Friday, August 31, 2012

Under the HR Radar

Today, I celebrate eight years of wearing wacky ensembles to work at the headquarters of the world’s largest consumer packaged goods company. And not once have I been reprimanded for my wardrobe.


Shirt, Christopher & Banks (thrifted). Dress, Mossimo. Belt, thrifted. Bag, Charming Charlie. Pumps, Gianni Bini (hand-me-down from Londyn). Earring, Green Mountain (gift). Bracelets, Target, Claire’s and vintage. Rings, gift, vintage, and heirloom.

This week’s episode of What Not to Wear featured Rebecca, a woman who was counseled for her office outfits. Rebecca was sent home to change at least once and said that her ensembles played a part in her company’s decision to let her go. I really connected with her fearless, colorful, pattern-mixing style, so I had empathy for Rebecca. When she came out in this outfit, I stuck up for her:


I said to Beefy, “If a young, thin, beautiful woman were wearing this outfit, she’d be considered stylish.” In fact, add a blogger bun and she’d probably be on the front page of Chictopia. I felt like Rebecca was being picked on for more than her clothing.

Beefy disagreed, saying that fit was the issue: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from What Not to Wear, it’s that you can wear anything you want as long as it fits properly.”

Hillary recently left me this comment: “I have learned I can get away with anything at work as long as I am neat, tidy, pressed, washed, hair done and covered up. Crazy dress and shoes? OK as long as they are ironed and my hair looks nice.”

Personally, I believe my secret to wearing the cray cray to the office is that I conduct myself in an extremely professional manner. I’m on time. I don’t gossip. I treat my coworkers well. I’m organized. And I produce excellent work.

I’d love to hear your opinion. What’s the trick to dressing creatively yet remaining employed? Youth? Weight? Beauty? Fit? Modesty? Grooming? Behavior? Results?

27 comments:

Rosemary said...

I have to agree with Beefy on this one. This woman may be a bit overweight, but in the picture her size looks fairly average for today's workplace. I think a major problem with this outfit is that she looks sloppy because the fit and proportions are not right.

Angela said...

You are all right, in a way. Of course, a young, thin woman can get away with more than an old, heavy one. A neat and pressed woman can get away with more than a sloppy one. I would add that race often plays a factor in what is considered "professional," but I am not getting into a big argument about it.

Leah Hollett said...

My wacky outfits never get me in trouble at my job. My kids tell me "Mom you awe soooo fassion!" and the teachers in the elementary school hallways just appreciate a mom NOT in pj's... ;)

Christina said...

I think you're both right! I think that fit is everything, but so is accomplishing your work professionally and well! I doubt she was let go primarily due to her clothing choices, but if she was already underperforming and was in a client services role, a better fit in clothes or a more conservative choice would have benefited her.

Lorena said...

Gotta agree with Hillary -
I think that she could have gotten away with it IF she had pressed her clothes, shined her boots, done her hair ...
I also think that when someone does not like you - they will find all the reasons... so i think that the way she dressed was not the main issue, it was just one more thing that she was disliked for.

Anonymous said...

I think the biggest problem here is that she doesn't look "polished". If she had done something with her hair and tucked in her shirt, it might already be a different story.
I do think body shape has something to do with it, as it is easier to achieve said "polished" look if you have a nice body to build an outfit on. A classic hourglass silhoutte featuring a crazy outfit, vs a short, stocky person in the same outfit, will just not have the same impression. Sad to say it out aloud, but true all the same?
Either way, I think I'd find the cow outfit garish no matter who was wearing it...

Rebecca said...

I think workplace dress is mostly about looking polished and professional, and complying with the company's dress code. I don't watch What Not to Wear, but I think if her clothes were pressed and well-fitted, they would give a different impression at work.

Rachel Frend said...

I'm with Beefy and Hillary on this one. Fit makes a HUGE difference on how a person looks regardless of the color and pattern. But having a good attitude and doing your job right will also make sure that your supervisor takes more notice of your work and not what you are wearing.

Anonymous said...

If an employee's work ethic, head (hair, makeup) and shoes are respectable, the rest can swing pretty far to the cray cray.

I also think being in a "creative" department helps. Attorneys and investment bankers can get away with much less than graphic designers, for instance. What kind of work do you do, K? You may not want to share and that's ok, but I've long wondered. I'm sure your coworkers look forward to your colorful ensembles and happy attitude!
-Elizabeth

Kasmira said...

I've been in a sales analysis role for the past 2 years. Before that, I was in HR. My new job is in direct sales.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmmm... I am sure there is a lot more to her story than what was shown on TV. I do think that she looks sloppy and a neat hairstyle and better grooming may have helped. But ultimately, if you are counseled for wearing something you should not, then either find another job or change your clothes. If she had broken up each crazy piece, or even just done two, she could have been "true" to herself and not been on the radar.

I've been on management's radar before--- while I too was in management. Not for my clothes, but because I drove an artcar every day (they are painted, decorated or altered cars that look nothing like they did when they left the factory. Google the term or look at images to see what I mean). I overheard that my executive called it my "damn car" more than once. I eventually traded it in. I am sad to see it go, but I loved my job and needed it!

Anonymous said...

ps... My art cars are on Google images. Look for the Egyptian pickup truck and chicken car.

