Sunday, May 24, 2009


Inspired by this post shared with me by the lovely Noelle, I have been thinking about wardrobe. Michelle writes about her adjustment to DC work fashion codes after living in fleecy-chic Seattle. I know this shock well, though I made the opposite move and largely made it happily. I went from suits and work shoes with, like, HEELS every day to jeans, Danskos, and vests. And hats. My dainty eyes have never gotten used to the bright Northern sun, and then there's the famous rain, the years writing a dissertation on melanoma prevention, and marrying and birthing pale, freckly types. I need hats here.

I have the odd moment of missing that put-together, confident HILLARY-like feeling that a good pantsuit and three-inch heels can provide, but mostly I have never looked back. Just like I can never pack very well for a trip to a different climate (it's not REALLY 85 degrees in North Carolina, is it?), I sort of know that there is a whole coast of people over the Rockies dressing up every day. But I have also forgotten it. I see visiting speakers from the east coast, and they are so...busy. So..ironed. Bah. I'm sure I'll adjust if I ever move back there, and forget that fleece and Merrells (or Doc Martens, depending where you hang out) are the order of the day in Seattle.

That said--having made the east-west transition awhile ago, I have maintained this outdoorsy ironic image of myself, but then I took Hugo to the zoo on Friday (to meet Melanie Beanpaste! How lucky am I??). As we were walking out the door, I realized in horror that my outfit was a little...mommish. Is that a word? I'm not all into clothes or anything, but I was shocking even to myself. There I was, running shoes, jeans rolled up, polo shirt (I swear I was wearing a polo shirt), hoodie zippy waffly thingy. Hair in a pony tail, and a baseball cap. I nearly fainted.

The thing was, it was all so functional. I needed good shoes for a day of walking, I needed sun protection, I needed an extra layer for the moments in the shade. But still, it was a bit of a shock. I looked just like the moms that I had seen right through on the street for so many years.

But enough about me! What about you? Tell me a story of what your work uniform is--whatever you wear to labor and toil in. Does it fit how you would LIKE to dress for work?

(More to the point, am I the only one who has an identity crisis over clothes?)


Vanessa said...

My work uniform is usually khaki or black pants with a "Zen" tee shirt of some type. I usually wear Danskos or tennis shoes, but go barefoot as often as often as I can get away with it.

Susan said...

Did the heels for years and now am all Danskos all the time. Unless it's flip flops. I live on the east coast, but on Cape Cod so it totally doesn't count. My sister, who lives in D.C., cannot stop shaking her head at my work clothes. Poor thing.

Noelle said...

Wow! I made your blog again. So honored! And a topic I can go on and on about...

When I first started in my current role, we were specifically told "business casual" and not suits. Because I talk to the public of SEATTLE - and we're trying to dispel the notion that the company I work for isn't just a bunch of "suits." (We're really not.) Seattle doesn't like suits.

I was coming out of a line of work where khakis were the norm, and I hated them. I like black and gray, so started trying to find the perfect balance between price and fit. I couldn't.

I worked with Ms Nordstrom and Mr Suit. (He had to be told to take off the jacket, but he used to work for the mayor. Go figure.) I also worked with Ms. Banana. They were (are) all really pretty people who dress well.

I was lucky if I managed a day without pitting out, spilling on myself or managing to unravel the hem of my pants. I had a total complex working with these budding fashionistas. I'd try to wear heels and dressier things, but often felt like a little girl trying on her mom's clothes.

I've managed over the last 3.5 years to find my own definition of "business casual" and revel in the fact that my wardrobe is MINE and it's JUST FINE. I have a couple pairs of slacks and some skirts. I finally decided I don't care if Express is a "cheap" or "young" or whatever brand. Their Editor pant always fits like I want it to.

I wear a lot of simple sweater tops (in winter) and lighter fabric tops in summer. I rotate through these items. I don't like to iron, so I don't buy clothes that need ironing.

Almost every warm day, I wear Dansko wedge sandals. They are amazingly comfortable. In winter, I wear one of a couple pairs of comfy pairs of shoes - black mary jane danskos, some danskos with a strap, a pair or two of clarks. All of these shoes I can walk a mile in. I can take the bus, go grab lunch, walk to a Chamber meeting across the neighborhood. No blisters. No slower pace. Just me walking comfortably.

And I finally decided a year or so ago, that I just don't really wear brown or navy. I wear black and gray. So all of my accessories and stuff go with that. I don't own any more brown shoes. I love the color, but I didn't want to have to figure out what goes with what. I feel like black and brown can't go together (although the fashionistas in my life combine them all the time?)

I don't wear jeans to work, so I still have them to look forward to when I get home. Put on some chacos or keens. So there's still some separation in my head between "work wear" and "casual wear." But it's a pretty fine line. And I've learned to embrace that.

smalltownmom said...

I work (soon to be past tense) as an instructional aide at an elementary school. The first year I did not spend a lot of time on the playground, so I wore nicer teacherish clothes. The second year I was on the playground every day and crawling around on the floor tying first graders' shoes so I dressed down to jeans and whatever went with. This year, it varies. I like to have something with pockets for the cell phone...not that I take calls at work but I use it for the TIME since all the clocks and watches at school are on different times.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I'm actually making the transition from a a jeans and tops/sweaters wardrobe to a teacher's wardbrobe. I'm still trying to decide between skirts and pants before I invest.

