I’ve come to view my wardrobe as a feminist issue. Now that I’m old and self-employed, I wear what I want. I dress up and try to look nice according to my standards and my budget. I try not to fall under the spell of some fashion magazine that tells me pencil skirts, footless tights, and ballet flats are appropriate for the office.
When I worked in Corporate America, I traveled to see executives and other HR leaders. I tried to look professional and stylish. My weight fluctuated. I was always shopping. I wore outfits that were no less than $250 — and that’s without the shoes. If the outfit was new — and if I wore fancy shoes with tights AND a real bra + accessories — the outfit was easily $1,000.
I never wanted to wear the same outfit to the same location because I was an idiot. I feared being judged. I had at least fifteen different outfits at any given time. Rotate in seasons, weight gain, weight loss, and insecurities. I was spending a fortune. In any given season, I could drop $15,000 on a wardrobe.
That’s $15K that could have been maturing in a 401k or paying off my student loans.
Could I wash any of those clothes in a washing machine, by the way? Hell no. I had to budget money for dry cleaning.
If you are one of the many men I’ve hired during my career, you probably rocked the standard-issue wardrobe of khaki pants and a button-down shirt. This is true even if you’re a Vice President in a Fortune 500 company. Those pants are $50 at Eddie Bauer. A shirt might be $29.99 at Macy’s, but your wife probably used one of those 40% off coupons.
It’s possible that I hired you and you showed up to work on the first day wearing clothes that could washed on the permanent press cycle and dried on tumble dry low setting. Your outfit was under $75 and you didn’t give a crap.
I always bristle when corporate executives complain about the decline in dress code standards. When I was twenty-six, I talked a chief operating officer out of a revamped formal dress code policy. We walked through some of the expenses related to clothing. We talked about clothing as a morale issue. We discussed how expenses related to clothes could adversely impact the women in his office.
I suggested that he pay his employees more and include complimentary dry cleaning. He laughed and we never talked about it, again.
What do you think about corporate dress codes? Do they disproportionately burden women? Do you refuse to spend money on clothing? How much of your income is spent on clothing?
I also wonder if your corporate wardrobe an extension of your personal beliefs? Do you refuse to wear something out of principle? Do you always wear an article of clothing to make a statement?
Talk to me about your clothes.