There is a whole generation of us that are stuck in between- in between university/ education and true adulthood (according to what the Baby Boomers and Gen Y call true adulthood), in between leggings and sweatpants and suits and gowns, in between the formal workplace of yesteryear and the current dressed down nation we all now inhabit. Today’s post is all about striking the balance between youth and maturity in your professional wardrobe, and building confidence in your own sense of style.
I am often asked why I am so dressed up; I don’t think I’m particularly dressed up- a dress or a skirt and top are just as easy to put on as pair of pants. (I would actually argue that a dress is easier, but that’s a discussion for another day.) There are a few reasons I dress the way I do, though. 1) I think that we ask too much of our clothing, and are far too hard on it; we should not expect the same pair of pants to take us to the office, to the gym, out on the weekend, on vacation, and anywhere else we please. It’s one pair of pants, not a magic lamp. Having clothing for work, and for play, and for athletics, and whatever else I need, helps my clothing last longer. 2) I think that being ultra casual does affect your mood and work ethic whether you want to admit it or not, and for me it makes me complacent and tired. 3) I enjoy it! 4) Dressing casually can make people think you are younger than you are, which doesn’t exactly help all of the time.
1) Leggings Aren’t the Perma-Answer
Yes, I am starting off blazing here- I do not believe that leggings should be the answer to every wardrobe question, or even a minority of them. Are leggings comfortable? Yes. Can other clothing be as comfortable? Absolutely. I know that a lot of people cling to leggings when they have gained weight- I myself am carrying extra weight currently that I wish I wasn’t, and it would be incredibly easy to slip into leggings every day. There are a few issues with that, though.
If you only wear leggings, you may not realise that the rest of your clothing is tight and uncomfortable. When you actually do need to wear something other than leggings, you are screwed (to be indelicate). Go and buy yourself clothing that fits instead of solely wearing the same two pairs of leggings non-stop; it doesn’t have to be an entire wardrobe but a buy a few pieces that fit properly (whatever size that is, because it’s just a construct), and make you feel confident.
Take a step up a notch, and back away from the leggings for a bit. Teacher, parent of toddlers, woman who works 3 jobs, there are comfortable, durable, flattering, easy-to-clean items that aren’t leggings!
2) A Suit is Too Much
Unless you are in a specific industry or a professional carer, a suit probably isn’t needed. In fact, it is probably too much- I am all for dressing slightly above the norm, but a suit is usually overkill. I find that the business and office world is a difficult walk for most of us women currently. Men can still go with dress pants or slacks and button up shirt but us? There is the leggings and tunic look but that can be overly casual, women’s dress pants can be impossible to find (because we don’t get the waist measurement/inseam measurement option that men do), and a women’s suit looks incredibly formal. (If that is what you want, more power to you!)
I also look quite young, and the formality of suits often does make me look far younger than I actually am. When I want people to take me seriously in my career, the last thing I want is people thinking I am playing dress up. I also find that if no other women in your office are wearing a suit, you will often stick out in an uncomfortable way. It’s almost as though we are limited by the sheer volume of choices!
So, How to Walk That Line?
Whatever your own style is, work within it! I skew very classic and traditional in my wardrobe, but these tips can be used for any wardrobe style.
1) Clean and Ironed
No matter what style of clothing you wear, dirty and wrinkled clothing is appealing to exactly no one. Get into a habit of hanging your clothing instead of throwing it in the dryer to eliminate a lot of ironing, and iron your clothing before putting it back in the closet so it is already ready to go. No one has ever said, “that person is too clean and neat for me”!
2) Err on the Side of Simple
I would personally recommend erring on the side of simple rather than busy. That isn’t to say that you can’t have personality in your outfits and statement pieces to make an outfit your own, but a busy and chaotic outfit can often say, “I’m young and trying everything because I don’t know what I’m doing.” I’m not claiming I know anything by a long shot, but I think that the older we become, we try specific things (instead of throwing many things to see what sticks.) A simple but bold outfit can carry a lot of confidence and weight with it!
3) Use Structured Pieces
I know that it can be a comforting tendency to wear loose, unstructured clothing when you don’t like your size or shape, but a little bit of structure gives an outfit direction and strength. I would balance structured with looser pieces, so that you still feel comfortable and don’t fall into the overly structured suit trap. (As someone who works in a university, I would say that in a majority of cases, you can tell who is a student and who is a staff member by how unstructured their clothing is.)
4) Know What Works For You and Use It
We have all different things that suit us. Some of us look great in bright colours, some of us look fantastic in loud patterns, some of us can rock a black tux jacket like nobody’s business. But very few of us can do all of this, and that’s a-okay. I am absolutely more confident a piece that I know “works” for me than a total roll-of-the-dice piece. While I advocate identifying and using your style icon, make sure that the clothing you wear works for you and your body.