So I’ve been working for nearly an entire year now and to say the least, it’s been challenging. The late nights sitting under the glow of fluorescent lighting are nothing like the late nights sitting in the VVIP section of your favourite club (mostly because there isn’t champagne on tap). The early mornings aren’t filled with greasy Andiccios pizza and mindless laughter but bitter coffee and even more bitter co-workers. And all the trips to the bathroom are somehow the best and worst times of the day because while you get to finally have some time alone, the one-ply toilet paper sheets that are dispensed in singles simultaneously remind you of the importance of two-ply toilet paper and that you always had the option of becoming a stripper.
That aside, there are moments where you feel like you’re doing what you love. That you’re making a contribution in one way or another and that all the degrees you have sitting in your parents bedside table were worth the sleepless night and subsequent weight gain.
So where am I going with this article? Well I’ve been toying around with the idea of writing something about corporate life and fashion or how to dress for work. Not to sound too cliché, but it all started about a year ago (insert distant look). I had just started my new job and for about a month or so, my parents would constantly police my outfits of the day because as they said, corporate life had rules about everything, including how one should dress. Presentation was everything.
Now, if you know me, I’m a fairly modest dresser. Yes, sometimes I wear lingerie as a bodysuit and my heels are impractically high, but I dress really well. I was always confident in my abilities to dress myself appropriately, taking into account where I was going, who was going to be there and of course any particular item of clothing I wanted to highlight on that day.
I guess my sky high confidence was slowly brought down with each passing comment, whether it was from my parents or people I worked with. I can’t tell you how many times I heard “I don’t think that’s appropriate for the work place” or “Why are you dressed like that? Are you trying to distract all the men in the office”. Even as I type this now I mimic my previous eye-rolls and scoffs. While I understand the importance of dressing for your destination, be it work, the club, tea with the queen, girls night or fashion week, I believe there should never be a point where I lose myself and what makes my dress sense mine. I love being able to express myself through my clothes and my environment or destination shouldn’t be something that stifles my creativity but rather stretches me creatively, allowing me to explore different variations of my style.
For a while I must admit, I stuck to the status quo. I wore clothes that revealed very little skin and even less of my personality. I wore long dresses (which do nothing for my body) and high collar shirts that hid on of my best features, my smooth chocolate brown skin. It was only after a conversation with my boss that I decided I would dress the way I felt. I wouldn’t be another intern wearing pumps, leggings and an unflattering dress. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t going to be snobwithablog who wore sparkles from head to toe but I was going to be snobwithajob. The perfect combination of corporate and couture. Reasonably dressed but always runway ready. I wasn’t going to let the corporate world take away the best part of my day or the only thing that gets me through a bad day (my impeccable dress sense), especially considering that I don’t get paid very much.
I was still going to wear my high heels and high-waisted pants. I was still going to wear my deliciously selected lingerie too (of course with a shirt over it) and I was definitely going to ditch the floor length dresses for cute skirts and sheer shirts and walk into the building owning everything about my look while others continued to look. I refused to be apologetic about my love for clothes. I refused to buckle under the pressure to change the way I dress because some people find my exposed neckline distracting. And when asked if I know that my exposed skin distracts the men in the office, I happily respond by saying that short of Rihanna walking into the office, nothing, not even men in full nude could distract me from doing my job so if they made the mistake of hiring people with attention problems then they should relook their hiring system.
So, where does that leave me today? Well, I still carry my designer bags, I still wear my brightly coloured lipstick, I wear my sheer shirts and metallic skirts and I sure as hell am not looking to wear sensible shoes because while I secretly judge the kitten heel wearing crew, and avoid eye contact with those who wear velcro sandals on a Friday, I don’t stop them from being comfortable in what they put on in the morning. Why should I be made to feel guilty about how I choose to dress in the morning? For me, getting dressed isn’t about not being naked, it’s an art. It is icing and decorating the cake. It is putting the final details on the masterpiece that is me.
So while I understand the importance of being able to distinguish between club attire and work attire, I also stress the importance of dressing to make yourself feel like the best version of you on that day. Otherwise you don’t only lose your identity but you also end up spending a buttload of money on clothes you hate only to use those single sheets of one-ply toilet paper in that crappy work bathroom to wipe away tears of shame. And you know what? All those extra layers you wear to cover up what others see as inappropriate for the work place will only slow you down when you go to the bathroom where you spend twenty years trying to pull up all those fucking layers you put on in the morning that are actually making you sweat and make everyone think you went to the loo to poop meanwhile back at the ranch, you were actually just trying to layer yourself up enough to look just right for people with the wrong mindset. Free yourself. It’s bad enough having a crappy job, crappy pay or crappy colleagues, you don’t need to have crappy shoes on while you deal with it all.