The dangers of work-wear etiquette

work wear

The other day I made the somewhat catastrophic mistake of wearing a leotard to work. (I had trousers over the top, don’t worry – no Baywatch inspired high-cut legs here.)  Whilst this backless, stretch cotton marvel might have been the perfect sartorial accompaniment for a day stalking the pavements of Brick Lane, it was clear by about 10.30am it was a BIG mistake for my working day. With the October chill winding it’s way around the office, it was nipple erection o’clock – just what you want to go with an already naked back. Needless to say I spent most of the day wrapped in a giant cable cardigan. Work-wear: fail.

Any of my fellow London commuters who are of similar fashion inclinations may have read Rosamund Urwin’s fantastic feature on workplace dress-codes in the Evening Standard last night on the sleepy Friday night train home. Whist these ridiculous city law firms who proclaim women’s skirts must only be a ‘Bic biro’s width above the knee’, and their cleavage less than half an inch of tit, at least they actually have a dress-code. In the left-wing creative world, no such guidelines exist…

In fact, inside my glossy (read: bureaucratic) HR handbook, the company’s words are: ‘we have no dress-code here, so wear whatever you think is appropriate to complete your job’. Appropriate. But what does appropriate even mean?

When the day for my interview arrived, I faced a sartorial dilemma in terms of ‘appropriateness’ bigger than I’d ever had before. I had a job interview; more importantly an interview for a job I really wanted. I also knew my interviewers were male, and so might not appreciate any form of leopard print shoe/bag/hat. But, I was also due to attend two London Fashion Week shows in the afternoon: only the biggest pavement catwalk in the world. In the end I worse a neon green dress (don’t laugh) layered with a black sweater on top, nude heels, and an over-sized black bag. It must have worked; I got the job AND got papped at Fashion Week. Sartorial success to say the least.

But, I digress. The matter in hand is what do I wear to office during all-day, everyday? Taking into account that I mainly sit at my desk, wander over to the kitchen, trot off to meetings, and go downstairs to pick up free sweets, there’s nothing I could wear that would restrict me in terms of actually doing my job. Wearing heels on the journey to work is a definite no-no, as I’m sure anyone else who gets the Piccadilly line at 8.30 every morning will whole-heartedly agree. But, that’s not to say I’m against slipping a pair of T-bars in my bag to change at my desk.

The vast majority of my office are male. Moreover, they’re the kind of males who wouldn’t give two hoots that I was wearing new-season D&G. They probably don’t know who either D or G are. It’s a big difference from my usual stalking ground of a glossy fashion desk, where you were looked up and down every time you strutted down the glass corridors in your clacky stilettos.

That said, my inner style guru just won’t let me leave the house in anything that doesn’t tick at least a couple of fashion boxes. On my first day, I opted for a loose black dress with a subtle tribal print, thick black tights and my trusty heeled black ankle boots. Smart, but not boring. As soon as I realised my boss wore jeans, I realised I could have some fun with work-wear. Which, as someone who has worn a work uniform for the last seven years, is pretty bloody fantastic.

It was all going well until I received my first work-wear fashion complement. A fellow colleague gingerly approached me, and suddenly gushed ‘I LOVE your cardigan! Where did you get it? I need it!’. Which would have been great, except, I was forced to reply ‘actually, it’s man’s cardigan. It’s not mine.’

Back to the drawing board then.

2 Responses to “The dangers of work-wear etiquette”
  1. So true! Whenever a company says they have a ‘relaxed’ dress code, I always over think what ‘relaxed’ means. It also depends on who you work with

  2. abridgeman92 says:

    At least it wasn’t a 50 shades of grey/hideous skirt convention day! 😉 x

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