Tuesday, February 26, 2008

You Wear THAT To Work?

I frequently receive comments from readers wondering what sort of work I do that allows me to be so creative with my daily outfits. I prefer to keep the details private, but I’ll share that I work in Human Resources for a global company. Like most of corporate America these days, the dress code is “business casual.”

In my workplace, “business casual” can mean anything from a suit to jeans and a sweatshirt. Corporate policy leaves determination of appropriate wear to the individual, directing them to their manager or Human Resources with questions. The general guideline is that if you’d wear it to mow the lawn, work out, or lounge around the house on weekends, it’s too casual. Shorts and distracting or overly revealing clothing are outlawed. Some departments specifically ban denim, but most allow jeans. As you can imagine, the result is a wide variance in levels of formality. I dearly wish I could show you pictures of my coworkers (both those in the “#1 Grandma” sweatshirt and faded mom jeans and those in outfits worthy of Lucky magazine), but I’d probably lose my job.

So, where do I fit into the spectrum? Except for the occasional casual Friday, I dress far more formally than my coworkers. My blazers, skirts, and heels are considered “dressed up.” The more striking difference between us, though, is the creativity of my outfits. I frequently wear bright colors and trends. I also experiment with styles that aren’t trendy OR mainstream (like the time I wore a tie to work). And I push the edge of the envelope with “sexy” attire like fishnet tights and plunging necklines. (I DO try to temper the tights with a modest hemline and I figure a plunging neckline isn’t “overly revealing” on someone with no cleavage. Go ahead and ogle my chicken chest if you want.) When I started work in the corporate world, I was terrified to wear anything as daring as open-toed shoes and I always clad my legs in nude hose. Now, I figure that if I’m not counseled on a clothing choice, it’s acceptable. I’ll continue to push until my management reins me in.

People at work often look me up and down (and down and up, again) and compliment my outfits, but my shoes get the most comments. Because I’ve seen Fashion Lady’s closet, I don’t consider myself a shoe-a-holic. I will admit, though, that I probably have more heels than most women. I’m a sucker for brightly colored shoes and I love the way high heels make me look taller and slimmer. Other than the walk to and from the bus stop, my day doesn’t involve much time on my feet, so I can wear shoes that are more for fashion than function. I should also add that, even at 32, I am one of the younger women in my work group and am able to wear higher heels by the simple virtue of my relative youth and fitness. (My older counterparts constantly remind me that my heels-wearing days are numbered.)

Both in the comments on this blog and in Wardrobe Remix, I constantly read of fellow office slaves bemoaning the fact that they can’t express their true fashion personalities at work. If you are one of those people longing to express your inner fashionista, ask yourself, “What’s really stopping me?” Often, it isn’t the office dress code, but fear of what officemates will think or say. So what if someone says your red lipstick is whoreish or that your choice of colors is juvenile? Your detractors are probably just jealous! If you start wearing that bright lipstick and bold pink top on a regular basis (but maybe not together), the snarky comments will eventually decline. Your outer you will match your inner you and your coworkers will comment when you DON’T wear something that matches your personality. Be brave. Be interesting. Be extraordinary. It’s hard to get fired for a single fashion faux pas, so push the envelope a little.

I will admit that I am fortunate to work in an environment that encourages and rewards individuality, creativity, and flair. I’ve never felt that I wasn’t taken seriously because of my clothing. Instead, I think it’s given me an advantage because I appear more youthful and in touch with the just-graduated-college population I work with. I look approachable, interesting, and fun. Both the company I work for and my particular role are a good fit for my sometimes flamboyant clothing selections.

More reading on the Business Casual dress code:
How to do Business Casual
Business Casual in Warm Weather
Office Appropriate Attire

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kudos for being discreet about where you work; I respect that. Kudos also for your piece!

I, like you, am one of the youngest at my office, so am able to exercise some fashion freedoms that most of my colleagues can't. My hot pink, kitten-heeled, pointy toesd patent leather shoes were a HIT. No one else would dare to wear something like that!

xo

Sabina

Anonymous said...

Great write up!! I live in Colorado where "comfort" rules fashion. I work in the payroll department of a hospital, where my I'm always told I don't need to dress up so much, I wouldn't if I didn't enjoy as much as I do. I'm guessing it all derives from Barbie, I loved dressing her up when I was little and now I get to buy clothes my size and dress myself up.
By the way, love your blog, it's my cup of coffee every morning!!

Tessa Pugh said...

