A television meteorologist called “backyard” for wearing “the same dresses” is spotlighting the criticism to help her younger colleagues.
On Tuesday, Lauren Linahan, a morning meteorologist at WTVM in Columbus, Ga., shared a viewer comment from Facebook. “Oh, and tell your female weather forecaster that we have seen all five of the same dresses. Enough,” wrote a 65-year-old woman. “How backyard can you get!”
The 30-year-old Linahan shared her response on Facebook.
“Since there appears to be some confusion on this matter, I am the sole proprietor of my on-air wardrobe, I don’t have a stylist (lol) and no allocated wardrobe allowance,” she wrote. “Any dress you see me wearing on-air comes from my own hard-earned money or a generous gift from my family (thanks, Mom!).”
Linahan admitted that she owns at least 100 dresses, which she calls a “ridiculously overwhelming inventory” and a necessity in a career field that values physical appearance.
“Since most of my money goes to bills, groceries, and paying off my debts ... I don't have the luxury of frequently buying more dresses ... plus, dry-cleaning on its own costs an arm and a leg,” she wrote.
“I rarely see criticism like this directed toward my male counterparts, who can get away with repeating suits much more frequently,” Linahan added. “But even then, isn’t our forecast more important than how often we are wearing the same suit or same dress?”
Linahan told Yahoo Lifestyle that she is fortunate to own so many dresses — largely paid for by her parents when she was a rookie reporter in Alabama. But Linahan’s younger colleagues often scrape by on annual salaries of less than $30,000 or juggle second jobs.
Like most anchors, Linahan has a dress code — jumpers and pants are permissible at some stations, but dresses are an easier, breathable choice for standing under hot studio lights and wearing a microphone and other wiring.
Patterns aren’t best because they “distract” the viewer and the color green creates technical glitches. Anchors stand in front of bright green backgrounds onto which images are projected during forecasts. If the camera detects green on an article of clothing, it will also project images onto the dress.
Linahan depends on a small rotation of dresses to avoid excessive dry cleaning costs and her remaining paycheck covers an estimated $100-per-month in makeup, another expectation for female anchors to meet.
Many women in television, especially those of color, spend small fortunes straightening their hair or wearing wigs to meet invariable or race-based ideals, but Linahan said she’s fortunate that her curly hair isn’t a problem at WTVM.
“A few years ago, a potential boss said I would never ‘advance’ with curly hair,” Linahan told Yahoo Lifestyle. “It was humiliating.”
It’s why the woman’s commentary stuck with Linahan. She responded in a private reply, “I’m glad you’re watching the news frequently enough that you can keep a running tally of the dresses in my wardrobe,” adding that she often sells or donates her dresses when she has outgrown them.
“Four years ago, a message like this would have made me cry,” Linahan told Yahoo Lifestyle. “Now I want to help younger female anchors avoid appeasing the audience. Men wear the same blazer every day — why is there a ridiculous double standard?”
To Linahan’s surprise, the woman responded with an apology. “She didn’t mean to hurt my feelings,” she says. “That’s progress.”
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