Manufacturing the woman leader: how can wardrobes help us to understand leadership identities?

Amanda Heffernan, Pat Thomson

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


    Dress for success. While the very idea of conforming to a singular standard of clothing may be subject to academic critique, it holds sway in professional practice. Trainee teachers are regularly told that learning their practice means learning how to manage their bodies – how to dress, speak, sit and stand as a teacher. The external impression given by a teaching self is said to be essential for gaining respect. The equation of personal dress and professional authority is even more pronounced for school leaders, whose formality of appearance and manner distinguishes them from other school staff. This chapter examines the entanglement of clothing, a manufactured woman leader self and contemporary leadership practices. We bring three possible theoretical lenses to our exploration of leadership, identity and wardrobes. Through the analysis of survey data, we argue that the performance and performativity of women’s leadership is manifest through their wardrobe work. The normative everyday a-sexual and quasi-corporate self is epitomised in “the blazer”; this is often experienced by women as a costumed identity that they remove at weekends and on holidays. We suggest, however, that the performative subjectivity of the job remains long after the suit jacket has been put away.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationTheorising Identity and Subjectivity in Educational Leadership Research
    EditorsRichard Niesche, Amanda Heffernan
    Place of PublicationAbingdon UK
    Number of pages15
    ISBN (Electronic)9780429032158
    ISBN (Print)9780367145293
    Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Publication series

    NameCritical Studies in Educational Leadership, Management, and Administration


    • Educational leadership
    • leader identity
    • gender
    • fashion
    • sociology

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