5 blunt tips for work appropriate apparel
Watching Oprah in the early 80’s. She was discussing how we present ourselves and how that presentation feeds into how we FEEL – One obese woman was struggling to find flattering clothing. She was in a sweat suit – she disclosed under the sweat suit she had undergarments that made her feel confident and beautiful. Once she began this ritual of dressing from the inside out she began to feel better. As she felt better, she made different choices and her added confidence led to being more active and she was able to put herself “out there”. She had dropped 60lbs and now shopped in the plus size stores rather than custom making clothing. The lesson I took away was that if we feel good, we DO better.
This lesson manifests itself in differently through the years. Women in particular are given mixed messages. I am here to clear those up and provide some blunt guidance. We have graduated from pencil skirts and blouses to a business casual that is vaguely defined.
- Classy attractive vs Slutty- I think I struggle with this line. I like bringing elements of personality into my workplace and sometimes I get to close to the line. I strive for a percentage rule – If you have a low cut top paired with a short skirt there is a coverage less than 70% of your person – work appropriate would say 50% coverage *my perspective* pair that same top with a pair of dress pants/ longer skirt – it changes the percentage. HOT TIP * Ladies, I should never be able to identify the color of your undergarments. We shudder at men’s exposed “tighty whities” – why hold to women to a different standard? We are all visually activated; we enjoy looking at pretty things. Be pretty, sexy, beautiful, edgy, funky or fun with your clothing – be uniquely you. Choose things that showcase your individuality within a balance that keeps it classy and makes you confident. As granny would say “leave something to the imagination!”
- Comfort vs sloppy – If I hear one more time “I want to be comfortable” I will throw chairs. Not suggesting fashion over function, be comfortable! find the things that you tug at, that you have to constantly shift as they constrict, expose, ride up or cause you to lose your breath. I am inviting you to rummage your belongings and purge those items right now. Along with every stained and damaged article its all gotta GO! Everyone can see you are uncomfortable, just admit it and get rid of those things that ultimately hurt your heart to wear. Sweatshirts are no more comfortable than a professional sweater. The idea that you are more comfortable in leggings or a 20-year-old sweatshirt is great – FOR HOME – not an office. *HOT TIP* Sweatshirts are casual there is no business about them* I also argue we are more productive when we abandon the sloppy comfort and put on something comfortably tailored. OUR EMOTIONS DRIVE OUR ACTIONS – and how we FEEL will determine what we DO! We have ALL have those days at home in sweats, lounging around watching Netflix. How do you really FEEL during those days? YES, they are glorious and needed – Is that the FEELING and the energy that belongs in the workplace? So much shifts when we mindfully prepare for our days. Feeling good from the inside out … We are more productive; we are more confident.
- Money – The objection “I don’t have the money” I call BS. There are consignment stores /thrift shops (in the Edmonton area) that employ stylists and they will keep you on budget, they are everywhere. I was *food bank poor* growing up. We thrift shopped and took bags of donated clothing. My step-up-Dad altered those clothing items to fit us. Never ripped or stained (even tho I tried, telling my mom ripped was the style) We were always tailored and stain free. Thrift shopping takes time – YOU ARE WORTH THE TIME!!! Consignment shopping with my mom is one of my fondest memories. We took the TIME together, we played dress up. We tried on ridiculous outfits and found the diamonds. One of the BEST ideas is a clothing exchange. We arranged with a group of ladies to purge their closets. We all brought our bags of treasures and spread them all out – added wine to the mix, and had a fashion show… we laughed and were so pleased to re-home items and receive new items. Anything not chosen was and donated to an inner-city school. These exchanges have become popular in our workplaces – COMPANIES are organizing this. Your company doesn’t do this? Why not start it? St. Albert alliance does a drive once a year – They encourage individuals to drop things off that no longer serve them and they allow the community to come pick up what they need NO COST! Money is NEVER an excuse!
- Dress for your body type! Nobody want so see you pouring out of your clothing, Camel toes or moose knuckles *Don’t google that* Do you hate your body? hate shopping? Nothing fits? After my mom passed away, I was drowning in her clothing that I could not part with. She was thinner than I was and I had closets full and NOTHING FIT! My cousin dragged me out… I felt like I went through every item in every store. I exited a changed room and proclaimed that I was too fat and weird as I slumped in a pair of jeans. My cousin examined “these jeans are weird whoever made the jeans did not cut these jeans for your perfect body. The CUT is wrong, you are not wrong” Change the focus from yourself to the cut of the clothing. This helps with some of the negative self talk while shopping. Sometimes the right fit requires a tailor or a step-up-dad – Go have some fun! Find things you feel confident in that accentuates a feature you like about you (don’t have a feature? Then we need to talk)
- Modesty is consideration- Ladies this one is for you. You don’t need to be a distraction, and rest assured if your over exposing a percentage of your person, you are inviting distraction and attention … is that the attention that you want at work? Acknowledging that most men are visually driven (Yes, I’m stereotyping) Keep this in mind and be considerate. Not one thing left to the imagination, is inconsiderate and distracting. When you are so physically exposed people loose respect – if you are dressed for the club attention, go to the club- not to a job. Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD. This in no way absolves men from actions or thoughts regardless of what you choose to wear – I am just suggesting professional consideration for a gender difference.
Policies set a standard for the organization. Some employees have grown complacent, some ignorant, and some are just not sure what business casual is. Some employees view policy as an impingement on our individuality. It can feel like a personal attack and quite frankly nobody likes to be coached on dress code or hygiene – it makes us feel vulnerable. Some are unaware and feel shame, as it draws attention to our preference, financial ability, body insecurities and more.
The “appropriate” employee conversations are danced around with softeners that mute the message. Let me speak plainly: If you have been dressing in an immodest way, showing a percentage that draws attention to everything – men that are in contact with you (and maybe some of the women) are imagining having sex with you or at the very least touching the parts exposed. *Too Blunt? * Your leggings leave nothing to imagination and this is not a fitness facility- if you are dressed to workout – go to a gym and not the office.
If you are wearing over-sized sweaters, stained, ripped or comfortable items, we see your rounded shoulders, dragging slipper feet and we assume you are sloppy, relaxed to the point of lazy. Your comfort shouts lazy Saturday, not a proactive productive work place. You are presenting as if you don’t care about your person, and you will slowly and comfortably work as you would on a Saturday. Your day-old laundry that you thought was clean enough to wear, in fact does have an odor and looks like laundry. Your lack of care for your personal presentation is as unappealing as presenting me day old oatmeal.
Leaders want: Employees to feel confident and energetic. They want employees to inspire respect for themselves and their organization. They want employees that are the faces and the first impression of their organization. They want to see productivity not lazy Saturdayzzz! They want professionalism in how we speak, dress and conduct ourselves- the BEGINNING of this – is our outward presentation. This starts with how we adorn ourselves for our day. Ultimately your boss wants employees who will lead the team to RISE, as the business cards for their organizations. Leaders want employees they can pick out in a crowd and be proud to identify as theirs… Not avoid like soggy oatmeal or feel shame at thoughts they have while averting their eyes.
I don’t always get it right but, I have set a standard for myself and those around me. Employees come in from the field to meet me, they shower and change to be in my office- they rise! They do it to the BEST of their ability sometimes in their cleanest grease stained T-shirt. I cannot expect of others what I do not practice myself.