Chatting it up: work attire

When getting dressed for work yesterday, I channeled my JCrew roots and pulled out the classic, crisp look: plaid button-down, white cotton pants, and crayola-colored flats. I felt comfortable all day long and maybe even imagined myself walking through the streets of Milano (although in reality I was making my way through the hospital). It got me thinking about what’s deemed appropriate attire at work, because in the back of mind I reserve white pants for more festive activities during summer nights. However, since I like shaking up the status-quo every once in a while, I put them on without looking back. 

The evaluation of white pants got me thinking about something more noteworthy and relevant in today’s workforce: to what extent do we as women, allow our attire and physical appearance to demonstrate personal style, cultural identity, or even religious beliefs? I came across an article in Marie Claire’s March issue which highlighted the role of cultural diversity in the office environment. It was a fascinating read as it addressed the dichotomy between women wanting to be taken seriously and evaluated based upon knowledge and skill set, and preserving important parts of one’s heritage/culture/religion through their clothing, hairstyle, or name. In 2009 there was a poll administered to female managers and business owners, and 98% responded that appearing professional was a direct correlation to their success on the job. 1 in 5 admitted they’d withheld promotions and raises from subordinates based on how they dressed. Wow, I hope my future employer is a fan of white pants!! The article further explained that bosses and HR hiring crew take note of accents and even clothing accessories when considering someone as a potential hire for their company/organization. Lesson learned: conservative typically wins out.

Personally, I am no fan of the pantsuit, I maybe own one pair of nice slacks, and the closest thing to wearing a jacket is something to the effect of this. In trouble I am! Don’t really see myself working in corporate because I feel like it would strip away everything that my low-key/liberal/go-with-it self is about (but I also have no experience in the corporate world). Once someone mentioned whether I had any concerns of how my last name may come across on job applications, because it’s lengthy and hard to pronounce, and would taking on Dr.Love’s more American-sounding name make things easier for consideration. Hecks no, I adore my name, not only for what and who it represents, but it makes me, ME!!

So what say ye friends? How much does your own background play a role in how you dress and present on the daily at work? Do you think you’d have an opinion on someone coming in with dreadlocked hair, a sari, or a religious headpiece?

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21 thoughts on “Chatting it up: work attire

  1. Nice post! I remember that article (heh..and I only buy the magazines for the pictures…)I guess it's that delicate balance of being yourself and yet fitting in with a group- probably most important for that first impression in interviews. I could see how potential employers might be unconsciously turned off if you seem too different. I bet with most companies once you've settled in you can carve out your own territory though! I once worked with someone who shortened their eastern european name drastically for simplicity and I found that really sad (but them I love learning how to spell anything different)You look totally cool and classic in this- could see you hanging out on a yacht in the Mediterranean a la Jackie-O!

  2. That's was a very interesting article. You really only do have one chance to make a first impression. It's a tough call. I've been on interview panels for my employer and names are the last thing I look at, but I do admit that I have taken into consideration how a person dresses for the interview. It's not so much what they wear but how they present themselves wearing it. I love seeing a strong assertive woman being comfortable in who she is. My maternal grandmother came to the US from Germany and grandfather from the Ukraine. My mother's last name is extremely long and difficult to spell and pronounce, but never once did she consider shortening or changing it. It's who she is. Love it or leave it was her motto!Dea, you look so chic in this outfit! Those white trousers are so classy!

  3. Hi, I'm a long time reader and enjoy your blog. I think the corporate world is a diverse place. Yes, there are conservative industries but not all are that way. I work in tech and find it to be an industry that lauds free thinking, innovation and a sense of rebellion. There is no dress code in my company. We hire all sorts of people, from different backgrounds. I had considered taking the academic route but left after my Masters. I think in many ways it as rigid and sometimes less accepting of others than the corporate world. It often seemed that classmates who were more ill-kept were considered to be the more serious students and when I sat in faculty meetings (I was an elected student rep) I realized the culture in our department definitely favored those who didn't care for fashion and shunned style altogether. Anyway, you look great.

