I’ve previously mentioned that I have many fantastic colleagues — all of style and fashion* — among whom clothing is sometimes swapped. I’ve persuaded another one of these women to come visit with you today. In keeping with the veil of anonymity that enshrouds Directrice Global Industries Ltd., I am withholding her identity. We will call her MEB.
I love clothes and am very interested in hearing how other people (women, mostly) think about them. So MEB and I took a snack break (Dolcezza) one afternoon and I asked her a few probing questions. Of course, I neither recorded nor wrote down her answers, so we agreed that before the end of the day I would send her the questions in writing and she would send me her responses by email during her Metro ride home that evening. MEB is so organized that she sent me the answers from Metro even though I forgot to send her the questions.
MEB’s answers were elegant and well-constructed and reflect her voice so well that I am reproducing them without any editing. (The captions, footnotes, and italicized text are my words.)
I have always liked clothes and textiles. All of the women in my family are really great craftspeople. My nana and great-aunt have been in a sewing circle forever and my mom teaches knitting classes and is in a weaving guild. I peaked at making hats for my dolls at age 8. But I don’t especially like shopping for myself. I actually most enjoyed my work wardrobe when I was pregnant. I had a few pieces that I really liked, fit well, and were comfortable (everything stretchy!) and so getting dressed for work was very easy.
Now, I try to keep my clothes simple. I have breakfast with baby E and she is a rather exuberant eater, so I stay in my pajamas until the last minute, throw something on, and dash out the door.
I am also breastfeeding her and pump at work. Sitting around undressed in your office is weird! (But I am very lucky to have my own office). So for now I am more comfortable in separates rather than a dress that has to be removed altogether.
Business casual to me leaves room for more creativity with shape and proportion, brighter and bolder accessories, and shoes that are a little bit weird.
Why don’t you like shopping for clothes?
It’s hard for me to find clothes that fit well. Most stores carry little inventory and I have accepted that I’m bad at returning online goods on time, so ordering a bunch of different sizes does not end well.**
I must stop the interview here to draw your attention to MEB’s riveting necklace.
O.K. Carry on.
And now, an interlude. Let’s take a look at the Exuberant Eater.
Can you summarize your style?
I have lived and worked in many cities but most admire the stereotypical New Yorker – simple, modern clothes and chic shoes that are easy to walk in. I can’t totally pull that off but it’s a style to strive for.
Workplace dress codes focus so much on women’s dress and presentation.+ The focus is usually making sure that women are not too revealing or sexy. But who cares? It often feels like dress codes are putting the burden on women to prevent sexual harassment, as if a dress code could do that. People say they want the workplace to be professional and put together, but dress codes let men wear tired khakis and sad polos and look totally dumpy, so clearly dress codes aren’t doing their stated job.
I think how people communicate workplace clothing norms is very interesting. After law school, I clerked for an appellate judge, where 90 percent of the time I was sitting in Chambers with the judge and my co-clerks talking, thinking, reading, and writing, with zero contact with the public. Even so, every group of clerks told the next group that the dress code was full, formal suits every day. No one knows how this started. The Judge never said anything about attire and often wore a blazer or sometimes even a sweater (gasp) with a dress or skirt. But we all respected her so much and took the job so seriously that full suits seemed appropriate, so I guess no one thought to question the norm?
Thank you, MEB, for meeting The Photographer and me on a Saturday. For those wondering where we are, we took these photos at the Silver Spring Library, after which The Photographer and I took ourselves to Pacci’s for the most delicious Neapolitan pizzas.
* Mrs. Bennet! (Faye Weldon screenplay)
** My skills at time management and organization vis-a-vis this blog may leave something to be desired, but I am all business when it comes to returning on-line purchases. He who hesitates is lost!
+ As a deeply committed feminist, I am abashed that I have never considered this. Too right, MEB!