I’ve recently decided to shift my wardrobe range to something more… not… so… overly casual. I’d love to do some work at conventions and such, and I’ve done work-related events in the past, but every time I have, I’ve had to go and buy clothes and accessories for the occasion. I just don’t keep “non-essential” things on hand.
As anyone in the working world can tell you, most places fall somewhere between “business casual” and “business formal”. Me, I think I’m going to develop a whole new range and call it “business FABULOUS!”
So, I went out to start assembly my new fashion sense, and while I was at Target (because, hey, I’m still on a budget), I ran across these bras that promised “two extra cup sizes”. You know how curiosity killed the cat? Well, it also kills breast tissue AND self-esteem!
Of course I tried one on – and then I threw up a little in my mouth. I was … endowed, shall we say, back in high school, which looked only slightly less ridiculous than it would on my right now because I still had my baby “fat”. (More descriptively, I have never even been “festively plump”, but back then, I was not quite so slender. Having babies does weird things to a body sometimes.)
Are women supposed to look like that? I tried to imagine myself in a corporate or sales environment, wearing that bra under a snappy blouse, and all I could see was a bunch of disgusted women and a slew of drooling men. What I’d have to say would have no bearing on their demeanor… and maybe that’s the point.
Oh gods… did I just solve the whole plastic surgery phenomena problem? Are women made to feel that they need unnatural augmentation so that they don’t have to show off their intelligence (or lack thereof)? Do women who buckle to pressure to get cosmetic surgery do so because they are insecure about their intelligence?
Seriously, though, the great conflict that all women in professional positions face is that balance between being “attractive” enough for people to want to talk to but not so “attractive” as to distract from whatever it is they need to talk about. Yes, some people will buy anything from a nice rack, but the other 80% of people make up the majority of the market. And if we’re talking about something that requires a background in academia or intensive education, it’s almost worse because any attractiveness silently implies that the woman in question got her degree or certification on looks instead of hard work (despite women generally having to work harder in advanced degrees because of that expectation).
The fear that this addresses is a big old case of “not good enough”: If there’s an insecurity within a woman that says that she’s not smart enough or clever enough, the fall-back is to over-do the physical “pretty” – but women who seem to fall into the leave-a-button-undone category also seem to get the most chances of promotion and monetary benefit.
So, this idea of “business fabulous” is based on the idea that you can have an attractive wardrobe that doesn’t show off all-the-gods-gave-you, something that suggests a cleverness and personality couched in a compelling package. For the specifics, I’m thinking of going with pencil skirts instead of A-lines, fitted longer-line jackets instead of standard suit lapels, narrow scarves (knitted lace or fine fabric) instead of pinned squares, and a range of colors underneath for mandarin-collar button-downs and long-sleeved tee-shirts. Pants can be gently flared, boot-cut, and mid-waist instead of low- or high-waist. Shoes should probably stay in the chunky heel range for both pumps and boots – but stilettos and two-inch granny pumps are right out. And don’t even think about flats!
Make-up can totally be kept in the standard neutral range, but throw a little color into the eye shadow. Let the hair be fantastic and daring! Jewelry doesn’t have to match and should be neither blue-light special nor mother-earth-goddess chunky.
As I collect more pieces for this Business Fabulous look, I’ll post more pictures (and links) here. Yes, there is a narrow range of styles that you can get away with in business, but that’s not reason to be boxed in. The better you feel about how you look, the more you feel that your look reflects your real self, the more comfortable you’re going to be.
I’m just sayin’.