  4. I know what you mean, Dea, and I'm still trying to find that perfect work-me-fun balance. Luckily my daily work environment is more casual and I can wear mostly what I like as long as it is tasteful and office-appropriate. However when I travel for work, attire is typically business or conservation business casual, and especially because so many of my co-workers are older than me, I find that it is usually safer to lean to the conservative. I'm all for people expressing themselves in their attire, but I think they need to also be respectfl of their work environment and the people they work with! First impressions are in such a good and bad way important!

  5. "I had considered taking the academic route but left after my Masters. I think in many ways it as rigid and sometimes less accepting of others than the corporate world. It often seemed that classmates who were more ill-kept were considered to be the more serious students and when I sat in faculty meetings (I was an elected student rep) I realized the culture in our department definitely favored those who didn't care for fashion and shunned style altogether. "^^ This. It's sad.

  6. I'm lucky enough to work in an industry that doesn't have strict dress codes or requires us to wear suits to work everyday. So I can add a bit of me into my work outfits. I still dress conservatively though, and avoid anything too "sexy" or trendy. I think something as simple and personal as a statement necklace, bangle or brooch can be easily incorporated into one's work attire without losing that "professionalism" image.I think you look very streamlined and sophisticated in your white pants.

  7. I've worked in all sorts of industries, including ones that are suit required and ones that are really casual. I think what you said has some truths to it but it's unfortunate though huh? I agree with one of the writers that the tech industry puts a lot less emphasis on clothes as I've interviewed at a tech company before and they discouraged people from wearing suits. The world is changing ever so slightly but I guess our clothes will always be used to judge us to a certain degree huh?

  8. Cindi, yes. Our company is like that.I let candidates know NOT to come in dressed in a suit because I know the sw engineers will judge them negatively. And, when people do dress in business attire for interviews, I remind everyone that people interviewing are just trying to do what's right and to keep an open mind. I do benefit from all this. I'd never wear short skirts or a sun dress but I can wear sleeveless and open-toed shoes. Had I gone on to a library job as planned I'd be stuck with much more rigid guidelines.

  9. I agree that once you have the job, you have more flexibility. The thing to be careful about is looking too wacky, even once you have the job. There's time for expressing yourself, and there's time where you don't want your clothing to be a distraction. In my work, how I have to dress varies a lot, based on my need to fit in with the environment around me. Yesterday, I had to work in South-Central L.A. as well as Beverly Hills, without time to change, and that was definitely a sartorial challenge.

  10. luckily, in the last 5 years i've worked in the design field, so i can wear whatever i want, within reason. i would never wear anything obscene or in tatters to work– well, i don't wear that stuff outside the workplace, either! i wear lots of color, and architects & designers are notorious for their affinity towards black, so i stand out enough in that regard. ;)my last name is long and hard to pronounce, and my man's is very simple and anglo. i'll probably take his name when we marry, but i also want to tack on my mother's maiden name, which is much more ethnic than my current hard-to- pronounce name. it reminds me of my heritage and i'd like to maintain that.

  11. First off you look amazing in white pants!! Those need to be worn a lot more! I am totally influenced by how I was raised my parents always insisted on me dressing modestly and I always do now. I chose to now but know it's a lot about how I was raised. My mother also always told me to NEVER go out of the house unless I had on makeup. I am really big on getting up and getting ready everyday even though I am just a SAHM! Great discussion!

  12. I don't think I have ever posted on your blog but read it from time to time and liked the personal insights you sometimes shared about your background. If I recall you are in a grad program in public health so you would be looking at what to wear for a faculty position in that area? My thoughts come from my experience as female faculty member in surgery. Originally I was very young (younger than some of the students because I graduated and matched etc early) so I didn't have money for J.Crew and Anthro etc. I interviewed for my first Faculty Asst Prof position in a conservative suit. That is the only suit I ever owned not liking what I can the 'air hostess look':) I have managed years of medical meetings (speaking) without a suit. I think my style evolved as I could spend more but I still put some of my own style as you are talking about eg a skirt and jacket/print blouse, versus the conventional suit. Anyway, what this rambling is getting at is that women in medicine have a reputation of the 'bad hair bad shoes' esp as you cover it all with a white coat! I interviewed for a new position almost 2 years ago and I deliberately chose to wear prints, mixing a J.Crew skirt, patent heels, a ruffled blouse (in a print and color that complimented but did not 'match' the print skirt, and a cashmere cardigan. Over this I wore a trench coat with a flower pin. This outfit was very 'me'. I reasoned that I was senior enough that I should dress to reflect myself and then what they see was what they were getting. I got the position and all I asked for in negotiations. In the interview the other women there were in dark suits and hose. Once in the position I have continued to dress in Anthropologie dresses, heels, printed tights, jackets and cardigans. It is me and I am well respected. So, I think you go with your gut as well as considering where you are in your career. You will find your way. Clothes make you feel good!

