Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Decisions, Decisions.

On our first day at work I found myself less intrigued by the multitude of forms placed before me in the conference room and more fascinated by the cornrowed hair of my new co-worker. We were at this prestigious NY law firm for a summer internship that would eventually lead to full time employment post-graduation and there she was wearing braids. Shocking! But more importantly - I was surprised but yet relieved that her fashion choice might draw attention away from my ½ inch long curls. Why was it even an issue? We were both employed on our individual academic merit as students from tier one law schools.

We have all grown up hearing that the biggest balancing act we will face during our professional careers will be balancing work and family. But for some single and dating professional women without families the current scales of life entail balancing our professional fashion sense with our personal stylistic leanings.

Some women like Raymone Bain, publicist extraordinaire and recent focus of a Washington Post piece have an easier time at this task since she does not work in a corporate environment and because her job entails her being in the public eye. Her various employers have all been in the entertainment industry so there is less a faux pas about not wearing the right colors, accessories or hairstyle. She can wear the designer jeans with the blazer or the red suit and her job will not be in jeopardy.

For most women designer jeans and a red suit are not practical options for work. Our professional wardrobe is limited both by our insecurities and by unwritten rules of the workplace. So, beyond the everyday uniform which may consist of dark slacks and collared shirt, every outfit might be a challenge for some. For men, however, the idea of business casual means simply a suit without the jacket or tie. Eventhough they often seem jealous that we have more options than they do, I think women have the proverbial shorter end of the stick. Our abundance of choices often lead to more noticeable lapse in judgment. We also have the dilemma of wondering "should I run the rouge brush over my cheeks a third time, or do I wear the female version of the male uniform - a skirt or pair of slacks with a collared shirt and pearls or do I go with the wrap floral print and the bodacious brooch? What do I wear that would keep the gaze of a potential networking contact on my pupils and not my cleavage or rear end or even my legs." After all this time and effort who is the judge of what is correct and appropriate? What are the criteria if there are really any at all?

All an all, I have learned especially when I wore my hair short and from observing daring professional women that with self-confidence and a levelled chin nothing especially an outfit choice will overshadow You.

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