Being successful at work is really important to me, and I’m at my best when I am completely focused. If I’m in “the zone,” you might find that if you walk past my cubicle and say hello I’ll jump a bit, completely startled that anyone else was in the room. (Thankfully we have security doors, so I don’t have to worry too much about someone sneaking up behind me!) That’s just how I roll: I sit down, dig in, and get things done.
But here’s the thing: if my sweater sleeves are itchy, if my pants are ill-fitting, if my bangs fall in my eyes or if my shoes are uncomfortable, I can’t do my best work. My mind will be distracted by how much I hate my outfit or how uncomfortable I am. I’m not sure men have these problems. But that’s not what this blog post is about.
To do my best work, I need to be comfortable. A dress with a cardigan or blazer is ideal, so long as hosiery isn’t rolling down or bunching up. Slacks and a sweater or blouse can also be great, if the pants fit well and my cubby isn’t too hot or too cold. I really like to wear heels at my desk – partly because they feel fancy and partly because I don’t have to wear socks so my feet don’t get too hot. I try to wear layers that can be stripped off without scandal in case I get too warm. My ideal work set-up requires changing from flats to heels and a sweater to a blazer just like Mr. Rogers did. (Dreams do come true, kids.)
If this all sounds a little crazy to you, that’s okay – my productivity makes me a fantastic employee, so if comfortable clothes and fancy shoes are what it takes for me to strategically plan broad organizational change or write and edit convincing and accurate reports on a deadline, I’m down for a little craziness.
This past week, however, a blog I read was talking about the difference between wearing clothes that make you feel good, and wearing clothes that make people think of you as the boss. As young female professionals, we want to do whatever it takes so that our management thinks of us when developing the organization’s succession plan, filling vacancies, etc. And what this blog post and the comments that followed boldly stated was that the best way to be empowered in your workplace is not to feel valued and loved and comfortable in whatever position you hold or clothes you wear. The most effective way to be empowered in your workplace is to have actual power in your workplace — a.k.a. to be the boss.
While I absolutely want to dress in a comfortable way that allows me to do my best work, I also want to look like someone who should be in charge. If someone new walked into the room and scanned the people sitting around the conference room table, I want that visitor to assume I’m already holding a management position.
Spring is coming (slowly but surely) and each day I’m edging closer to 30 and farther away from 25. It’s time for a[nother] closet overhaul. It seems like I need one of these every now and then! I’m not sure if fashion posts are your thing, but I’ll be checking in for the next few weeks on my 2014 closet revamp.
To kick us off, today I’m linking you up with my favorite fashion blogs:
1. Capitol Hill Style – Belle’s a former Capitol Hill Staffer, and she provides realistic and specific advice for a professional wardrobe on a variety of budgets, and she includes plus size options and hair and makeup recommendations.
2. Corporette – Fashion, lifestyle, and career advice from former firm attorney turned full-time blogger, Kat. The comment sections here are incredible, and if you have a question about how to navigate a difficult work situation or what to wear to work-ish events, this is where you want to go.
3. The Small Things Blog – For hair and makeup and all-around beauty, Kate’s blog is the place to go. I used one of her hair tutorials for my hairstyle during one of my best friend’s weddings last summer, and she gives honest reviews of products to help you find what works for you. She also just had a very adorable baby. Kate’s archives are gold.
Okay, so tell me where you fall on the spectrum: do you dress for comfort or to make a positive impression? Maybe a little bit of both? Does hearing this perspective on empowerment make you re-evaluate your own wardrobe choices?
It’s been a long winter. I can’t remember a day that I haven’t made the choice between snow boots or regular boots. The snow boots usually win out. I’ve worn my full-length eggplant purple coat nearly every day since the package arrived in our gym. [We get packages delivered to the gym in our building. It’s a little strange.]
There are a lot more weeks of winter-ish weather ahead, but I’m so ready to wear something different. I’ve been online window-shopping like nobody’s business. I know it’s better to spend your clothing budgets on quality, not quantity, but these items are just thrifty enough that I might pick up one or two to add a little spice to my sweaters and wool slacks while I wait for signs of spring.
Except, probably not the shoes. I think it’s going to be a while before I can go outside without warm socks. But a girl can dream, right?
