Friday, 9 December 2016

Advent-ures: Number Nine, The New Uniform

A post about your style crisis, Roo?
How very old-school of you.

You may have noticed I have been sewing less this year.
And I have made the occasional reference to shop-bought clothes.
I may have apologised for this, but I am going to stop doing that as of now.
Try to make good choices, but stop being "sorry".

The pursuit of a handmade wardrobe was somewhat of a passion of mine.
I would drop incisive comments about wardrobe ethics into any conversation about my borderline inappropriate dress in the workplace.  I would meet the raised eyebrows with a steely stare.
My position has shifted.

I had a massive clearout of my wardrobe earlier in the year.
A great many of my home-made clothes embarrassed me.
My new status as "widow in her 50's" made short skirts feel dangerously attention-seeking.
The vintage shapes suddenly seemed to tip over the edge into frumpy territory.
Busy prints felt childish.

I have spent the greater part of this year learning new behaviour patterns.
Growing up?
It has been really hard.

Earlier this week I had an experience which upset the balance altogether.
I had to facilitate a development event for VIPs, involving presentations and a guided tour.
I was catapulted into the frontline as the public face of my organisation.

And later that same day I was scheduled to cover a Very Serious meeting with Very Serious people.

So I dug out the black suit I bought last year to wear to the funeral that never happened.
First time on.

 I wore it with a high-necked Victorian-style blouse (from Zara).

And the silver locket that FL gave me on the occasion of our decision to get married.
That silver locket has become my amulet this year.

 I polished my black boots.
(Just to say:  The DMs remain non-negotiable.)

And I was taken seriously.
Nobody ever takes me seriously!

The VIPs engaged me in polite conversation.
I am accustomed to being ignored.
Even within the scary meeting I was aware that I was noticed.
And somehow I held it together and maintained something approaching... gravitas?
It's enough to make me snort my tea.

I discussed it with The Girl and we agreed that while it should not be true, the only way a woman gets taken seriously at work is if she dresses like a man.
Damn it.

So I guess I have chosen a new path.
No Roo, don't just "guess" - commit!

My current style aspirations involve edgy androgyny.
Getting a proper haircut is no longer optional.
The colour palette is more sober, the lines stronger.

And I am not interested in sewing those things.
I would much rather spend my free time knitting myself some subversive neon socks, or a statement shawl.
Because you didn't think I had lost my mind altogether did you?!


  1. All so true (except do think hard before giving up short skirts - just depends on how short) - especially the tipping over into frumpy. What will save you in this new look will be the DMs and statement shawls and jewellery, which seem to be the OK items as we age. Ethics do take some work (especially seeking out things made reasonably locally) and we're all complicit to some extent. As with your other new paths, all the best with this.

    1. Thanks Beth. But my knees are in hibernation :)

  2. How fascinating! I've worked freelance from home for 30 years, so I've no idea what life in the workplace is like. I suppose it's a case of conforming to a sort of uniform, like men in their suits. They can get away with a snazzy tie and you can add a bit of colour with socks and shawls. Good for you for recognising the need to change and embracing it. So many people, myself included, just go on wearing what we've always worn, even when it's long past its sell-by date. I'm really enjoying reading about your Advent-ures.

  3. No need to stop sewing Roo - the uniform is allowed to come off at home!

  4. I let my hair go back to natural grey a couple of years ago. A cheap red lippy from Superdrug (1 whole £) saves it from frump. And agree, the DMs are a non-negotiable. I prefer skirts at a length where I don't have to worry about knicker flashing. Anything else goes ;-)

    1. LOL Definitely no plans for knicker-flashing here!

  5. As with other commenters, I'm enjoying this series immensely!

    I may have said this to you already, but I often find that internal identity shifts regarding the way I see myself are accompanied by tweaks or large changes to my personal style. I'd been half assedly floating through freelance writing and editing for awhile (almost 2 years or just about a year, depending how you count), and just in the last month and a half have decided to make a serious serious go at it. And you know what? One of the things I did was buy a navy blazer, so I could walk into client meetings or networking events and shake hands/hand out business cards/step into the conversation with confidence.

    Portland isn't even a blazer kind of city!!

    Anyways, just saying I feel you on the shift. Some of these uniforms may be societally prescribed, but there's some degree of certainty in playing by specific sets of rules, if only to know when and how to joyously break the rest 😉.

    Here's to December!


    1. P.s.: I pair the blazer with jeans and a kick ass pair of Fluevog booties so as not to be too out of step with my nonprofit clients. We all have our non negotiable 😁. Yes to the DMs!

    2. Yes. It is about the rules. I used to think I could live outside of them, but in my current situation it is time for a degree of conformity. Like the idea of "kick ass booties"!

  6. I always enjoy your thoughtful posts on style, especially related to the workplace. I'd (gently) challenge the thinking that to be taken seriously one needs to dress like a man. Which men, in which circumstance? I'd argue it's far more nuanced and is about a power dynamic, while acknowledging that in the majority of instances patriarchal power, and norms defined through that, hold sway. I've worked in offices, in shops, and on building sites and it was on the building sites that I most 'dressed like a man' and yet it was also the space in which this was meaningless, because, I'd argue, function in clothing was the absolute driving paradigm (although it was also where I most struggled to find clothing manufactured to fit a female shape - which says something interesting). The clothing I wore had gendered-male associations in our cultural context BUT because function was more dominant than form, I did not think of myself as dressing like a man (I don't know if the people I worked with thought it). In an office, typically, the power associations reside in a normative (male) suit and tie, and the power dynamic in clothing in offices is usually about fitting in, but your choices look more like aligning with that (historically patriarchal) power style dynamic and fitting in than dressing like a man, per se (I think if we go back more than about 150 years then our current assumptions about male style break down). A long way of saying that I think something more complex than dressing like a man is going on, and perhaps to offer you some support for your choices (though I doubt you need it). I do of course appreciate the shorthand nature of the statement!

    1. I understand your analysis, yes. And I agree it is about conforming to what the Powerful expect. I am far better at editing my image than my speech :)

    2. Oh, please don't edit your speech! I hope a 'greyer' image allows even more unedited speech to fall on the ears of those who might otherwise not hear it :-)

  7. Ruth, it's the Testosterone. As the menopause progresses, testosterone becomes more dominant. Trust me - look it up. So glad you're finding your 'zest'. The baking looks delicious, by the way!

    1. Oh fabulous! As long as I don't get hairy knees I will be happy!