I got in a bit of a heated discussion yesterday about dress codes and school uniforms (big shocker: I'm against both) and it got me to thinking about the ways in which my style is constrained (and expanded) by my job. I work in a professional environment with a business casual culture, heavy on the casual. There are lots of khakis and polo shirts here, and I often see non-Friday jeans. Overall, I'd say my clothes are on the upper end of the spectrum here. And I make certain sacrifices, or compromises, to make sure that's the case. I do try to dress well, and professionally, as part of the image I want to project.
On the other hand, though, there are several "professional dress" style choices that I just refuse to make, at least unless or until I absolutely have to. Mostly, I've been able to get away with these refusals to compromise, at least so far. That may change, though I doubt it will change in my current job.
Want to break it down?
Today, I am wearing a pretty typical summer work outfit:
-blue and white patterned silk skirt (thrifted)
-navy Land's Cap Sleeve Lightweight Cotton Modal Drape Top
-teal Ralph Lauren belt (thrifted)
-bronze Me Too wedges (Nordstrom Rack)
-teal and blue beaded cuff bracelet (no idea)
To me, the compromises I'm making when wearing this are obvious, but probably not so much to the outside observer. This whole silhouette, with the knee length, a-line skirt, fitted top, and sensible shoes, reads to me as "work." Though I like these pieces, and like the way this looks, it's not something I'd probably wear in a non-work situation. The color palette is also subdued, reading as professional to my eye. It's modest, covering thighs and shoulders, not showing any cleavage. I am wearing subtle, work-appropriate makeup. I shave my legs and armpits. Because I work in a crowded cubicle, I don't wear scented products or perfume to work. These are all compromises, things I might choose to do differently in a non-work environment.
What may be more easy to spot are the compromises I am refusing to make, or at least refusing to make so far.The most obvious one, I think, is that I don't make any effort to cover my tattoos. I have a tattoo on my foot, one on my inner ankle, and one on my upper arm, all of which I show at work. Another obvious one is my hair--I wear it long, usually loose, and most often, untamed. I occasionally beat it into blow-dried submission, but not that often. I also have obvious and often fly-away grays. It's not a particularly "professional" hairstyle. Other things are less clear--for example, what I am wearing on top here, and what I typically wear on top, is a knitted shirt. It's pretty much a t-shirt. I really dislike how I look and feel in button downs and/or blazers, so I avoid them whenever possible. I have a pile of t-shirts I would't wear to work, of course, but one like this, which is in good shape, a nice cut, and an unfaded color? I wear them all the time. I also get a lot of my clothes at the thrift store, which may not be clear by looking at me, but is a fairly non-typical way of building a professional wardrobe.
Right now, I think I'm striking a good balance. I think I look good at work, but I also free like I'm being true to myself. Striking that balance is absolutely my goal.