Women are talking about their 'subway shirts' to avoid harassment on the Tube
Skirt, crop top, thigh high boots.
This is the outfit she’ll wear at the club, but this isn’t the outfit you might see on the Tube as she travels to and from the night out.
A jacket to cover cleavage, tights to conceal legs, and perhaps a change of shoes that might be easier to run in: these are all alterations women routinely make to feel safer. And now, there’s a term for it.
New Yorkers have been sharing their ‘subway shirts’ – a loose jacket or other modification to cover a hot look – and it’s resonated with women internationally.
Not that clothes should dictate how you should be treated.
Fashion influencer Sophie Milner spotted the New York trend and brought it into context for Brits watching.
She wrote on Instagram: ‘I’ve done this for so long it’s become a subconscious part of getting dressed – so I’m glad it’s being talked about!
‘Whether it’s changing out of over the knee boots into trainers, throwing a large trench over the top, putting leggings on under a sheer skirt, or an oversized sweater’ – all before changing back into the main outfit in the venue toilets.
She says she does this even when going to the shops to avoid catcalling.
Sophie added: ‘It’s universal. As someone who has always loved expressing themselves with fashion, wearing outfits that make ME feel good about myself, it frustrates me so much that I have to tailor my choices so often to avoid unwanted attention and stay safe.
‘Also, women don’t dress for men. We dress for ourselves. We dress for other women too, often. But it’s rarely about men.
‘If I’m dressing for men I’m putting on a baggy t-shirt, sweatpants and sunglasses so you don’t look my way.’
Deniz Uğur, deputy director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, says sadly, this trend is ‘nothing new’.
‘Women and girls have always had to carry out invisible safety work to protect ourselves from the threat of male violence,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.
‘It is exhausting to be constantly on alert – carrying your keys in your hand, making quick decisions about the safest route to walk home, calling or texting friends to check they got home ok.’
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be safe kittens
However, she is keen to stress that ‘nothing women can do will ever be able to stop a perpetrator intent on harming them’ – and it’s vital to avoid victim-blaming narrative when discussing the decisions some women feel forced to make around clothing.
Ultimately, she says, the subway shirt helps women ‘blend in’, rather than preventing attacks.
‘Sexual harassment is an almost universal experience for women and girls while going about our daily lives, no matter what we wear or where we are,’ Deniz says.
‘The burden should not lie with women to “not be harassed or assaulted”.
‘The responsibility lies with men, not only to not attack women and girls, but to call each other out and hold each other accountable for the views and attitudes that drive violence against women and girls.
‘We need to see sustained investment in and prioritisation of prevention work, such as public attitude campaigns that tackle harmful views and behaviours and educate the public on safe bystander intervention, as well as quality relationships and sex education in schools that is based on consent and equality.’
Transport for London has made some progress, with the anti-harassment and ‘stop staring’ posters now visible across the Tube network. But clearly, if women are still wearing ‘subway shirts’, we have some way to go.
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