Well folks, gone are my days of wearing a tee shirt and jean shorts to work. When I was farming at SVF Foundation, and later gardening for private clients, my uniform didn’t much matter because it would be splattered with mud and manure by coffee break anyway. And goodbye refrigerated office, which is essentially what the workplace was like when I did wedding flowers. Fleece jackets in july? No more. My book is almost done, which means I can’t work from home in my pajamas anymore, either. Sigh.
Its time for me to get a ‘real’ job (whatever that means), and I am suddenly confronted with the great conundrum that is THE WORK WARDROBE. I dread the idea of a drab, impersonal business suit. I dread heels in winter, and blazers in summer. I dread the inability to express my personality through dress because I am trying to conform to what might be considered ‘appropriate’ in a 9-5 business environment. And I haven’t even gotten a job yet! I’m in the interview phase, which is even MORE intimidating. I’m a creative person- I wasn’t built to conform. How can I look respectable at an interview, and still communicate my creativity (which is the very skill I am trying to sell to employers!) through my personal style???
In times like these, I turn to the women in my family for help. And who could understand the parable of the artist-who-would-wilt-if-forced-to-wear-a-business-suit better than my aunt Katie, who has worked extremely hard to become a successful landscape architect with her own firm?
I popped my head into her office over the period of one very cold wintery week to see what she was wearing and to snap a few photos. What I got from this experience was a tremendous sense of relief. I realized that I won’t have to dress like this to be taken seriously at work:
No offense, Hillary, but the idea that women have to dress like men to make it in male dominated environments is pretty archaic. Sure, it made sense in 1970, but now, business women are learning that expressing themselves as individuals and creative thinkers who don’t hide their femininity gives them more of a leg up in the work environment than merely blending into a sea of herringbone suiting. It’s an attitude that says, “women deserve to be here as women, not as women trying to act like men.”
Here’s my fabulous aunt, and this is what I love about her office style: she finds a way to be comfortable, and she dresses sensibly (no sky-rocketing heels, no bare legs) while still looking ‘dressed up’. It was darn cold that week! Legging pants, flat boots, and big chunky knits in neutral shades served as a warm base layer that was sort of under-the-radar casual (black pieces always seem fancier than they are, as long as you have a good lint brush!). Then she injected her own personality and a little bit of chic by adding bold accessories: hip glasses, statement jewelry, a scarf or a fur stole. I think I would describe the overall attitude of her looks as quietly stylish, which is, I imagine, the way one should be at work. You don’t want your outfit to be so over the top stylish (See: Anna Dello Russo) that it upstages what you are really in that office for: your brain, your work ethic and your skills! But I’m not saying you should wear a grey sack, either…
So, what do you wear to work? Feel free to describe your office style in the comment section (hint, hint).