What NOT to Wear to Work
I just walked into a meeting about corporate dress, held in the ops room where I currently freelance, by mistake. As I "excuse me"d my way through the room, the meeting leader turned to look at me, then continued telling the group of twenty- and thirty-somethings gathered before her that they can't just "wear anything they want" to work. "As I speak, there's a coordinator running around here in an inappropriate outfit!" she shrieked.
And she may as well have been taunting me.
I came to work in my Seven jeans and sneakers this morning, my green Puma bag slung sideways across my back, wondering if I was dressed appropriately or not. I'm a freelancer and it's been so long since a real 9-to-5 that I've stopped really asking the corporate dress question. I figure that as long as I'm here on time, nobody should care whether or not my clothes are business casual or shabby chic. I went so far as to assume a "Dress Down Friday" policy without asking, even though this is my second week on the job and I should really be trying to make a good impression.
Most of the time I'm more or less dressed like a teenager -- graphic tees over jeans and a pair of sneakers. Maybe it's because I'm still about the same size that I was then and, yes, still do rock some of my high school gear (am I supposed to just throw out something that fits perfectly fine?) Occasionally, I will put on a more dignified top under a form-fitting jacket and maybe throw on a pair of earrings to really sell it, and usually that's fine by me. In fact, I often ridicule my sisters for their "matronly" garb (well, I guess my big sis DID just have a baby), but lately I've begun feeling like I really need to put myself together better. I mean, I'm 26-years-old and not getting any younger (hopefully better like a finely-aged wine?), but have refused to mature my wardrobe.
It doesn't help that I'm a dancer. If you ever take a dance class, watch how the women adorn themselves after washing the sweat off and putting on their street clothes. Note the spikey hair, flashy jewelry, and deconstructed jackets and jeans. Walking, talking, autonomous, self-style plates we are -- and I aspire to greatness. Don't even get me started on living in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, home to hipsters, self-employed artists, and the occasionally avant garde. There is no shortage of mohawks, neon sneaks, or skinny pants on these "mean" streets, worn by folks who don't bow to any style rules.
Not wanting to conform to the dictates of corporate America, though I work at a multinational corporation at the moment, I eschew heels for flats, slacks for hot pants (since my clothes are clearly shrinking...is it the wash or am I getting bigger?), and sport two-toned dreadlocks (brown at the root and gold at the tips -- thought it was a good look last summer in S. AFRica) as a rule.
But here I am wondering if maybe I SHOULD conform or, at least, comport myself for the office -- though I've always seen the business suit as a sort of straightjacket, and don't get me started on those chicks tryna run up the subway stairs at rush hour in stilettos. (Even when I wear wedges I'm likely to get broke at least once.)
So what should I do? I think a makeover is in order.
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