Well, now that our freakishly cold Midwestern winter has started to spread across nearly the entire country, I wanted to share a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up since my first “winter gear” post earlier this season. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that surviving a Midwestern winter isn’t about fortitude or enthusiasm, it’s about having proper winter gear. Google and fashion magazines aren’t really as helpful as you might think — I learned the most from your comments, asking my coworkers what kind of gear they use, checking out the people on the bus to see what name brands and styles look the most comfortable and commute-friendly, experimenting with a few different things, and finding what works for me. For those of you who have been sending tips and tricks along the way, thank you.
1. Layers. Everyone talks about layering, but before this year I always considered a cute tank with a v-neck sweater to be layering. I’d never engaged in layering for warmth. Now, I wear warm-layer leggings, wool socks, and a tank underneath my regular outfit every single day. I love the fleece-lined leggings recommended by my friend Kristen, I like the texture and feel of regular ole’ thermal underwear, but most often I’m rocking the Cuddl’ Duds I included in the photo below. I also layer on a fleece or moderately thick sweater that I can wear in the office if necessary without looking like a college kid in an 8:00 class.
2. Outerwear. I purchased a coat which is great for moderately cold days (where the low is like 10* to 20*F) where I’ll be active or getting in-and-out of a heated car frequently. But that isn’t really my normal day. Because I walk to the bus stop and then stand still for two to twelve minutes each morning and evening, I needed something for my commute that was seriously warm. Everyone seems to wear North Face coats here, but the cost was very high and a few people I work with recommended the Lands’ End Squall coat series. I did my research, including an online shout out to several of you guys on Facebook, and decided that the Lands’ End Long Commuter Down would be the best fit for me.
3. Sizing. I’m typically quite hot-natured, and have always gotten overheated easily on the bus/train. Thus, during my commute to work in DC I never tried to wear warm clothes underneath my winter coats. I learned pretty quickly that my size Small coats couldn’t really handle the kind of layering I needed to make my commutes passable. So, I ordered a Medium in my new coat. It was huge. It is so large that I almost returned it for a smaller size because I felt silly wearing such a large coat inside my warm apartment. Now that I’ve been actually wearing it, though, that extra space in the arms and shoulders is the best thing ever. I can fit a very thick sweater or a fleece zip-up under my coat and there is still plenty of room for moving around. Also, extra big is extra warm.
4. Footwear. I thought that my rotation of knee-high leather boots would be perfect all winter, but post-snow sidewalks are treacherous and disgusting, so I’ve been avoiding them on my commute and just carrying them to work in my canvas tote. I picked up this pair of fleece-lined snow boots because they were cute, but I’ve been hearing great things about Sorel and Merrell boots and may snag a new pair for next season on clearance if I find something that looks good.
5. Socks. I try to wear warm wool socks every day, and if they are the thin ones I’ll just wear them all day, changing into work-appropriate shoes during the workday. I also keep a pair of knee-high pantyhose in my bag and can switch into hose and heels at a moment’s notice if I have a big meeting. Seriously, though, regular cotton socks just won’t do when you are out in the weather — wool socks (preferably the ones that go all the way to your knee) are required.
So far, my new large coat, snow boots, and effective layering have been keeping me incredibly warm. Each day I make it to work without crying or giving up, I feel a little more like a winter-weather superhero.
Am I missing anything? Any other tips you’d like to share for those of us surviving our coldest winters ever?
On Utilizing Dissent in the Workplace and the 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of JFK
You guys know I often read Harvard Business Review’s Blog, and find a lot of interesting articles on careers and leadership and culture shifts there. A colleague pointed me to the New York Times’ Corner Office, and I’ve been digging deep into their archives this week. I very much enjoyed Bob Pittman’s interview on the value of dissent.
A short piece about decision-making during John F. Kennedy’s presidency is related, showcasing JFK’s utilization of conflict to develop full briefings on both pros and cons of important issues. I found this fascinating and think I would bring that system into practice if ever I were to be the manager of such a team.
On Psyching Yourself Out Before Heading Home Next Week
How to argue about Obamacare over Thanksgiving . This post gives you tips for your holidays-with-family arguments whether you are for or against Obamacare. As for me, I just avoid these conversations like the plague. No good comes from mixing politics and family. BUT I will say that having lived through emergent health situations in my own family, I stand with Richard Beck and many others to say that If you have a way to provide healthcare for more people than Obamacare will cover, and you have a way to convince Congress to pass it and fund it, let’s talk. After the holidays, of course.
