Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I Didn't Wake Up Like This

Contrary to popular belief I am not opposed to casual attire. When I'm done with work or socializing or errands or anything that has me in front of other humans, it's about 2.3 seconds before I'm in pajama pants, a t-shirt and my hair in a headband. I love to be scrubby around my house. I also think casual has its place in the world for casual events: lunch, running errands, hanging out with friends. Where I have problems is what casual means and why we've gotten to a place where people dress like total slobs in public. Stop the madness.

Let's talk about one that should be easy: the casual workplace. I HATE the casual workplace, and the only reason I hate it is because humans can't be trusted to dress responsibly. (Please note I'm referring only to the corporate/business workplace. Obviously there are lots of jobs where one does not or should not dress in a suit.) A few weeks ago Forbes published an article titled "Why You Should Dress 25 Percent Better than Everyone in the Office". I love this article. If you want to be taken seriously as a leader, dress the part.

I will never forget an instance when I worked in the Michigan House of Representatives. My office had a no denim policy, so even on more casual Mondays or Fridays we were dressed up. The legislature is only in Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and the way some staff dressed on the other two days is shocking. Once I got called to a last minute meeting on a Friday with a roomful of legislators. I was thankful to be wearing a skirt, blouse and boots. Another staffer (from a different office) showed up in painted on jeans, a low-cut top and a weird jacket with a furry collar. One of the legislators made fun of her out loud to the room. It was rude of him to do so, but everyone was thinking the same thing: you're at work. Dress the part. 

In my head the casual workplace means business casual. For women that means pants (not jeans unless dark and really otherwise dressed up), a blouse or sweater or a casual dress (knit, sweater dress). For guys that means pants (same caveat with jeans) and a polo or button down. Those are the options. It makes me crazy to see people going to work in an environment that requires professional attire wearing clothes I wouldn't wear to walk my dogs. Lately I've seen some particularly egregious things that make me cringe.

Ladies I know rompers are popular this year, but let's be honest, they look good on about 2.3% of the population. I have a girlfriend who is tall and thin and looks amazing in a romper. You know what she'd never do? Wear it to work because one should never EVER wear a one-piece romper or jumper to an office. I saw someone wearing one last week, and I think I actually stumbled in my heels while staring. If you are fortunate enough to be able to wear a romper (thanks to my curves I am not), then wear one to brunch. Wear one to Target. One of the lines in the Forbes article says dressing better than others telegraphs that you're in charge. Wearing a romper to the office means you don't want people to take you seriously. 

There are some easy casual office faux pas: socks with sandals (please stop); Crocs (well ever. Please never wear Crocs);  shorts (unless you're at an office golf outing. Sole exception); anything ill fitting that regularly shows a bra or thong unless you regularly pull it up; any workout attire (ANY). I have other personal things that bother me, but they're at least livable sins. There are lots of people whose clothes don't fit well or just aren't right for them, but if they're trying then that's something. At least try people.

The atrocities of the casual workplace pale in comparison to the rest of the world. My husband and I are flying next weekend, and I wonder when people started treating the airport like their living room. I don't dress up to fly (unless I'm coming from work or need to be dressed up when I land somewhere). When we last few to Virginia I wore shorts, a tank top and running shoes because I didn't have room to pack them. I was not wearing the cutest outfit ever, but it was casually appropriate. I don't need to see your pajamas. Ever. Unless we're having a sleepover. Why do you need to wear workout attire to be comfortable? Workout clothes are for working out. Try pants or shorts. You know...with a button. Workout clothes are appropriate when going to and from a workout. I often wear running clothes to drop off my son at daycare and then go running. But I don't wear them all day (again different if you're a yoga instructor or a personal trainer; that's work appropriate.)

Here's another one I find amazing: shirts that show one's midriff. I'm not at all anti; as a matter of fact I think it's cute if done right. I spent my freshman year in college never covering mine. But I had 6-pack abs and worked out every day. These days my 6 pack is less prominent and my scars from six abdominal surgeries are the stars. Nobody wants to see me in a midriff bearing shirt. I will not wear one. Unless you can really pull it off, please don't. Be kind to us all. 

I put a lot of time into what I'm wearing. I know what I'm wearing to an evening reception in two days, to tailgate on Saturday and next week on our vacation. I mentally prepare for what I'm going to wear days and sometimes weeks in advance because the Forbes article is onto something. While striving to dress 25 percent better than everyone in the workplace projects you as a leader, striving to dress one's best all the time projects you are confident and in charge of your life. And this goal is easily attainable. People judge us by the way we look. I'd rather them see me in a meeting being more dressed up than anyone in the room rather than remembering me as the slovenly one. 


One of my fav work dresses. I needed new head shots, and we had some fun.

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