Dress for the part. But what’s the part anyway?

Miu Miu ciré pencil skirt — can it be worn at work?

My favorite fashion shopping website is Net-a-Porter — I think by miles it’s the most functional, appealing and the one with the finest curatorship of clothing among all.

Net-a-Porter used to have a workwear section, dedicated to clothes and looks fit for the office, but that should do no wrong in a fashionista’s eyes. Plenty of Roland Mouret and Victoria Beckham there, a bit of McQueen and Stella — tailored stuff mostly, structured totes and pumps. I looked for the section now, and it’s gone, they only have now vacation and wedding “shop by occasion” sections. But the existence of the section is unimportant; what matters is… what is adequate workwear after all?

Can those McQueen cropped metallic honeycomb-lace pants be taken to the office?

Here’s why I’m saying this: where I work, people dress very badly. If they wear suits — men or women alike — those suits are usually very plain and sometimes, straightforward cheap. Cufflinks for guys are unthinkable — we have meetings with customers or suppliers from different companies and they always come to those wearing what seems to be their finest, while our representatives have the practical simple plastic buttons doing the job of keeping their pulses covered. Should I come to work decked out in VB in such a scenario?

I don’t posess anything designed by Posh Spice, but I do own a burgundy silk pencil skirt by Lanvin that is perfectly office-friendly according to Net-a-Porter’s workwear rules and cost me only a 100 USD (thank you Century 21! I love you!), and I wear it to work like nothing else mattered. And it doesn’t to me, but to my colleagues, it’s like I’m the idiot who really dresses up for work, or at least that’s how I feel. Maybe they’re thinking “oh my good, she looks so chic” as they stare at me. I don’t know.

What is it to look professional, and more: how much of yourself should you compromise in that task? Because it’s not just about the type of fabrics and cuts and shapes that are allowed, there’s a quality issue there and a taste factor that are both very subtle, counterintuitive even — you can’t be really too tasteful at work, you can’t colorblock even if it’s Roksanda Ilincic who’s doing it for you, and God forbid you’ll wear tailored beehive McQueen pants, even though they’re basically black with a dash of gold.  Is it even good to be noticed at work by your impeccable, somewhat sartorial tastes in fashion, and anyway — should you care?

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One Comment to “Dress for the part. But what’s the part anyway?”

  1. Oh god. This post really hits home for me. I just quit a job that sucked the sartorially creative life out of me. I started out so adventurous and creative and …ME…and ended wearing black and grey slacks every day out of fear that I’d be subjected to more of my colleagues condescending stares.

    I was “that girl” who overdresses for her underwhelming job.

    And it sucked.

    Workwear should be whatever the hell allows you to do your work best.

    Period.

    Love this post.

    -gab

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