Manufacturing the Woman Leader: How Can Wardrobes Help Us to Understand Leadership Identities?

Amanda Heffernan, Pat Thomson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

34 Downloads (Pure)


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
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780429032158
ISBN (Print)9780367145293, 9781032173146
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2020

Publication series

NameCritical Studies in Educational Leadership, Management and Administration


Dive into the research topics of 'Manufacturing the Woman Leader: How Can Wardrobes Help Us to Understand Leadership Identities?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this