I’ve not really ever had good clothes-fu. Or good makeup-fu or hair-fu for that matter – I’ve got a really low bar for myself when it comes to overall appearance; generally, if I’m not inappropriately naked and I won’t frighten children, I’m good. My poor mother was baffled by this when I was a teenager – she was always trying to pull me back into the house every school day, pleading, “just a little color on your cheeks, maybe?” and she recently confessed that she’d daydreamed about having mother/teen-daughter bonding over clothes shopping trips, and been a little disappointed when I wasn’t into that. (She’s gotten over it by now.)
In fact, one of the things I loved about my current day job is that it was actually okay to wear jeans to work. Prior to this, I’d been suffering with a half-assed “business casual” in a finance job – but business casual in finance is a little different from business casual anywhere in the world. I actually once got taken aside and told that a cotton dress I’d worn to the office a couple times was “too casual” to keep wearing. It was an inch too short, I guess – or, more likely, it was obviously inexpensive. So I had to abandon my thrift-store shopping and try to save up for the rare one or two pieces of things that I could afford, and work them to death. I wore the same few pairs of pants and shirts and tried to accessorize as much as I could, but it still felt oppressive.
Now, though, I’m working in a non-profit, and people are regularly turning up in jeans and funky scarves and cozy sweaters and cute hats and wild necklaces and I love it. I ditched the boring shirts, threw away whatever threadbare or itchy pants I’d tried to make do with, and dug out my jeans and indulged the inner hippie that I’d always had; wearing basically what I wear anyway on weekends when I’m going out for the day, but all the time.
Recently, though, the office underwent some remodeling, and the Presidents’ Office suite got moved to brand new digs. And as a result, my boss and I had to move with them, just yesterday. I turned up in my by-now-standard jeans, cardigan, and a plaid shirt I picked up this fall when I was in a bit of a Phase. And I looked around as I was unpacking – and saw that the new office has all the administrative staff in a more open pool in the middle of the floor, and everyone else was wearing either skirts or nice pants. And everyone else coming in would see that I was in jeans.
I’m going to have to up my sartorial game again, I fear.
It’s still a damn sight better than finance – I don’t have to be in as much of a cookie-cutter lockstep (the Chief of Staff was rocking a miniskirt a few days ago, and I’ve seen another admin show up in a poncho over a denim dress), but Jeans All The Time just isn’t going to cut it any more. Today I tried to hack something with a sweater, khakis and an artfully-draped scarf, but…I still feel like it’s obvious this is exactly what it was, which was something pulled together at the very last minute.
Fortunately my birthday card from Mom and Dad included a bit of a windfall, so I can splurge a bit and buy a couple of things on the weekend. But that still means figuring out what to buy, that walks that weird fine line between work appropriate and…bohemian. Yet comfortable. But inexpensive.
Now you see why I don’t like mucking about with clothes usually.
Edited to Add, One Hour Later –
Holy crap, guys, I just remembered something that is going to simplify things for me tremendously.
Okay. See, the biggest problem I have is remembering what I have when it comes to clothes. I have tried playing around with my clothes before, trying on different shirt-pants-scarf combos and seeing how they all work, and discovering things I’d never thought of before. However, I then end up forgetting about 65% of what I’ve just tried on and fall back on my standbys.
About a year and a half ago, I did a silly “explore the neighborhood” scavenger hunt thing sponsored via Atlas Obscura – it’s what prompted me to apply to work there, in fact – and I ended up winning the thing. And little did I know, the grand prize was actually a camera.
A Polaroid digital camera that can instantly print out pictures. So I could do something like, say, try on a bunch of things and take pictures of the best ones, and print them out and stick them to my closet door or something – so I’ll remember what I have.
Yes, I realize this means that I need visual aids to dress myself, but you haven’t met me before I’ve had caffiene.