Monday, August 24, 2009

What to Wear to Work

In April, back on my other blog, I wrote:

Thoreau warned, in Walden, that we should beware of any enterprise that requires new clothes. How true!
When I got my job at the church, I stressed a bit about what clothing I should wear. As Director of Religious Education, I should look professional. When I needed to go in front of the whole congregation, I needed to look put together. But then I also would be doing arts and crafts with little kids, sitting on the floor, and standing on my feet for hours.
Back in the fall, I really felt like I needed to be more professional looking. I bought three pairs of nice women’s slacks from Lane Bryant - really nice well fitting pants.
The thing is, I don’t wear those pants at all. They’re nice, and they probably are appropriate for the job. But, they are not “me”. I had never had any pants like that before, and it turns out I just don’t feel very comfortable in them. I’m much, much more comfortable in corduroys, chinos, and skirts (if they are the “right” skirt). In fact, the item I purchased last fall that I wear the most to work is a jean skirt I got at Goodwill for $4. It looks great with all my tops and sweaters, and I’m comfortable in it.
Now, I’m sure my “comfortable” look isn’t quite as professional as the look of those pants that are just hanging in my closet gathering dust. But, honestly, living here in the Northwest I don’t think anyone at church cares. If I’m not wearing faded blue jeans and sneakers with a fleece pull-over, I’m more dressed-up than a good 3/4’s of those in attendance at church.
Fashions come and go, and sometimes “identities” that require a certain “look” come and go too. But, the kind of clothing that I’m comfortable wearing and put on day after day has not changed in years. Maybe I’ll look dated. Maybe I’ll look boring and conservative (I’m sorry - I like polo shirts and khaki pants!). But why spend money on clothing I won’t really wear when I’m pulling things out of the drawer in the morning? I reach for my favorites, not what I “should” wear. So, bring on the L.L. Bean catalog!

As Fall and Ingathering at church approaches, I'm still working on this whole clothing issue. I got through the summer very nicely with skirts, bare legs, a nice pair of "mary jane trekker" shoes from Lands End, and assorted "dressed up" (ruffles and tucks and detail work) t shirts from JCPenney. Now, I have that "back to school" feeling that tells me I want to start fresh with the Fall. And I read a blog called Beauty Tips for Ministers which serves to remind me that there is a look that is appropriate for the clergy and looks that are not. It's my little fashion fix, although it's not completely appropriate advice for me (east coast vs. northwest regional fashion norms, and I'm not a minister so I have different particular issues).

I started by ripping out pictures I like from the catalogs I get in the mail: JCPenney, Lands End, L.L. Bean.

trying to plan the fall wardrobe

And next I did a smart thing and called my mom. She took the time to listen to me go through my closet and describe what I have and what I like to wear. I have a few skirts I love, and yes, some of them are denim skirts. I have three cotton blouses that I have to iron, one crazy cool orange paisley corduroy blazer, and two turtleneck sweaters. I have three cashmere cardigans in bright red, black, and pink. I have a pair of corduroy paints and a pair of dressy gray slacks.

What do I really need to be a Director of Religious Education? As a profession, we want to be taken seriously and respected, and dressing well is part of that effort. On the flipside, I think dressing too professional turns off the kids and youth that I'm actually working with. A little "I'm still fun and hip" for the youth, and a little "I don't mind sitting on the floor or climbing on the playground equipment for the younger kids". Actually, I'm a bit inspired by Ellen DeGeneres.

Her look, of fun shoes and clothes that she can move in and is comfortable in, is really cool.
Okay, I've done my research and talked to someone close to me and thought about it, but now I need to shop. What I'm going to buy for the Fall:
1. A new pair of dark denim jeans. Not for Sunday mornings, but for weeknight meetings and around town. (Last year's jeans, being faded now, get demoted to housework and park play with my kids).
2. A couple plain knit tops that will look good under sweaters.
3. One more good, well-made, and classically styled cardigan sweater, in a fall color (green, brown, or burnt orange).
4. New tights.
5. Maybe some new skirts if I see something really cute.

1 comment:

  1. Thoughtful post on what to wear to work. I am looking for a paying job, outside of being an artist, and am trying to supplement my crazy artist style with more conservative things I'm picking up at Goodwill - just in case. But maybe I will never have to wear them!