In season one of the HBO series "Girls," there is a scene in which one of the characters is going to her first day as a nanny and she asks her cousin, Shoshanna, for outfit approval. Shoshanna views her sheer white dress with hot pink bra/underwear set showing through and asks, "Don't you think it might be a bit threatening? I can see your belly button." The girl replied defensively, "It's floor length." She then wears the outfit to her new job.
This scene, and many others from TV, really stick with me as I near graduation and suddenly have to be an adult and get a grown-up job. I feel like I have nothing suitable to wear to my new serious, adult life.
A big part of my problem, and what I think is an observable pattern, is that there seems to be no happy medium between how TV presents work attire and what potential employers likely see as appropriate. For instance, do you remember when everyone on "Gossip Girl" had to get jobs? The characters basically became more elaborately styled or costumed than when they began. It's as if they were saying to us, "Go ahead, wear those stilettos, miniskirt and tousled hair to the office. You look great!" But at the same time, I think there's an older generation that's pushing young female professionals in more of a conservative style similar to the washed-out pastels and ill-fitted gray slacks worn by Pam in "The Office." So where's the middle of the road between too much trend and not enough personal style?
Fast-fashion stores such as H&M and Forever 21 seem like they're trying to help, but I think we've all seen the unfortunate souls stumbling around campus like baby deer learning to walk in patent stiletto platform pumps and some kind of shrunken suit-miniskirt ensemble. I look at them and think, are you going out or are you going to a presentation? It's hard to say. Similarly, there are many who don't feel the pressure to dress any differently. Maybe they put on a button-up, but they probably put their hoodie over it and wear sneakers anyway.
I think our parents came from a stricter workplace generation, and everyone got the memo about what to wear. Our generation is far more casual about a lot of things, and clothing is no different. For me, TV and fashion blogs play a big role in my discontent with the "traditional office" style, but I fear I can't be taken seriously in my career if I make too much of what I wear to work.
I also have to wonder if it even matters that much now. Personally, I'm still very persuaded by how people choose to present themselves. A lot of people claim they don't care; however, claiming not to care and dressing the part is a decision on self-presentation in itself. And I don't think it's possible to actually not care.
Clothing for TV and film characters is carefully chosen to represent each personality, and I think people share that mentality by dressing themselves for a certain part. In that perspective, perhaps we all have to dress the part of the role we want to play. For me, this will mean a move away from those fast-fashion, trend-focused clothing, putting emphasis on well-made clothing that says, "I know who I am and this is who I want to be"
What do you think? Is "traditional office clothing" a thing of the past, or should people have to dress the part if they want to be taken seriously?
Start a discussion
Concurrence or rebuttal, if you have a strong opinion, let's hear it. The Maneater Forum seeks to publish a diversity of opinions and foster meaningful decision. Readers are encouraged to actively contribute to and develop new discussions. Add to ours, or make your own point.