The Directrice Presents: The Next Generation

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.)

How do you feel about clothes?
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.
Elegant lines of a cotton sweater and pleated skirt are matched by the bold ochre necklace

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.
This woman, despite having a 9 month old, is wearing a white skirt with no food stains on it

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.**
The necklace is pulling us in

I must stop the interview here to draw your attention to MEB’s riveting necklace.
O.K. Carry on.
Highly tactile, but no touching at the office!

And now, an interlude. Let’s take a look at the Exuberant Eater.
She did try to gobble her mother’s necklace
She’s not hungry; she has a passion for life! Isn’t she squishylicious?

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.
The Photographer directed us to gaze into the middle distance and look normal

What do you think about workplace dress codes?
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.
The skirt floats into place

MEB’s mother made this beautiful backpack; chic and filled with things for the Exuberant Eater
What do you think about dressing for work? What do clothes mean?
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.
Caramel colored shoes elongate the leg; the opposite of assertive, but Very Effective

* 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!

16 thoughts on “The Directrice Presents: The Next Generation”

  1. What a great post! MEB is admirably quick and articulate on her metro commute. Love the ensemble (and the squishylicious Eater). Very elegant but comfortable. Where do the shoes come from?

  2. MEB thanks for the post!
    You are a style-articulate blogger 🙂 and you are spot on with your comments about dress code and the ‘burden’ of the code being on women! The necklace is lovely, an outstanding accessory.

  3. Great post – fabulous style and excellent thoughts on dress code and use of clothes as a signaling device when working for the judge.

  4. MEB looks amazing and I love that backpack. Maybe her mom sells them on ETSY?

    Also, I really agree with her about the office dress codes. I never thought about them quite that way. Yes, I have thought about the blame the victim aspect of patroling what women wear, but never the corollary that men can be dumpy with no repercussions.

    I don’t even work in an office and I’m exercised about this!

  5. I enjoy dress codes – being a school administrator. I ensure that “no underwear showing” refers equally to both genders as well as the “no cleavages…front or back” since no one needs to see a child’s plumber butt, or bosoms. I’m focused on mostly hygiene… if your shorts are so short that you need to be concerned about the sweat left on a lab stool by the previous occupant, they are too short.

    Love my job.

    • The Carnegie Mellon Museum of Art. Unfortunately, the museum shop does not appear on-line. Tant pis. But I am sure they would be delighted to receive your call!


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