This past year I learned a major lesson as a woman in the work force…
The aphorism, “dress for the job you want and not for the job you have,” is not only true, but it is remarkably difficult to calculate into a feminist mindset. At what point can an outfit damage or enhance job opportunity based on external assessment by your peers and superiors? Entering into the world of professional dress, I found that there is this profound and unspoken pressure to conform to the formula that being good at your job also means that you dress only in the standard professional dress code.
Where does my personality go when I must stifle it under shoulder pads? Must I wear heels to be considered a titan of my field? How can I negotiate this in a way that doesn’t make me feel like I’m only dressing to impress other people?
I love fashion as expression of personality and I think that people (women and men), can utilize fashion in ways to promote self confidence, self-discovery, and experimentation. I think the professional wardrobe confuses this function of fashion, but it doesn’t have to end it. Now that I’m seriously building my young professional wear section of my closet, I am realizing that I will only feel comfortable doing my job if I look and feel like myself.
Therefore, my clothing needs to be intentional, right?
I made a short list of the qualities I want my wardrobe to reflect about me (the qualities I find important):
If I am ever stuck on whether or not an item is what I want to wear or what I think people want me to wear, I ask if the item reflects these qualities. Does it make me feel like me?
I also made a vision board on Pinterest to find what styles I was most likely to gravitate toward. I noticed that my board slowly became a collection of cinched pants, a-line skirts, sheath dresses, and kitten heels. I noticed I was attracted to pops of color and structured blazers for outfits with skinny jeans. Overall, it took about 15 minutes to make my board and to realize my vision and begin searching for particular clothing prices to buy under a narrower approach.
Overall, does it really matter how you dress at work?
After a two years with the same job, I can say that it makes a difference. I am a teacher, and the first year teaching I was very casual. The next, I decided to dress slightly more put together than my students, and I got an instant response of respect. So… I would say that for me it does matter. I guess what I am trying to say is that you can make your style matter for yourself just as much as it matters to other people. Fashion should still be about you! So why not curate your professional wardrobe to show the boss you really are!? Being intentional about clothing does not make it a matter of ego or passively submitting to conformed notions of what a woman is and how she should dress. It is about taking the power of fashion as a symbol of yourself and making that power your own