I Ditched My Boring Office Clothes & Got More Respect Than Ever
When I graduated college, I literally thought wearing flip flops to the office was totally fine. It wasn’t. My first official job was on the first season of “The Simple Life,” where my boss would just stare at my flip flops and wonder what possessed me to think it was ok to do that. He, wore hideous Christmas sweaters almost year round with black high-water slacks, so I’m not sure why he was so judge-y. But flip flops in the office is definitely a no…
It didn’t dawn on me until a month into the gig that I needed to figure my shit out and start dressing like a damn adult. But, being on that post-graduation budget had me questioning if I should invest in something completely horrific, like khakis from the GAP, which made me cringe just thinking about. I then also began questioning what the hell a young professional should be wearing to work anyway, since the choices were basically Forever 21 (tube tops) or EXPRESS (collared blouses), and nothing in between.
If you knew me outside of work, or in my younger college days, you would know that I am the queen of never matching, on purpose. I wore pink all through film school just to piss off the boys which made up 90% of our department, and made black jeans, black T-shirts and black converse a damn uniform practically. I also had leather knee high boots I wore with mini skirts and colorful fishnets that I would slice up with scissors and wear as a top to parties on the weekends. I also had black and blonde hair because I was trying too hard to look like Xtina in the “Dirrty” video.
I had been this way since I was five. Colorful, weird, fashion was part of me. But here I was, trying to be a “professional,” and trying not to give up my flip flop and hoodie addiction.
I slumped slowly into a wardrobe of “basic” and “basic-er” as I advanced in my career in film and TV. I wore ballet flats and cardigan sweaters, and boring grey slacks. Once I became a manager, I felt a strange pressure to “stay appropriate” by covering my shoulders and wearing tank tops under things that might seem “too revealing.” It is a strange thing to be the boss of people who are older than you are, and confusing when you don’t want to be seen as a “young kid” in your Adidas sneaks and cropped sweatshirts.
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By the time I was twenty-six, I was the only female executive at a pretty large movie trailer house. And though I had years of experience in production, my older male counterparts didn’t seem to take me very seriously — especially in a vintage Nirvana T-shirt and jeans. Though I worked in a “creative” environment, where usually dress code was pretty casual, I felt I had to step up my game in order to be taken even remotely seriously in any board room meeting where I was usually always the only female, and the only person under thirty.
I started to keep an extra pair of high heels under my desk, and a very boring black blazer hung behind my office door. I would change into them before meetings, sliding out of my high top Pumas and buttoning my blazer over whatever weird thrift store shirt I happened to be wearing. I always felt like an asshole in a blazer, but I felt even worse when I would say something in a meeting and no one would seemingly hear it. I guess you could say the blazer made me fit in with the assholes.
A few times I was called “little girl” and my ideas were constantly “fact checked” by older men who were in their 40’s and had the CFO’s trust — which I would never have, likely because I was so young and owned a real-life vagina. This was the first time I realized that “glass ceiling” shit was real.
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My clothing felt like funeral wear. And my job — which I had spent most of my life working for — was turning out to be a modern day episode of “Mad Men” mixed with some warped weird-ass fraternity.
After realizing that my job would be THIS forever, unless I did something drastic — like, quit — I knew I needed for something to change.
I have never been the girl to sit down and shut up, or lay low when something obvious needed to be pointed out. I was notorious for calling out the CFO when he would contradict himself, or end up doing something I had originally suggested only after one of his “bros” thought they came up with the idea. It was truly disheartening to have been brought up thinking “girls can do anything boys can” by two progressive hippie parents, only to realize that a lot of the world was still trapped in a mindset that didn’t respect what young women were capable of.
And girl, my fashion had taken a turn for the worse during all of this. I was wearing v-neck sweaters and clopping around in high-heels and wearing black from head-to-toe. It was a confusing time. My fashion drought was clearly a metaphor for how I felt about how I thought I was seen at work, and more importantly my self-confidence.
Mind you, no one had ever actually bestowed any “dress code” rules upon me — this was all made up in my mind. And obviously I was getting to the point of where I was sick of my fashion, my thoughts, and who I was as a person, being muted in order to try and fit in.
And in some random moment I had an epiphany and remembered I wasn’t that girl who ever tried to “fit in.”
So, I quit. Duh.
Soon after, I went back to wearing weird clothes, starting with a pair of leggings with James Franco’s face printed all over them.
I learned how to screen print the old school way, and made my own shirts with my own drawings on them. I started directing music videos, commercials, photoshoots, writing screenplays, assisting a celebrity stylist, and wearing whatever the fuck I wanted while doing so. I even started my own clothing line that featured hologram booty shorts and models with rainbow mohawks. I wore pink flowered Doc Martens to every meeting at the record labels, and I finally — slowly— started feeling like myself again.
I suppose you could call it a midlife crisis (quarter-life crisis?) or something. But more importantly, I realized I was trying too hard to be something that wasn’t making me happy. I COULD have worn whatever I wanted at the trailer house (I mean, within reason), but the pressure of being young and female, and in charge of a department full of people older than me, who had been in the industry longer than me, had freaked me out so much, that I felt like everything about my creative self needed to be toned down in order to earn respect.
Overall, this weird fashion metamorphosis was more about finding myself and being myself, and learning to be confident in that. You can dress quirky, but still be confident in being smart and knowing what the fuck you are doing, and no man should ever question that, especially based on your clothing.
Granted, you probably shouldn’t go to work in pasties and a tutu unless your job calls for it — there’s a time and place for certain clothing. But under no circumstances should you ever change who you are, or what you’re wearing, because you think you might lose credibility for being yourself.
I never remembered that I had earned my spot there — that I wouldn’t be there unless someone believed I was smart, experienced enough, and tough enough to be able to handle the job.
Today, I work around a multitude of different types of people — from bands, to Creative Directors, and everything in between. But I have bright purple hair, and I wear ripped paint splattered jeans and I collect high top sneakers in bright colors. Sometimes for client meetings, I’ll bust out my new and improved glittery gold brocade blazer, paired with black leather pants and my high-heeled doc martens. I ride the line between vintage tomboy and super glittery-glam, and often times, a weird combination of both.
Only now, no one dares to call me “little girl.”
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