XX in Tech

Are You a Woman in Tech Who Likes Fashion? Well, Get Ready to Justify It

In the land of hoodies, you must explain yourself and your Prada.
 Are You a Woman in Tech Who Likes Fashion? Well, Get Ready to Justify It

Before you buy that bag, consider how you’re going to explain it at the office! (Photo: flickr.com/megleo)

Many of the tech-talking ladies of Silicon Valley, like so many women with discretionary income to burn, love fashion. Only, if this New York Times piece–dubbed “Breaking Tech’s Fashion Taboo”–is any indication, they’re not allowed to just enjoy a thing that they like. No, they must justify it.

Let us start by trotting out a truth apparently universally acknowledged, which is that style is suspect among denizens of the West Coast tech scene (or at least style that doesn’t involve the latest fashion in socks):

But in a place where the most highly prized style is to appear to ignore style altogether and the hottest accessory is the newest phone, a growing group of women is bucking convention not only by being women in a male-dominated industry, but also by unabashedly embracing fashion.

This means that fashion requires some sort of explanation, missy. Newly minted Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer explains her devotion in terms of engineering:

“Designing software and products isn’t all that different from the design of clothes,” Ms. Mayer, 37, the new chief executive of Yahoo, said in an interview last February. She once paid $60,000 at an auction for lunch with Oscar de la Renta. “Like components of software,” she said, “fashion designers learned how to do this shoulder, put pleats on the skirt that way.”

Leilia Janah, founder and CEO of Samasource, feels the need to tie it to a larger design philosophy:

“Fashion is expressing my aesthetic sense just as much as our Web site is.”

Accel Partners investor Theresia Gouw Ranzetta makes dressing sharp sound like some kind of negotiation tactic:

“When it’s a sea of young guys in jeans and hoodies, and the V.C.’s are in their khakis and button-down uniform, it’s kind of a benefit to be different.”

If Larry Ellison doesn’t have to justify buying Lanai, women in tech ought to be able to wear whatever they damn well please.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com