You Are What You Wear?

Several months ago, I looked around my Day Job and noticed that every single one of the people who’d been in the Marketing Department when I started had been replaced by tall, younger women with great hair and awesome style. While I’m not a member of the Marketing Department myself, the new business development work I do borders closely on the work that they do and I interact with them a lot. This new gaggle of girls got a lot going on — they’re smart, savvy, and they want to work together to make this a great place to work. The influx of such positive attitudes from a department that had heretofore been a squawking, whining albatross around my neck was shocking, and forced an attitude change in me. Some of that, I admit, was fear-based — what if the company or my team decided that these up-and-comers were better suited to building new business pitches? What if their youth made them better at utilizing new tools or better tools, or just gave them the advantage when it came to selling our story?

This is sort of a part two to my previous post about creativity and compartmentalization in that my perspective towards my job underwent another minor sea change. I had been getting busier for over a year, taking on more and more specific responsibilities, and working better with each of the sixteen people I support to push the envelope a little bit further and do better. My bonuses are tied to commissions, so the more work we win, the better off I am. This shift in perspective wasn’t about the actual work; again, it was about my relationship to the job. I was giving it a 100% in my mind, but I didn’t really look the part. My weight was up again (I’ve been losing and gaining the same ten pounds for years), and I had taken to wearing a uniform of pants, top, cardigan. Everything in neutral colors, mostly black. I did not have style — I did not look like someone you wanted to trust with a dynamic new business pitch, I looked like someone you turned to if you wanted to churn out the same-old, same old.

So I got online and bought a bunch of business casual clothes to perk up my wardrobe. I experimented with colors I never would have dreamed of before. I went a little nuts, honestly, and then found myself not really knowing what to do with what I’d bought. I’ve never been a fashionista — the closest I have ever come to that was when I went full-on Cyndi Lauper in eighth grade, then incorporating some Madonna as a freshman in high school (including the boots from Desperately Seeking Susan — how did I ever let my mother throw those away?). And oh boy, did I ever pay for that socially. Still there have been many times I’ve longed for the freedom and joy I felt when I was wearing exactly what I wanted to in order to feel special about myself, even if it made me a bit of an outcast at the time. Oh how I wish I could go back and tell my thirteen-year-old self to let her freak flag fly.

ImageThere I was with a navy pencil skirt, completely stymied as to what to wear with it. I did the best thing I could thing of — I invited my 29-year-old friend over to show me how to be a girl. She has great fashion sense and isn’t afraid to be honest with me, so she was for sure the right person for the job. Also at 29 she has more maturity and wherewithal in her little finger than I do in my entire 42-year-old body.

She made it okay to pair my navy skirt with a dark orange tank, to drape that long necklace over the collar of that rich cobalt blouse, and to yes, put that pink button-down under that purple v-neck sweater. She reminded me that fashion could be fun. And when I went to work the next Monday I was for sure slightly nervous, but I also felt powerful. I worried that because I sit at a computer all day I would be uncomfortable and while that is a factor, it’s been outweighed by the fact that I feel more engaged with the company and the people I work for. I look like I want to be there, and that has actually helped me want to be there even more. Of course I’ve had to field lots of questions about why the change and do I have an interview, but it’s been a few months now and I think they’re confident I’m not going anywhere.

For the last several months I’ve been revamping my basics, and I’m left with a sort of aftermath — I’m just not wearing several of the things I’ve bought. Of course some of that is the season, and some is the dramatically cold/snowy weather we’ve been having, but some of it is Wow, what made me think I need two of the almost-exactly the same beige knit top? And some is, Oh, so Lurex = sparkly; hunh. And, happily, some of the stuff I bought in the fall no longer fits because I’m currently at the low end of my weight range and going strong.

I also find myself lamenting the lack of “special” items (sure, the Lurex sweater counts as special but it’s also sparkly. I just don’t know). I feel like I have the basics covered and now want some of those pieces that not only make others take notice but make me feel unique. So I have put the kibosh on my online shopping for the moment and signed up for a monthly StitchFix subscription. Starting next week, and every month until I cancel, I’ll receive a box of five items specially chosen for me by a StitchFix stylist, based on an extensive online profile I filled out and my Pinterest fashion board. I get three days to try the items on with stuff from my closet and return any or all, free of charge. All of this for a $20 styling fee, which can be applied towards any of the items I choose to keep (and if I keep all five items, I get 25% off the whole Fix). I’ve been trolling the internet for other people’s reviews and just can’t wait for my Fix to arrive. Having someone else tell me what to wear and send the items to my door is like a dream come true (it’s probably a whole other post in and of itself but I sometimes find making small, day-to-day decisions absolutely paralyzing). Next up is organizing a frock swap with friends to try to trade off those beige knit tops…

Stay tuned for a StitchFix review next week, hopefully with photos and all. If it sounds like something you might want to try yourself, please use my referral link!

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