Lain in TX

Adrienne said...

I saw that episode and her outfits were basically 'costumes'. I don't think costumes ever look professional. Beefy was correct in saying she had 'fit' issues her clothes were way too tight.
I would have to say your clothing reads as very creative not costumes and you are in sales. There is way more tolerance in some work places than others. Highly sexy clothes are frowned upon in the teaching profession but in other adult oriented workplace they are okay.

Arezu In Wonderland said...

But what is a wacky outfit?
something else than most (boring) people wear?
I mean,a woman with a too tight or too lose jeans with a sweetvest isn`t nice too. Would they except someone in an outfit like that?

I don`t like the outfit of Rebecca, but if she doesn`t work with clients than what is the problem. Maybe some people don`t like my outfits eather.
I can appreciate different and fun outfits and get tired of all the
boring outfits of most people.

C Lo said...

I think it's a little of both. I recently lost almost 50lbs and I definitely notice a difference in how I'm treated in every area of life and how it's easy to get away with certain fashion choices as a thin person. I think part of it is that it's easier to look "neat and pressed" when you're thin. The heavier you are, the "sloppier" you look....I don't know if that's just perception or a reality of bigger clothing, but I think that's part of time.

But I think there is a taste factor that is really hard to put a finger on. That woman would still look goofy if she were thin because the subtle finese that someone like you has in pattern mixing is missing. I mean honestly....would you wear COW leggings with a COW tie!???? I can't see you. Cow steps a line into kind of tacky and low class, IMHO.

C said...

I think a cow print is a tough sell outside of a dairy ...or maybe a chicken place. Also the too-short tie is not a plus. If you are not dressing "pretty" or "professional," at some point you are just being a distraction, so then you had better be in entertainment or PR or you are not doing your job, you are doing something else. In most employment situations, the employee demanding a lot of attention is not part of the mission; it is just a problem. This double cow print would be cute if she were handing out dairy samples at the super market. Otherwise, I still think this looks odd even if she were unwrinkled and more conventionally attractive.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for answering my question, Kasmira! Congratulations and good luck with your new position!

I am interested in the comments about cow being a tough sell. I recently visited Argentina, where cows are plentiful and big business, and brought back a brown and white hair-on cowhide handbag. I love it but my 13-year old daughter strongly disapproved when I carried it with a sundress ensemble. Maybe she's right. Should I only use it with a more dressed down look?

Kasmira said...

I would use cow print just as I would zebra or leopard. I think it is sort of a neutral. It does have somewhat of a rural, Old West vibe, though. Leopard or zebra is more sophisticated. So I guess I'd agree that cow print is casual. But I think the right attitude could take that print anywhere.

Lynne DeVenny said...

I saw that episode with my teen daughter in the hospital. I know many peeps think that What Not to Wear sometimes takes away the participants' individual style, but in many cases, like this one, people are trying to be successful in a conservative office environment. Plus, in this case, her cray cray wasn't coming together in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Your original style highlights your beauty and vivaciousness, while hers was being hidden under much less successful attempts at mixing patterns. She is such a lovely woman, but no one could see it behind the over-the-top daily wear.

Londyn said...

I'm half and half on this one. I completely agree that fit and neatness as well as work ethic all have a TON to do with how well a look is accepted in the workplace. However, I also think there is a reality that has to be considered with fashion in the workplace. I wouldn't expect someone working in a hair salon to necessarily have the same work wardrobe as someone who works in a law firm. Some work places require suits and some are much more accepting of individual preferences. I could get away with a cow print skirt in my workplace but would have people thinking I went off the edge if I showed up in cow print pants and matching tie...!

Finally, I must say that you always look amazing in your fun professional wear. I would never send you home :)

Zazzu said...

Cow prints look good on cows, not on people.

I've temped in a lot of different types of offices. Rebecca's outfit would not be appropriate for any of them. The poor fit just makes a bad ensemble worse.

I'm thinking there's more to this story than we've heard. Rebecca had already been sent home once, due to inappropriate attire. Perhaps her employer felt that she just kept pushing the limits to see how far she could go? Maybe her job performance wasn't good enough to endure the wardrobe drama?

Who knows.

The Cheap Chick said...

You know, I once met two lovely young men who work at your company. And they said to me, "She is the best dresser we have ever met. Kasmira wears the COOLEST clothes."

For serious. Also, they thought you were cool as a person, too ;)

I know I can't pull off what you do, but I'm inspired and impressed every day! And thanks to you, I strive to spice up my basics and actually think about what I'm putting out there for the world to see. So, thank you!

Anonymous said...

It' the attitude,when you dress it's tada while she has a more Eyore wearing trousers now what do I do ? attitude.

Kasmira said...

Aw....that is so nice to hear!

The Tote Trove said...

Kasmira, you hit the nail on the head, both about the secret to dressing colorfully in the workplace and about What Not to Wear picking on this woman more for her body type than for her style. Your insight and honesty are refreshing.

Anonymous said...

I wondered the same thing when Rebecca came out in this. Actually if she lost the matching vest, and changed the shirt color this outfit would be completely awesome (and work-appropriate.)

Melissa Miller said...

Skill is everything in having creative freedom. If you'make yourself indepensible, nobody will complain about your clothing. Assuming that you work in a place where skill is appreciated, of course.