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?
I told you on Monday about my big Chinese New Year haircut, and how good it felt to start fresh again. You can understand why my first New Year did not have a triumphant feeling if you saw my January calendar.
Last month I wrote about adding sparkle to my daily life and ATTACKing 2014, but that was pretty hard to implement while battling winter weather and a weak immune system! That’s hopefully all changing now.
As promised, here’s a snapshot of my new ‘do. I took my sweet time sharing because my skin has been so horrifyingly terrible since I started getting sick and I just didn’t want to share that part of my month with you!
I gave up and ordered the new proactiv+ and so far it has helped a lot. It’s a lot more moisturizing than the original formula. I’m one week in and my skin has responded well. If that’s something you struggle with too, it might be worth giving it a shot.
Happy weekend, y’all.
I haven’t significantly cut my long brown hair since the Saturday before the bar exam, July 2011. On that day, my hairdresser Allegra told me what a big haircut can mean. Her mother practices Buddhism, and believes the cutting of hair is a release for the whole body: As our bodies process stress and worry, those feelings grow out of our skin into our hair, hanging around with us each day. When we’ve been walking through life wearing our past stresses and worries long enough, when we’re ready for a change in our lives and our souls, cutting off our hair removes the residue of that long battle and helps us to enter into that new stage.
I have been to a few yoga classes this month, but I don’t know anything about Buddhism so I cannot tell you whether any of that is true. I’m not entirely sure any Buddhists out there would read this and identify with that statement in any way. It could be completely misunderstood or misconstrued by me during a bar exam-induced frenzy. But, I’m a believer in the power of a good haircut and let me tell you why: After three years of law school, three months of intense studying, and one significant haircut, I passed the bar exam with no real worry of failure and entered into a new stage of life.
That new stage, which is now my old stage, was rocky and beautiful. I made some deep and lasting friendships, learned a lot, and became much more grounded in who I am professionally and personally. But it was hard. It’s been almost three years now since that last big haircut, and there were a few months in there where I only went to work because I didn’t want to pay a fine for departing before my fellowship was complete, and where I only went to parties when I couldn’t think of a socially acceptable excuse to break the commitment. There were absolutely some days where the veil I wore was too thin, and my actual heartbreak or frustration was clearly visible to those who I like to pretend cannot see the dark edges of my humanity. And, I stuck my foot boldly into my mouth more times than I would like to remember. (I do continue to remember these moments, which is perhaps the worst part of this whole thing called living. Each time I say something horribly ill-timed or inappropriate or unthinking I remember it. Even years later it comes back to me in a disappointing memory which no haircut has as of yet been able to erase.)
Over the last month, I’ve been thinking a lot about getting a serious cut. My hair was just too long, and it was starting to get in the way of things. All of those feelings and memories just didn’t fit onto my shoulders along with the sweater and scarf and coat and hood necessary to survive this winter. I never felt comfortable with my hair sticking out from under a hat and pointing every which way while I walked down Michigan Avenue toward my new office in my new city. In my apartment my hair was straight and lovely, but each time I headed outside toward something new the wind would blow it into tangles and knots. It was time to let go of the baggage and free up some room for warmth and possibility.
I thought that my twenty-eighth birthday would be the time for the big cut, but beginning the day we returned from Las Vegas and until just a few days ago I was so sick I could barely leave the apartment, much less choose a hairstyle and find a stylist. I kept delaying the cut, although I knew how much I wanted it and how ready I was for the change.
This past week, as my cough reduced and my health improved, I found a stylist on Yelp.com and made the appointment. I didn’t realize at the time that my cut was scheduled for the second day of the Chinese New Year celebration, considered to be the first day of the new year, but how perfectly timed it was. As many celebrate the new year by cleaning house to sweep away ill-fortune and make room for good luck (thank you, Wikipedia), I too am chopping off the last three years and starting fresh.