On Accomplishment and Anxiety
What to do when good news makes you anxious. I loved this quote (see below) and the tips that follow are quite helpful.
“[N]othing about anxiety is as disruptive as its propensity to pop up when least expected, or in contexts where anything but anxiety seems appropriate: after a positive outcome like a promotion, a plum committee assignment, or stellar quarterly results. Unfortunately, those who don’t know how painful these bouts of anxiety are usually trivialize them: Women suffering anxiety after success were, until recently, diagnosed with a “fear of success.” When men suffered these symptoms it was called “happiness anxiety.” Actually, it’s neither.
People forget that good news is often a double-edged sword, stroking egos and enhancing status (not to mention financial rewards) with one edge, while imposing performance demands and social isolation with the other.”
On Alterations, Disposable Clothing, and Dressing Well
A great blog post regarding how, why, when, and for what cost you should be altering your clothes is going to be a good source of information for me long-term, and also referred me to the Wardrobe from Scratch Series (an oldie but I think a goodie) at Putting Me Together. I’m going to spend some time with this blog series this weekend.
I know what I like to wear. It’s usually three, maybe four outfits that I mix and match. I have less-loved filler in my closet too, but there is one pair of jeans I always prefer, a few pairs of wool socks that are soft instead of scratchy, the perfect tank to wear under a sheer blouse. When I’m running late, I can never find the pieces that need each other. Half-dressed I’ll realize something essential is missing. That first outfit is thrown to the bed/floor and I try again. Sometimes, it takes a few re-starts to get it right.
As much fun as this whole dressing-undressing-redressing experience probably sounds, it isn’t. I end up later than planned to work, or else have to skip breakfast because my precious morning minutes have been used up frantically searching through drawers. When I’m even five minutes later to work than planned, I fret on the bus instead of enjoying catching up on blogs, and my morning work time (which is my most productive time of day, when I’m not thinking about shoes and tights and sweaters) takes a hit.
There is a simple fix for this unnecessary stress: planning ahead. A lot of people recommend choosing your clothes the night before, but I know myself well enough to know that there’s always a night or two each week that I can’t be counted on to care about morning stress. Perhaps we’re out late at a dinner or met up with friends for drinks or trivia; if I get in late, I’m pretty likely to go to sleep without choosing outfits or ironing slacks.
It may sound a little intense, but I’ve started choosing an entire week of outfits on Sunday evenings. It has completely changed my morning routines.
First, I do the regular load or two of weekend laundry. In a perfect world I actually put that laundry away, but if we’re being honest that doesn’t always get done.
Then, I check the weather. I grab a post-it or an index card or my planner or whatever else is handy, and jot down the ballpark temperatures [lately, just “cold” or “really cold”] and take note of any days where it might be rainy.
Finally, I stand in the closet and pair tops, skirts/pants, and sweaters together and hang them in a group in the front of the closet. I go to my drawers and choose the tights/socks/underneath layers necessary for each outfit. I also think of what shoes will be necessary and make sure I gather up all of those shoes from where ever I might have stashed them and place them in my closet.
Over the last few months when I’ve been using this system, I’ve learned a couple of things:
- Always choose an extra outfit. This is great for two reasons. One, you can wear any outfit during the week that you’ve chosen, and if you decide you hate something at the last minute you have a back-up. Two, if you fail to be responsible on the following weekend, you have an outfit nicely waiting for Monday morning and you can catch up on Monday evening. I’m taking advantage of my extra outfit right now, wearing black tights, a black dress, and whatever cardigan is the least-wrinkled in my closet.
- Pull that blouse you never wear out of the back of the closet and try putting it back in rotation. You bought it for a reason, try to remember what it was.
- Develop a balance between dry-clean-only and regular-wash items, so that from one week to the next you still have clothes to wear. When I finally get to the dry cleaners, I have a slew of items I love that I haven’t worn in a while (because who goes to the dry cleaners regularly? Not me…), and I want to wear them all at once. Doing so will only result in them being back in the “please take me to the cleaners” pile right away. Space those beloved items out so you have at least one thing each week you love.
Do you have any tricks for dressing well without stressing out? If so, please share in the comments.
On Growing Up
The Huffington Post’s 23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing. How many times have we heard this about unnecessary apologizing? And I still do it. Do you?