  13. Hmm. i remember interviewing for a corporate job and the asked me if I had the money to finance a corporate wardrobe – OUCH!Good thing I became a teacher 🙂 Although I do think certain things are inappropriate in every working environment regardless of where you work and what your title is. Names are unimportant to me plus you should never judge someone by their last name… yes it is their heritage but it is just as often their husbands heritage/name on that resume.

  14. I don't think our weather is ever going to cooperate enough for white pants – wah! You look so cute and ready for sunshine!As far as work attire, before kids I worked for a major pharmaceutical company and some of the scientists would show up in sweat pants. I think *that's* what holds you back from a promotion…not white pants. You are totally adorable and appropriate in what you wear, I wouldn't compromise your name or your wardrobe.

  15. First off, I love your orange checks with the pink flats. Genius! Second, I was brought up knowing the difference between modest and immodest, and I still hold to those standards by choice. I think people in general look WAY classier when they're covered up, especially in the work place. I love seeing people show their style wearing dreadlocks, saris, etc. It's when people disregard acceptable dressing standards (i.e. "lounge pants" for regular attire, showing too much cleavage, t-shirts and jeans when meeting with important customers) that really rubs me the wrong way. Dress that way on your own time if you insist, you know?

  16. My work environment is causal and the corporate partners we have are for the most part casual as well. I am so happy to work in a casual industry. I can't imagine having to have a conservative dress. I think in hiring it somewhat depends on who is hiring. While I think conservative is the safest, if you came to an interview in a stylish put together business casual outfit our HR person would be totally cool with it, and it might help you to stand out from the crowd. Love the blog!http://jo-jo-phine.blogspot.com/2011/03

  17. Oh wow, orange with pink is always such a good combination (especially in warmer seasons) and those white pants evoke such old school class. Lovely outfit, Dea.The state of dressing for a job is such a sad one as a woman. I've only had one job that really required me to dress "for the office" in the truest, most conservative sense and it made me miserable! I also lament that my favourite colour, pastel pink, is one that is frowned upon for women's clothes as most women do need to dress in such a way as to be taken "seriously" for work. It's so sad that just a beautiful colour on a woman is immediately interpreted negatively, especially in regards to job performance. Pink is immature, pink is flighty, pink is flirty, pink is ditzy. Alas…

  18. Truth be told I really struggle dressing for my office culture. It's too conservative for my personal style. As the youngest executive in my company, I also have to struggle with a youthful appearance, which doesn't tend to work in my favor.In my past life, I was blessed to work in environments where I could pretty much wear what I wanted as long as I was presentable. In Hawaii, it's not uncommon to come to work in flip flops. haha… I definitely miss those days.I do remember once interviewing for an internship and the interviewer telling me never to come back to the office unless I was wearing a skirt. I left feeling completely horrified and completely insulted by the comment.Wherever you go, I am sure your personal style will work in your favor, however you decide to incorporate it into your work wardrobe.

  19. First off, I love your orange checks with the pink flats. Genius! Second, I was brought up knowing the difference between modest and immodest, and I still hold to those standards by choice. I think people in general look WAY classier when they're covered up, especially in the work place. I love seeing people show their style wearing dreadlocks, saris, etc. It's when people disregard acceptable dressing standards (i.e. "lounge pants" for regular attire, showing too much cleavage, t-shirts and jeans when meeting with important customers) that really rubs me the wrong way. Dress that way on your own time if you insist, you know?

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