Nice pep talk. I am a stay-at-home mom but I do some clerical work for the school/church office from time to time. I really enjoy dressing up on those days and also when I am picking Les Petits up from school and taking them to the park/zoo/library. There are a lot of "European" moms at the private school my children attend so I am not the only mom dressed up but most of their wardrobe consist of "real" designer pieces. I am a bit more democratic, mixing Target and thrifted pieces in with the occaisonal splurge. I love your blog, your daring use of color and, of course, your writing isn't bad either!

Anonymous said...

I'll second that...she's one of the the best blog writers on the net.

mbbored said...

I'm one of those who wishes they can dress up more. However, I'm a research scientist, who works daily with large batches of yeast, bacteria, and handles radiation. I'm on my feet most of the day, and I'm required to wear long pants, closed toe shoes, and I'm banned from flowy sleeves, bracelets, chunky or long necklaces and hair in my face. My coworkers think I'm "dressed up" with my dark denim or cords, leather shoes, shirts without writing, fun earrings and use of lip-gloss. I also like to have fun on evenings and weekends, and often end up being overdressed, but that's easy when everybody else is in faded jeans and college tees.

Kasmira said...

mbbored - I feel your pain! I used to work in a lab too. The pants rule really sucked in the summer! And I remember arriving to work many times without something to pull my hair back with. I got pretty creative with various lab implements.

Three of Us said...

Great post, I really enjoyed reading it and I love seeing what you wear everyday. I confess that while I do like to dress up occasionaly, perhaps a little more frequently since being inspired by you but I'm pretty keen on my work uniform. Its so easy.
I was trying to find a previous post on how you take photos of your outfits but couldn't find it. Are you able to provide a link?

Wendy

Anonymous said...

Hi Kasmira! Luv your blog,always look forward to reading and enjoying them. I totally agree with you. I luv to dress up too and i always enjoy observing how others are dressed up but most of the time I see plain shirts with boring skirts/pants....I wish I could wear daring/contrasting colours like you, but at this age I think I'd better tone down a little bit.....

fdiary said...

This is a great outfit, unexpected, yet very stylish!! You got plenty of wow factor where you need it. Great look! Even though we have different styles. You do what you do well!! Your style fits your personality to T!! I agree - always be true to yourself.

Anonymous said...

i think you can be fashionable and fun at any age, and saying that you get away with what the "older" ladies can't is a bit ego maniacal don't you think? your outfits are fun, and i love your blog, but today's entry was just a bit off-putting. i too work in a VERY casual work place, and i too refuse to fall into the jeans and sneakers rut. when anyone compliments or comments on my outfit i'm flattered. to the ladies (older and younger) that say "i could never get away with that" i always respond "of course you can!" to encourage and inspire.

Kaume'alani said...

Rock on fellow envelope pusher. I too am a fan of unique shoes. My houndstooth print heels are my favorite. I constantly get jealous comments from older women wishing they could dress like me, but why not? I'd rather be commented about than another invisible corporate barbie doll.

Kasmira said...

Three of Us: Here's the link!
http://whatiwore2day.blogspot.com/2007/12/photographing-your-outfits-camera.html

Anon: Egomaniacal? That's a new one! The point was that I can wear crazy shoes because I haven't terminally injured myself yet. I'm sure my flats day will come.

Evvie said...
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Janel said...
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The Baltimore Babe said...

Interfacing with a customer also severely limits one's fashion artistic expression. You have the advantage in working internally as opposed to being the face of your company. Enjoy this freedom!

chanteusevca said...

Late comment here, but had to say that I am 55 and I still wear high-high heels, animal print ones, colored ones and I will never stop wearing them no matter my age. My fashionable southern grandmother taught me to wear heels when I was 11 or 12 and I haven't stopped wearing them yet and like her, will hopefully wear them to the grave. Love your blog and love your style. It's very similar to mine but since I am older, I mix in Talbots pieces with Target and other pieces I've collected over the years. I guess they might be considered vintage now since many have been lost in the back of my closet for years. Oh, and I would never, ever, never, never, never wear a #1 Grandma sweatshirt, even though I am. I don't even own a sweatshirt that I would wear in public, except maybe to work on a Habitat for Humanity house. Just had to say that I'm probably the most stylish "MiMi" around and maybe I should start a blog for women my age. After all, being a fashionista shouldn't be relegated to an age. It's not just for the young. Maybe for the young at heart? Like I say, once a fashionista, always a fashionista!