With skirts I can wear flats, but with pants I really need a heel (having very short legs). It's a quandary.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

And meeting Melanie? Wow!

The Gossamer Woman said...

I don't work and I don't have little kids anymore, so I don't have to dress any specific way other than how it pleases me. I like to dress hip, in mini skirts and leggings and funky boots and colorful tops. I also like skimpy dresses and the lightly layered look for when it is colder. I don't want to look like anyone's mom and I don't want to look my age. I never wear jeans and don't find them becoming on me. My shoes and boots always have to look good, not necessarily be comfortable, although it helps. I have a stylish haircut and always wear make up. I guess when you get to be my age, these things all get to be priorities.

Dani in NC said...

First off, I looked up those Danskos that all of you seem to be wearing. Too pricey for me!

I'm in NC and I've seen a difference in dress code from one COUNTY to the next. I live close to the county line and I've changed jobs a lot lately, so my clothing choices have gone back and forth. In Charlotte, everyone dresses more formally with women in high heels and pantsuits and trendy haircuts. Just 30 minutes away in my home county, we all wear knit pants, flats, and simple cotton tops. What we wear every day would be considered business casual in other offices and reserved for Fridays.

Anonymous said...

When I moved from the NW to a Muslim country, I thought I would need to always look, well, frumpy, to not offend my new neighbours' sensibilities. Boy was I in for a surprise! Thanks to 8 years now living amongst Arab and French women, I am a lot more feminine and I wear heels a lot of the time. My wardrobe has really changed.

And getting to meet Melanie! How fun! I'm totally jealous of both of you.

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

I love my danskos and I'm never going back.

That being said, I've taken up skirts and dresses in the summer because they are so comfortable and it makes me feel less mommish.

Maybe more Stepford...don't know if that's good.

I hope you and Ms. Melanie had a fab time.

Childlife said...

I believe I have the same exact shoes. And socks. And I too have donned the "Mom Uniform" which I used to pity when I was busy zooming about in heels and collared shirts doing busy heeled and collared things, thinking busy heeled and collared thoughts.

A good finger painting session generally snaps me out of a pending identity crisis these days ;)

Sorry it's been so long since I've stopped by, Nora -- I really am still reading -- I've just become the most dreadful of slackers when it comes to commenting and other things that one thinks of when one things of good little bloggers.

(The Danskos made me do it. Sooooo comfy... zzzzzzzzzz ;) )

jenn said...

Lately I've actually been trending back toward the heels, the funky accessories, and all the fun fashion-y things I'd abandoned for t-shirts and yoga pants when my kids were small. And even though I'm no longer as skinny as I was back in the day, I'm feeling more "me" than I have in a long time.

Mac and Cheese said...

Sneakers, jeans, and argyle. I may be Stacey and Clinton's stay-at-home poster mom.

Magpie said...

Luckily, I work someplace where we have "dress up days". 98% of the time, I'm in jeans, and a t-shirt, or a sweater, and I tend to kick my shoes off whenever possible. And speaking of Danskos, I need a new pair...

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Athleta. Do you get the Athleta catalog? I love it. They're marketing themselves as yoga/beachwear, but in fact it's the perfect Momwear. Title Nine is also good.

I don't wear Danskos, I wear these. (Well, a version of that.) They're Mary Jane's! They're girl shoes that you can run in!

Stacy (mama-om) said...

I am home with two kids, one of whom is still two years old.

Basically, this means I am a walking napkin.

After ruining half my clothes, I finally decided to dress the part: yoga pants. But almost never in public. I save my dirty mom jeans for those occasions. ;)

Katie said...

Boy, this subject doesn't ring home with me. AT ALL. And I am a liar. LOL!

Being a SAHM means that most often my "work attire" is my bathrobe. When I can pull myself together I wear jeans, Old Navy Tee's and Dansko's. Ponytail and baseball hat inculded. ;)

lapoflux said...

I almost had to break up with my Lululemon yoga pants because, um, the STRETCH in them let me ignore just how big my butt was getting.
We're trying to reconcile now.

apathy lounge said...

My clothing identity crisis really ramped up when I was at home with kids. As long as I was working (in some form or fashion), I felt I had a few items that didn't cause me to die of shame when I met others outside of my home. That's all I've got. :)

maggie, dammit said...

I have those Dansco's in black AND brown. How exciting am I?

phd in yogurtry said...

If I had my way, I'd wear jeans and clogs to work everyday. I've probably got the largest collection of clogs in Texas. But instead I usually wear dressy casual. Today I wore a stretch waist cotton black skirt with a dressy(ish) mustard green t-shirt and clunky black (comfortable) sandals. I am very UN-trendy, instead preferring comfort first, matching solids, second.

This comment is way longer than I intended. But all to say, I'm ambivalent about fashion but have resigned myself to comfort.

JCK said...

I really like dresses, but don't wear them enough. I am lazy and wear jeans too much. It's amazing how dressing nice can perk your spirits!

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