On Networking and Professional Dressing
Lydia Dishman for Fast Company asking Do Dress Codes at the Office Work? For me, dressing for success is more about dressing well and feeling awesome, not dressing in a certain style. So, good-fitting denim, a stylish blouse and heeled boots make up my go-to Getting All The Things Done outfit. I am a powerhouse of productivity on Casual Fridays.
Keith Lee’s Natural Networking: Business Development On Your Terms provides tips for expanding your network successfully without selling out. [Skip the beginning and start reading right under the GIF. First few paragraphs are a bit meh.] A quick summary: just do stuff you like and tell people who you are; connections that develop organically are still connections.
On Adoption Ethics and How We Can Help Better
Kristen Howerton at Rage Against the Minivan wrote an excellent piece critiquing orphan care as the solution to poverty. It is really amazing and I think everyone in the entire world should read it. Check out How the Christian orphan care movement may be enabling child abandonment.
On the Government Shutdown and Being a Better Citizen
The Shriver Brief’s post describing how important the federal government is to housing in America, and detailing struggles that could result from a [further] extended government shutdown. Check out Jeremy Bergstrom’s Government Shutdown Hits Close to Home for Millions of Americans.
And even if politics and government subsidies aren’t your thing, I’m so impressed by The Bloggess’s WE ARE THE GOVERNMENT. Let’s all get busy making America a country to be proud of, starting right where we are. Here’s one way we can do that, provided by Kid President.
Thanks for reading! And, I’ll admit it: it was actually six links plus a video, but I’m allowed to break the rules on my own blog! Feel free to share other awesome things you’ve been reading in the comments.
September was busy but fun. Here are the things I’ve been into this month. I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into series, so if you’re looking for cool fun things click here and see dozens of other bloggers’ favorite things from their Septembers.
1. What I’ve Been Reading and Watching
I read my first real book in ages this month: Kaye Gibbons’ Charms for the Easy Life. I loved it. It was a perfect mix of strong women and old-timey wisdom and magic. Well, if you think natural medicine in south Louisiana qualifies as magic. I do.
I also joined the Chicago Public Library and am excited to take advantage of its book collection this year.
Finally, Praise The Lord that fall television has returned. I have been watching — everything. So far my favorite new show is Blacklist and my favorite returning show is, surprisingly, Grey’s Anatomy. I skipped out on Grey’s all last season but am now becoming reunited with my college love for the characters. Unfortunately McDreamy is showing his age.
2. First Things: Stitch-Fix
I received my first Stitch-Fix shipment in September, and I am totally addicted. You go online and fill out your sizes and your style profile, and then a few weeks later you receive a box of five surprises to try on at home and either keep or return. It costs $20 to get the shipment, but those $20 dollars go toward the purchase of any item you keep from the box. My favorite item was a navy blue, 3/4-sleeve blousy top with black lace on the shoulders by Collective Concepts. Unfortunately, I cannot find a picture online to show you!
In my first shipment, 4/5 items fit, and I can be hard to fit so I was ridiculously impressed. I kept three, because the jeans I received were distressed and that is SO not my style. I get a new shipment in two weeks and I am already so excited for it to come in. Here’s my referral link if you’re interested in checking it out: https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/3172203.
3. First Things: A Creative Conference
I also attended the StoryChicago conference, an annual gathering of “creatives” founded by Ben Arment. It was totally weird and basically two days of feeling like a lonely outsider while hearing some incredibly inspiring speakers discuss how they make incredible products. I didn’t love it, but I don’t typically love conferences because I’m introverted and because I don’t like to be in a large group where everyone is comfortable wearing the same label. It was a good experience and I would consider going again. However, it cost a lot and provided minimal free stuff, so I’m kind of meh about it.
However, I AM wicked into this post by Sarah Bessey about how conferences feel weird. I identified with her experiences and am glad I’m not the only weirdo out there.
4. What I’ve Been Doing: Loving Chicago
Work has been very busy, and I’ve loved every minute of working hard for my country — it’s what I always wanted to do. In my free time, I’ve been working hard to get to know my city. We tried Frontera Grill (the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten), I’m still doing research for my forthcoming publication The Top Ten Greatest Brunches in Chicago (nothing yet has come close to beating Bongo Room, the first meal I had in the city!), and we’ve been taking (almost) daily walks around our neighborhood. The weather has been fantastic and I hope it stays this way a bit longer before the cold winter blows in.
So that’s all for today! What have you been into this month?