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The GEM Debate: Should Women In The Workplace HAVE To Wear Make Up?

woman makeup

Wow – check out the translucent powder dust up going on across the pond!

An employee of the world famous Harrods department store claims she was “driven from her job” because she refused to adhere to the company’s policy, insisting all female employees wear make-up while at work.

24-year-old Melanie Stark worked at the store for several years and in that time received several compliments on her work. During her employment Melanie wore make-up on and off, in violation of Harrods two-page dress code for women. So apparently a manager saw her, put the hammer down and sent her home. When Melanie returned, along with reassigning her to the stockroom, Harrods offered to give Stark a few make-up lessons so she could better adhere to their official policy. But does a store have the right to demand its employees wear make-up?

Here’s my issue with dear, sweet, young and incredibly naïve Melanie. She needs a hearty dose of reality and I don’t mean the crap that passes for TV entertainment either.

It’s THEIR store. These are their rules, no matter how arcane they may be. Melanie works for Harrods and in exchange for that stuff they call, oh crap what’s the name, oh yeah, MONEY, she has to play by their rules. She knew what they were about when she signed the employment papers and I’m sure Melanie walked by a bunch of women on her way to HR.  If anyone should be pissed it should be Harrods because Melanie’s the one who pulled a bait and switch, promising to adhere to their rules and now bitching because she got caught not following through.

Is this fair? Maybe not, but neither was demanding I wear a short skirt and a polo shirt with large red and white stripes and be nice to people who ran me ragged, complained about their food and then stiffed me on the tip, back in my restaurant days. See, it’s called a UNIFORM and though androgynous red and white stripes made me look more flat chested than I already was, complaining about it would have landed me a one way ticket to the unemployment line.

Is demanding that women wear make-up sexist? Maybe. Then get some other women together and file a class action lawsuit. But personally I think an employer has a right to dictate how they want their employees to look.

No, the only thing that drove Melanie out of her job, was the vehicle she arrived there in!

Okay that’s how I feel; I want to hear from you. Should a store be able to demand its employees wear make-up? Is that just a part of the uniform? Does Melanie have a case or does she need a clue? Let’s debate, fire away!


  1. m.e. johnson

    July 7, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Oh you are SOOO right, Rene! There are a lot of people who feel the world should cater to them. She said she doesn’t need ‘improvement’. Have you seen her? But irregardless of that, stores have uniforms and in this case makeup is part of a uniform. Would she wear raggedy jeans to Harrod’s because she “should be able to wear what SHE wants”? Who the hell does she think she is? Grrrrrr

  2. Wanda Reese

    July 7, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Depends on the job. If your employer’s product is cosmetics and you’re on the sales floor, then you need to do what’s required to sell the product. The “improvement” angle isn’t relevant.

  3. Will Jones

    July 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    I think employers should be able to say which women should HAVE to wear makeup. I work with a lady that looks like home-made sin in the face… like somebody tied two ugly sticks together and made some ugly nunchucks and then beat in the face with them. Now, either she should have to wear make-up or I should get paid visual hazard pay to look at her. Not that I’m a prize, but, damn.
    I also feel that if you’re ugly enough for it to be considered a disability , than the government should pay for your makeup. But that’s just my opinion.

  4. Jennifer

    July 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    At first I disagreed with you Rene. Now I don’t but since I am probably the only person I know of that doesn’t wear make up on a regular basis, I probably wouldn’t agree with the policy and thereby not take the job in the first place … unless of course I was a single, divorced and unemployed mother with three kids … like I am right now and this was the only job that was a good match, I might just suck it up for the sake of being able to support myself and my kids.

    I do agree with Wanda – if you’re working on the floor in the cosmetics department, I would think it’s not too much to ask … and if it’s in the employee handbook, then the company has covered themselves. If you don’t like it, don’t work there.

  5. Rene Syler

    July 7, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    @Jennifer: Exactly! Look, they have every right to demand employees look a certain, uniform way. If they don’t like it, they can find work elsewhere. This is fishy and smells like it too!

  6. Rene Syler

    July 7, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    @Will: You are wrong for that. Terribly wrong.. funny but wrong.. LOL

  7. juli

    July 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Good thing I work for myself, because I absolutely hate to wear make-up. I get your point though Rene. If you sign up knowing the rules, then you had better follow them or look for something else to make a living at.

  8. Doyle

    July 7, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    I disagree w requiring makeup. I can understand a uniform, but makeup? If that is required could business require employees to be fit and body fat of under 15%?

  9. m.e. johnson

    July 7, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    Doyle: Army requires a haircut. Do you think someone should say no to that or just not join the army?

  10. jackie

    July 7, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    is it 1962? wow those Harrod’s folks seem to be stuck in a time warp. i agree 100% that if you signed on the dotted line you know what you’re getting yourself in to. on a personal note, as a professional makeup artist, i do wish some people would NOT wear makeup. the powder-cake face, dark lip liner, Tammy Faye lashes, etc are far worse than no makeup. i’m just sayin’…..

  11. Bill Mah

    July 7, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    I didn’t even know policies can be set by employers regarding the female staff to have to wear makeup! From most employers it would be a dress code a.k.a. uniform policy, but wearing makeup I had no idea. Well if the employer has that makeup policy in their dress code, then the employee should follow along with the rules. If they don’t like that, then just find another job plain and simple.

  12. Deanna

    July 9, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    I am curious …. did she wear make up when she interviewed fro the position?

  13. Tiffany

    July 10, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    I can’t argue the fact that she should have known what would happen if she didn’t wear makeup. I’m sure they gave her an employee handbook when she got hired.

    However, I don’t think it’s right that women be required to wear makeup. I also don’t think that women should be required to wear skirts (rather than have an option for nice slacks). If you won’t require men to do it, how can you require it of women? Now, I understand differing requirements to accommodate the differences in men and women’s styles, but there are men out there with far less attractive faces than plenty of women that I know. Why aren’t they being made to cake it on to cover up their (perceived) imperfections?

    Now, if you are working at the makeup counter selling cosmetics & doing free makeovers, then I could understand it. You’d obviously know that makeup was just a part of your job. But as a general rule? No way.

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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