On days like today, when the weather gods and goddesses are smiling down on the fair (or otherwise) inhabitants of Southwest BC, there is a tree visible from my office window.
Standing alone, its branches spindly and ramrod, reaching for the heavens, it glows golden, as though kissed by a rogue ray of sunshine – it has been set aflame.
It’s a spectacular sight to behold, and one I so often miss on days dominated by cloud cover and rain.
In an attempt to jazz up my work days, I have been making an attempt to incorporate more pretty things (most of which are predominately dresses) into my weekly wardrobe.
Another factor playing into this decision was my (still current) self-imposed restriction on purchasing new goods – this ban has been making it harder and harder to recycle my most tried and true outfits. For real, there is a limited number of times I can wear my pink cable-knit sweater before my skin will end up permanently dyed rose, and my skin tattooed with that unmistakable braid pattern.
Plus, I have a pretty solid collection of frocks that don’t see much action outside of weddings and fancy events, which unfortunately can be few and far between in the winter months. Just seeing them in my closet makes my heart skip a beat – I’m not one to purchase things willy-nilly. If I buy it, it means that I like it.
I like it a lot.
I am also not ashamed to admit that during the long stretches of time where I don’t have a chance to wear these beautiful outfits, sometimes it can be pretty fun to play dress up or have an impromptu fashion show, trying out different shoe-dress combinations – whether I’m on my own, or I’ve gotten M to act as my audience or critic.
(Mostly audience, sometimes critic.)
Yet, to be honest, getting into this new work-fashion grove was a little harder than I thought.
I was really nervous to even try it out.
Why, exactly was this, might you ask? I asked myself the same question.
It has been pretty darn interesting to sift through the many reasons that I found this decision to be much more of a challenge than I’d originally imagined it to be, particularly when it came down its execution.
It was not just a simple change of clothing to me.
I should stress that it wasn’t the opinion of colleagues or random passersbys that played into this aversion (in fact, I receive wonderful, reassuring, reactions, not to mention blush-inducing compliments every time I have donned a new outfit) – at the root of it, it was me.
Mostly I was afraid of looking like I had mistakenly showed up to a corporate workplace, instead of my intended destination (high tea with the Queen of England – aka Helen Mirren) after having taken that wrong turn at Albuquerque.
Or you know – that I was ten years old.
But mostly, and here I am a bit ashamed to even type out the words, I think I was afraid that the more feminine I dressed, the less likely I would be taken seriously – at the different lunches I go to, presentations I give, meetings I attend, interviews I conduct.
I am much younger than many of my colleagues, and I find that I often make myself hyper aware of this fact.
I put myself on edge, feeling as though I have to prove that, despite my age, I am a bloody rock-star at my job.
As such, if I dress too “womanly,” (combined with my obvious youth) I might command less respect, whereas when I dress “manly”, I have already knocked down one barrier (whether it be real or not – at least in my current position.)
Now, I understand that in reality, in my current situation, this hypothesis is most likely total crap. Assigning a gender to my clothing choices, and then evaluating my job performance (or at least how others may perceive, and therefore assess my performance) is pretty ridiculous.
However on a macro level (and micro for many, many others), both age and sex are two huge factors that negatively impact an individual’s professional success.
(I am also aware that the age factor is also a problem as you reach the other end of the scale.)
So it’s interesting to note, that while I am not in a position myself to be harmed by these attitudes, I have already internalized them, rendering an outsider’s imposition of them onto me a moot action.
In one word this is completely crazy.
I’ve worked with enough people to understand that confidence in your abilities, coupled with a stellar work-ethic and solid output outweighs whatever outfit you may or may not be wearing on any given day – particularly if you present yourself as a professional, put-together individual.
And yet I stress over whether or not a beautiful, semi-formal dress, coupled with a cardigan/suit jacket and flats would somehow strip me of my professional legitimacy.
Thinking about this has really tripped me up, and opened up many other questions.
When I wear a suit to work (specifically if I wear it with a tie, as I often do) and I doing so because I like the aesthetic of the outfit, or am I subconsciously trying to fit a preferred mould (aka presenting myself as a “male” somehow legitimizes my position?)
Or, am I able to just write it off to nothing more than the fact that I have always been attracted to men’s clothing, and because I am tall and lanky, this style of wardrobe works particularly well with by body type?
Or, at an even simpler level, am I just nervous of overdressing at work? As much as people may dislike the chronically underdressed, those who show up daily, ready for a black-tie formal, rarely escape criticism either.
At the root of it, I know this:
I first and foremost pride myself on presenting myself as a professional.
I just need to remember that first and foremost I am a professional.