Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Warning to Those Still in School

Transitioning into the working world—into the world of professionalism, into the world otherwise known as Real Life—requires a multitude of changes. You think you know this; perhaps it is the reason why you are still in school.

This transition requires a regression back to 8-hour days of remaining in one place with the same people, with a one-hour lunch period scheduled midway through the day, just like in grades one through twelve. It requires submitting yourself to a daily commute longer than the ten minutes it takes to walk across a college campus. There are no more free bus passes or state-of-the-art gyms or libraries (literally) in your backyard. You now not only have to become self-educated in matters such as health insurance, 401ks, life insurance, and the stock market, but you actually have to care about these issues, too. This is because you are expected to make decisions regarding them, and these decisions will affect your life. And weeklong holidays—never mind summer vacations—are gone. Forever.

So perhaps you have managed to think of all of these things. (If so, your prescience is much keener than mine.) However, I have recently discovered what is perhaps the most surprising transitional necessity that I failed to foresee: a Professional Wardrobe.

Suffice to say, my wardrobe is probably adequate for my job position. Over the summer, as the days grew hotter and I deemed it ridiculous to alternate between wearing black full-length pants, black goucho pants, and a black skirt every day that I interned at This Old House Magazine, I took to buying more and more skirts. I am now the proud owner of five work-appropriate skirts, which has expanded my daily dressing options considerably. However, as fall creeps further along and the days become noticeably cooler, I have discovered myself shying away from these skirts and taking to wearing my long black pants nearly every day of the week. Then one day, I considered wearing stockings.

Now, those who know me well will understand what a drastic step it is for me to voluntarily consider wearing stockings. Since I was a wee girl (okay, I was probably never described as “wee,” but since I was very young, in any case), I have detested stockings. I have stood at bus stops for years, bare legs sticking out from under my uniformed jumper in every imaginable manner of weather, pointedly ignoring all the anxious chirps and twittering coming from the mothers and grandmothers nearby. The only times I would ever wear anything on my legs other than pants were for my weekly dance class—tights were required for participation, being part of a dancer’s “uniform”—and when my mother insisted unrelentingly that I wear stockings for some sort of formal function. She rarely did this, so I rarely wore them.

Stockings are itchy! And constrictive! They are simply uncomfortable, and I dress for utmost comfort if I dress for anything. Unfortunately, the Real World doesn’t care one whit about comfort, and now that I am an active participant, I can no longer go about not caring what others think, as I did in former High School and College Worlds.

Yet, I have not considered wearing stockings because I think anyone at work would care whether I did or not; I want to wear them because my legs are cold! So this brings me back to my original point: what my wardrobe needs (and this is my Professional Wardrobe we are talking about here, because I have plenty of T-shirts for the summer and hoodies work just fine for me in the winter) is seasonal variety. Now that I have interned in a professional office during summer months, I have acquired plenty of skirts, and I have sandals to match these, as well as some sleeveless blouses to go with them. However, I own surprisingly few short-sleeved blouses, and almost no long-sleeved ones. Furthermore, as I noted before, I own only one pair of long pants, and I own no close-toed shoes that are appropriate for walking long-distances here in New York (an essential quality, in my opinion, of any pair of shoes I shall buy henceforth). Thus, my wardrobe is seriously lacking. I find myself alternating between one white and one gray cardigan daily in order to stay warm at the office, and on the commute home, it’s goose bump city all up and down my legs. And it’s only 50F right now! Imagine how hard things will get when winter arrives!

So all of you in school, consider yourselves forewarned: don’t dive headlong into the professional world without seriously reappraising your wardrobe. If you’re anywhere near entering the World of Work, consider saving your next paycheck for a pair of pumps or a nice collared shirt, because you really won’t need yet another pair of jeans, when five out of seven days a week, you won’t be able to wear them, anyway.s


Kelly said...

The one thing that I do like about my job is that I can wear business casual to casual Monday through Friday. I dress it up a bit some days of the week, usually on Mondays or any day that I have a meeting with someone important, but most of the time I wear khakis or jeans and a polo shirt.

I'm so happy that it's finally getting cooler down here. Most of the shirts I own require me to wear a tank top underneath for decency, and having to wear two shirts all the time just makes it ridiculously hot.

rome said...

as someone who is out there in the business world, you could probably answer this question for me...what is business casual?

Allison said...

Business casual is an evil term conjured by those who wish to confuse and instill agony in newcomers to the business world. It is a term conjured by those higher-ups who already wear business suits but prefer to wear sweaters and slacks and can because their job positions are secure and pay well. Business casual means if your job is unstable or if you want a raise/promotion, you'd better dress sharp. Otherwise, do as you please. Or when in Rome....

Anonymous said...

Allison, that is a very accurate description of business casual. You are, indeed, a fast learner.