Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

media. music. feminism. food. city-dwelling. story-telling. and other things.

On Getting Dressed for the Office

with 2 comments

Stock Photo, Women Office Workers

One of the worst parts about going into an office again is trying to dress like a grown-up.

My current office isn’t one with a terribly strict dress code—jeans can be worn any day as long as they’re not worn every day, and sartorial eccentricities are tolerated wordlessly—but it sure isn’t working from my bedroom in Brooklyn. Which means a certain degree of Trying To Look Appropriate is still required.

During my first job out of college, working as as admin assistant/proposal editor for a big science research firm, I loaded up on striped button-downs, wide-legged trousers, tweed skirts and sensible cardigans from Old Navy and second-hand stores. I thought I looked “professional.” Until one day it occurred to me I just looked boring. Frumpy.

I looked like a secretary in Ohio who shopped at Old Navy.

Edie Sedgewick

So I vowed, from then on, never to attempt to look like a Getty Images version of an office worker again. Instead, I would try to translate my natural style—which tends toward extra-in-Jesus-Christ-Superstar (the film) meets Edie Sedgewick meets a kindergartner—into an office-friendly version of itself. And yet, at this, I often (read: mostly) fail miserably. Take today, for instance:

I seem to be wearing a pair of tight, flared, bubble-gum pink pants (Express by way of the thrift store), a brown t-shirt, a short-sleeved tan windbreaker, cowboy boots and large rainbow-beaded hoop earrings.

I realize that the way I talk about my office-clothing choices completely removes any personal agency from them, but that is how it feels. One minute I’m in pajamas, one minute I’m in a towel, one minute I’m in a pleated seer-sucker mini-skirt with black tights, a peasant blouse and a blazer. Much like boyfriends, or finishing an entire bottle of Malbec, these things just happen.

The upside, I guess, is that no one will ever confuse me for a Hill staffer.

And sometimes homeless folk compliment my shoes.

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Written by Elizabeth

April 21, 2011 at 12:06 am

2 Responses

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  1. Oh how I miss your workplace getups, my dear. 🙂

    Mel

    April 21, 2011 at 2:46 pm

  2. Oh, yeah; they were even worse back then, I think. I remember one day walking into our little news hub and Lehr just taking one look at me and busting out laughing. I seemed always to be having shoe troubles, too, that were much-discussed in morning meetings with Cindy …And then there you were, all suave, in your heels and monochrome skirts and tops ….

    Elizabeth

    April 21, 2011 at 3:09 pm


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