Tuesday, June 07, 2011

More wardrobe ramblings - being taken seriously at work

Just as I predicted, no sewing last night. And not much sewing for the rest of the week either. I leave tomorrow night to Montreal for the rest of the week. A mini-vacation, just what the doctor ordered.

I've had a lot of really interesting comments on my thoughts on a work wardrobe. Thanks, everyone! Your thoughts have helped me think through what kind of clothing will help me be taken seriously at work.

Being taken seriously is a higher bar than "acceptable by the strict HR standards". I think it encompasses dressing in a relatively understated manner, so that your message is the focus, not your clothing. Hence, dressing as similarly as possible to your co-workers. If people are routinely complimenting my clothes, I'm actually a tiny bit concerned that the focus is on my clothing. (This is also why practically no one at my workplace knows I sew. I don't want the conversation at work to be about sewing.)

SewOm wrote:

I have to agree with you on shape. I read a lot of blogs where people create a lot of vintage dresses. Thing is, those shapes are typically from an era when women were rarer in the workforce than they are now. A very full, gathered skirt does not convey authority or power - it conveys "pretty", or, "50's housewife."

I do think a cardigan would have helped that dress. I also think that the colors in that dress are neutral enough that with a slimmer, sleeker skirt, you would have felt better.

I could not agree more with this comment - SewOm articulated exactly what I was feeling about my dress. And a cardigan would have toned it down. And both authority and power are synonyms for being taken seriously, I think.

Kid, MD wrote:

YES! That grey dress is fabulous!!
I need to comment on your blog more. I love all the dresses you've made lately, and your post about color has really had me thinking. And noticing! I wonder if it is color or prints that feel less work appropriate. Do you think a nice saturated purple or blue would feel professional and chic, but still satisfy the need for color?

Well, I wore the above pink shift dress to work yesterday - I think it is border-line acceptable.

On the shape/color thing - it is a very bright color, but the shift-dress shape is very professional. I think a saturated blue or purple would be better than this pink. Instinctively, though I can't really explain why, the following colors are a bit of a not-quite-ok for work.

- Pink
- Yellow
- White
- Orange

But I can't explain why. (Especially the white. A cream seems ok to me, but a white seems too summery, if that makes any sense.)

Conclusions so far: (All of this just applies to my workplace. There's a ton and variety in workplaces, your experience might be totally different from mine.)

- Full skirts in a color are not ok for work. (The jury's still out on full skirts in a neutral.)
- Really bright colors are probably out as well. (Though I don't care, I'm going to keep wearing the pink dress.)
- Prints in bright colors are definitely out. Prints in neutrals are ok, as long as they are a work-appropriate shape.

I know this might seem to be pretty obvious to a lot of people. But, with me? When buying RTW clothes, I was appropriately dressed, mostly by instinct. However, when sewing my clothes, I need to articulate why something works/doesn't work, so I'll remember that at the start of a project.


Adelaide B said...

It seems to me that a lot of things that you describe as being not appropriate for work (even though they do not violate HR guidelines) are things that could be considered "only for women." Girl colors, loud colors, prints, and full shapes are all things that read feminine. I'm not stating anything new by commenting that professional clothes for women must mimic menswear in order to be taken seriously. (Muted colors and shapes. This was especially exaggerated in the 80's. Ugh.) I get that you gotta do what you gotta do, but it's a shame. You've made some lovely things.

Kristy said...

ok piping up late here (note to self, keep up with blog reading!). I've worn a dress to work that was a hot pink/fuschia colour similar to what I can see of your dress in this picture, and while I felt like I stood out I toned it down by wearing it with a black blazer, black belt and black shoes. I think with the black tights and maybe a cardigan or jacket yours would have looked great.

But I totally understand about what your concern about people talking about your clothes, there are a few ladies in my office who wear totally over the top clothes and the only conversation about them is always about how they look and not what they do.