of shocked sounds from the cowering clerks.

“Fine. See you in court then!” Penny cleared out her desk are left without another word.

Over the next few day’s the story of her dismissal spread around the city and featured in the local newspapers. The citizens came out in protest. Everybody hung on every report about the pending court case.

Local graffiti artists even created murals depicting Penny and her shining pink hair on many of the city’s walls. Each mural uniting the city in her defence against Felix and his vile ways towards his employees.

Penny had to cross a bridge to reach the courthouse on the day of the hearing. Here she came to the rear walls of the court buildings. One of them had been painted black. Upon the dark surface was her likeness bright, pink and defiant.

“Screw you, Felix! Pink hair will live forever,” Penny smiled at her graffiti effigy and walked around the front of the courts. To her surprise at least four hundred protesters with pink hair awaited her. In the front line, Kirsty and Marsha.

“Hey, girls. Felix will be furious if he sees you,” Penny said over the shouts of protestors.

“He fired us for going on strike in your honour,” Marsha said.

“Arsehole!” Penny hugged them both. “Time for payback!”

“Good luck!”

Penny smiled as she entered the courthouse. Her case lasted three hours. To her surprise, the last person to give evidence was the former general manager, Devin. He stated quite clearly that Penny’s appearance had never been an issue and never contravened the company’s rules.

Penny left the building with the gavel still ringing in her ears.

“Penny! Penny! Penny! Pink hair is fine! Pink hair is legal! Fire Felix!” yelled the protestors.

“Ladies and Gentleman! I’m pleased to announce that I won the court case. Felix has been fired and pink hair is forever!”

Penny would remember the roars of delight from the crowd the rest of her life. Smiling now, she looked around the office. Taking in the fun movie posters on the wall. She adored the cheeky pink-haired woman statue mooning a manager on the desk too.

Her reverie was broken by a knock on the door.

“Come in!” she called.

“Good afternoon, Penny. We have the owner of the Devereux classic car company on line four. I believe he’s ready to sign a lucrative deal. He requires to speak to the general manager first,” Kirsty said smiling.

“Fantastic! Thank you for your hard work, Kirsty. I’ll take his call, now,”

The End

Thanks for reading my friends.

There’s more in the Poetry CornerPoetry Nook, and the Short Story Collection

Have a great day!

16 thoughts on “Vilified Attire

Add yours

  1. Hooray for Penny! Back in the distant day when I started work, ladies were expected to wear skirts not trousers. That rule was relaxed, but I remember on being appointed to a customer facing job, we were told not to dye our hair any ‘outlandish’ colours! Perhaps that’s why I do now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, Chris.
      Yup, I worked in places where the ladies were always being forced into skirts and made to change their hair colour and jewellery all the time. Meanwhile the men got away with wearing ear stretchers and scruffy hair. Always made me so annoyed with management.

      It still goes on and it really needs to stop.

      Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved the way you spun this tale. The corporate world has always had slightly different rules when it comes to men and women. Did that ending suggest that Penny had become the General Manager. I enjoyed your story but that part about an office clerk becoming the General Manager overnight seemed a little too outlandish.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes the gender gap needs to disappear. I’m all for women empowerment and we do need women in the higher management positions. But nevertheless, it’s a long way to go from a clerk to a general manager. That’s why I can’t quite accept that as a possibility even as a part of the settlement.
        You’re very welcome, Mason. I hope you have a great day

        Liked by 1 person

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