Saturday, 8 September 2012

Work Wardrobe

Whether or not to have a uniform was always a topic of much debate when I worked in the library. There was not even a formal dress code, something which I always thought was a shame. Apart from our name badges, there was little to distinguish staff from customers, which could be a little difficult if you were not a regular, especially now we are in the era of not sitting at desks, but floorwalking looking for customers.

Rewind a few years to when we had professional librarians and 'operational' staff, and the librarians were mainly of an older generation whose clothing set them apart from the 'operational' staff. I don't think it was a conscious thing, but it was noticeable. Fast forward a few years, and there are no 'professional' and 'operational' staff any more. The main argument against a uniform, aside from the financial aspect, was that nobody could agree in staffroom tea break debates what the uniform should look like. Nobody wanted Waterstones-style t-shirts, but equally nobody wanted to wear full suits. It was an academic question anyway, but always provoked interesting debate.

When I started managing my own little library, and then the big library too, my working wardrobe definitely changed. When I started with my own little library it was a shift to wearing more 'serious' clothes for the days I was working there. My favourite was a black pencil skirt and a cashmere jumper. When I started managing at the big library, I did have a little shopping trip and bought a few new things to wear.

Now I am working in the Cabinet Office, clothes are once again in my mind. The Councillors wear suits, on the whole. Their advisors wear suits, mostly, but there are some who don't. The PAs wear a wide variety of clothes in varying degrees of formality. The interesting thing is again, there is no formal dress code, but one seems to have established itself in an unspoken manner.

My wardrobe tends to lean towards the vintage style and floral end of things. I made a conscious decision when I started my new job to be very in control of the image I project, and to dress more towards the suit end of things (although without wearing an actual suit!) rather than the more casual end of things. I do occasionally wear floral, but not so often. Last weekend, as I mentioned, I turned out my wardrobe and had a really good time doing it. As well as putting away my more summer clothes and bringing out my autumn-winter clothes, I arranged them with work wear and home wear being distinct. It was very noticeable to me that since starting my new job, my 'home' and 'work' clothes are far less interchangeable, and I actually like that a lot. It makes me feel more 'at home' to not be wearing clothes that I also wear to work, although I do have one or two cross-over pieces.

My work wardrobe is mainly dresses, and is quite mad-men in inspiration, to me at least. My favourite piece is definitely the green Gok Wan dress. To refresh my wardrobe, I want to look out for some nice jumpers for the new season - not necessarily cashmere, but cashmere-look, very Nigella in style. Although I love my dresses, I am enjoying the pencil skirt and jumper or cardigan look. On Wednesday I wore my black pencil skirt with a cream vest top, and over that a little cardigan in slightly sparkly animal print with my red bead necklace, red lips and nails, and nude high heels. It works better than it sounds! It is ways like this that I can inject a bit of personality into my working wardrobe.

I was really interested to see this article on the internet which talks about what secretaries have worn through the years. There are some outfits there that I would never wear in a hundred years, and some I would love to wear!

What would your dream work uniform be?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've worked in a professional office for years, and as I also am a vintage-wearing girl, it can be hard to mix business and pleasure in your work wardrobe. Going 60s office is a great way to do it! Good luck!