Business fashion is defined by conforming, but what role does expression play?
As our choice of dress defines us, I’m constantly astounded when I see stylish people dress down their character and persona for ‘the office’. Understandably extreme punk isn’t a banking outfit, however within reason, I question why we allow conforming of image to overshadow elements of our character in the office.
Olschi asked me to write a guest post for this fashion blog and I was a little stuck as I’m not a ‘fashion girl’… I’m an expression-dresser. I have no idea about trends, but, probably just like you, I know what I like and what I ‘feel like’.
When grooving around Frankfurt during the lunchtime feeding frenzy I’m overwhelmed by grey suits. I look into the eyes of these people and see weekend warriors, poets, garage musicians and hobby gardeners – none of which expression I see on their ‘work suits’.
Why does ‘the office’ distill style? Is it a notion of conforming or being afraid to express?
During my 10 years working in corporate environments I understand what it’s like to feel pressure to “Be your Best”, a type of office poker face that hides our insecurities and fears so we look competent, reliable and efficient to our peers and leaders.
In 2007, while working at a major German corporation, I decided to stick it. This (very nice and excellent) company had a rule of No Jeans (even on casual Friday). I made a bet with my direct colleagues – I would wear jeans every day for a year AND get a promotion.They gladly reached out a grey-suited arm and handshook the deal, with a little under belly laugh.
The jeans program ran well, and I started to really push it -getting lazier and lazier with the look. As luck would have it, the day I wore doc martin boots, old jeans and a tee with “feed me chocolate” written on it – I was called to present at short notice in a board meeting. As I did the death-march up to the top floor, my colleagues laughed and yelled out Goodbye as they were certain that if I turned up at fuhrungskrafte meeting like that, I would surely be thrown out.
I wasn’t fired, rather, I was praised for my work and encouraged to go further. The meeting secretary sent me an email after I left saying that the discussion among the members was “does she usually dress like that? why don’t we have more expression in this company?”. Indeed by the end of that year, I was promoted and an impressive jeans collection. Interestingly, I haven’t worn jeans since. It was a phase that I had clearly used all my jeans days in my life during that year.
Expressive work-dressing is not necessarily about dressing down, but rather about being more in line with ourselves inside & out. For example, in my current work I find myself wearing cocktail dresses, lace gloves and feather hair fascinators on a daily basis. It’s just how I feel now.
Even though I’m fronting a new business that operates within the luxury field, I’m still not bowing to pressure to dress “responsibly” or “branded” either. I’m surrounded by exclusive brands and images all day, and finding my outfits in poky stores with hand-written signs and passionate designers. I wear things my friends make, or designers from my home town; this way I feel wrapped in their love and creativity. This boosts my inspiration and I feel connected to them, and my humanity.
What we wear and how we express are signs of ourselves, and no fashion week, or office regulation is going to dictate my feelings to me.
So Olschi – this is my feeling about fashion. Love, lyss x
last 2 pictures are from kraM Photografie