Don’t Tell Me What to Wear


This is one of the  many reasons why I hate being an employee. First, there are those stiff Land’s End shirts you have to wear. Other times it’s the simple but inconvenient requirement of dressing in only one or two colors, which transforms an once colorful and eccentric wardrobe into a dull set of blacks, grays, or whites. These two types of dress code are usually served for baristas or the sad employees in a chain department store…

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But the office dress code is a combination of old timey conservatism and politics, most of which is proven in this Forbes article about What Not To Wear. The list cites a few fashion mishaps women commit in the office on a regular basis. And some of them I agree with. For instance, flip-flops? Flip-flops are the most unattractive piece of footwear. Ever. Sure, they’re comfortable; high heels sometimes feel like torture implements. But, when my employer heard the sound of my flip-flops slapping the newly buffed wooden floors, she immediately took me aside. That’s when I made the more ladylike transition to pumps and such. Plus, legs always look better in heels. Always.

If you look through Forbes’s picture library on the subject, you’ll also notice ill-fitting clothes on the list. That’s self-explanatory. Sorry, but some women just can’t dress. Hell, this goes for men too. I’ve seen you thick-necked guys come into work with a tight collar and your face as pink as a clitoris. Clothes that don’t flatter your figure (big or small) should just get you fired.

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By the way, why doesn’t this article address men at all? Is it safe to assume that the opposite sex could never be accused of a fashion faux pas. This I wonder, especially when Forbes.com mentions why the following no-nos are no-nos.

I heart cleavage. I do. At the same job where my manager gave me a pep talk on proper footwear, another woman was well-known for her low-cut blouses. I’ve waxed poetic about her in one of my older posts, Celadon. And I don’t think anyone took her aside and gave her a lecture about her mode of dress, probably because in order to do so one would have admit to looking at her breasts for an inordinate amount of time. One would also have to admit that they’ve stared into her sensual fold for so long that it’s become distracting and, thus, she needs to button it up. So, the curves of her breasts remained happily exposed.

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According to the article (and some vague, nameless study), women in professional attire are hired or picked for promotions over women who choose sexier outfits. On the flip side, a employer (almost always male) may want to choose the conservative-looking woman out of fear of discrimination or sexual harassment. Selecting the candidate with the amazing ta-tas may appear as though he chose her not for professional performance, but for her amazing rack. That I get, which is why moderation in dress code is always key. But, have we not seen Erin Brockovich? That woman won an entire town over with her dedication, her hard-as-nails work-ethic, her compassion – all of which are traits you would want in a successful employee. And, yet, she was overlooked at times because her lacy bra was showing through her blouse?

Some of the fashion blunders on the list are fixable, others not so much.

Okay, so I know to leave my hot pink mini-skirt at home, but why shun the rest of my skirts and dresses, all of which are at a reasonable length but not long enough to hide my knees? And when did my knees become so captivating that my co-workers miss my face altogether?

Over-Accessories: Please don’t keep this out of the office. Some women make over-accessorizing an art form. And plus, they always have the best snacks – like ginger chocolate and peanut butter cookies… at least the women I knew. A little tip: Always hang around the woman with too many bangles on her wrists; she almost always has a story to tell.

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I’m still bothered by how gender specific this article is, as if men aren’t caught with scuffed shoes, baggy pants, or clip-on neck ties. But that’s the thing about style: If you have it, your fashion faux pas can actually look innovative in your office. It makes you stand out from the rest of the pack. And, in a corporate culture, being the peacock among the pigeons is non-conformist and distracting.

So, ladies, expose those knees! Wear as many necklaces as you want to! They’ve already taken your time; don’t let them take your creativity too!

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