I don’t have a picture for you now. This change wasn’t just about fashion or beauty, it was about being more fully alive, about diving in and seeing what would happen. And so before returning to the surface, I wanted to take the time to share this process. But don’t worry, glamour shots will be headed your way soon. Happy New Year, again. Let’s do something awesome this year.
I’ve been struggling with writers’ bloggers’ block this week. I wanted to write about my goal to change the way I define myself. I wanted to tell you that I’ve noticed a change in how I describe myself to others: that I just introduce myself with a long list of plain boring facts without including any mystery or magic or hopes or dreams. I wrote and re-wrote and edited and began again so many times, but it never felt right. Instead of continuing to struggle to get the words in the right order and explain how I noticed this change and what I’m going to do to fix it moving forward, let me just tell you straight:
I want for my identity to be more than just a list of the things I do each day. I want my hopes and dreams to be wrapped up into who I am. But instead of trying to rationalize some alternative approach to introductions and self-awareness, I’m going to attempt each day to squeeze a little mystery and magic, some mini-version of those hopes and dreams into my agenda. I’ll give those plain boring facts a little extra sparkle.
Would you like to join me? Is it true, just maybe, that you would also like to have a little more magic in your daily endeavors? I’ve been thinking of a few ways for myself, but would love to hear your ideas too.
In the mornings:
- Make a special breakfast like my friend Osheta.
- Write in your journal.
- Stretch and use your joints for five minutes. (My yoga teacher reminded me last week that the fluid in our joints only moves when our joints move – there’s no internal pump like there is for our hearts.)
- Wear lipstick. Dust off those hot rollers for a little extra bounce. Pull out the nice jewelry.
- Play some pump-up music.
At the office:
- Make a cup of tea at 10 and again at 2. Just because.
- Hang an inspirational quote. Write something funny at the top of the daily to-do list. [While you are at it, write down the time and room number of all of your meetings.]
- Drink that entire bottle of water before lunch. Refill and empty again before you leave.
- Take your lunch break. Use it well. Turn your computer screen off, look out the window, walk outside, or read a poem. Promise to take at least ten minutes away from the screen.
- Splurge for the nice pens. Bring them to work with you.
In the evenings:
- Cook something fancy, or scramble some eggs, but turn off the TV while you eat.
- There are more than enough calories left for a little chocolate.
- Dance party.
- Dig those cute jammies out from the bottom of your drawer.
- Brush your hair. Apply lotion.
- Light a candle and write in your journal. (Or maybe something more like this?)
- Read a chapter from that book that’s been sitting on your nightstand for three weeks.
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?
1. Alison Green from Ask A Manager’s post for U.S. News and World Report, 7 New Year’s Resolutions for a Stronger Career in 2014. I’ve just recently started following AAM (Ask A Manager) and the advice and compassion from the community in the comments is enough to make you believe in the internet again.
2. Kate’s Favorite Simple and Quick Hair Tutorials, at The Small Things Blog. If only my hair would look as good on just one day as Kate’s hair looks every single day. . .
3. Esther Emery’s This is Where I Give Away a Free Inspirational eBook! (Unleash Your Wild). Also, it comes with a free eBook about being awesome.
4. Rosabeth Moss Kanter with Overcome the Eight Barriers to Confidence. While she does not argue that confidence alone will give you everything you hope for, she explains that confidence provides you with a belief in the success of your efforts, which will make a marked difference in the work you dedicate toward a desired outcome.
5. Austin Channing Brown’s Top 2013 Posts. I just found Austin’s blog and this wrap-up post made me want to read everything she’s ever written about racial reconciliation and the American evangelical church and all sorts of interesting, complicated, important things. I’m sure you’ll feel the same way, so head on over there and check it out.
An honorable mention to The Safest Road to Hell by Brad Littlejohn over at The Sword and the Ploughshare, for confirming in my heart that #ATTACK really is the word I want to model 2014 after.
And, finally, if you’re looking for great books to read [or gift] in 2014, be sure to check out all of the blogs participating in the Favorite Books of 2013 link-up going on at Modern Mrs. Darcy.