Preserving Your Individuality: Your Career vs. Your Personal Style



There’s no doubt that personal style is a very individual thing. What works for some women doesn’t for others, and while trends may come and go, the way you choose to present yourself to the world is eternal. Finding your own sense of personal style is one of the most rewarding experiences a mature woman can go through; it’s a way of connecting with yourself, doing what you like, and dressing for your specific preferences. Free to indulge only your own tastes, finding your sense of personal style will give you freedom from the restrictive fashion rules and trends.


As wonderful as finding your sense of personal style is, there is a major problem: your working life. Most people who work a full-time job will spend at least 40 hours per week in clothes that they wouldn’t necessarily choose for themselves. With office dress codes and uniforms a part of the established picture of a working life, how can you possibly maintain a sense of personal style in such restrictive circumstances?


The importance of “accepted dress”




It’s worth digging into the issue of uniforms and dress codes to establish why they are so essential. If people would be happier wearing whatever they choose, as per their own personal style rules, then why do businesses insist that their employees dress in a certain way?


There are multiple reasons:


  • Identification. Whether you work as a nurse or in a grocery store, then wearing scrubs or a uniform helps to distinguish you from members of the public.
  • Unity. If everyone is forced to wear the same kind of clothes, or a specific uniform, then there can be no posturing, showing off, or debates about outfits. Everything is standardized, so everyone looks the same.
  • Situational comfort. If you were to go to a business meeting dressed in a summer dress and open-toe sandals, the chances are you wouldn’t feel quite as engaged with the hyper-professional environment. Many women use their uniform or work dress code to help them into a frame of mind that is focused on their professional life.


As the above examples show, dress codes and uniforms can be genuinely beneficial for both the employer and the employee. You may be one of those women who embraces the fact that they have work-specific wear, and love the feel of being able to change out of your workwear to signify the end of the working day.


However, many women dislike the fact that they have to dress in a certain way during their professional hours. They feel that their personal style is hampered, their individuality threatened, and just don’t quite feel like themselves when they’re in clothing that an outside source insists that they were. If this sounds familiar to your experience, then here’s a step-by-step guide to addressing the problem once and for all…


Step One: Ascertain the limits of what you’re allowed to wear




If you want to reclaim your personal style during your working hours, your first step is to discover the boundaries.


The first place to look is your contract; this may stipulate exactly what you can and can’t wear. If your contract does not contain this information, then you may need to directly request it from your HR department.


If there are no specific rules for you to find, then you have an option to challenge the situation. You need the company to say exactly what they consider to be appropriate for work. If necessary, make a few suggestions about items you’d like to wear. The answers might not be what you were hoping for, but it’s better to have a firm set of parameters that you know you have to work within.


Step Two: Evaluate your choices


If you have to wear a uniform for work, then take the time to evaluate your choices. Some uniforms are more strict than others. If you work in a retail store, then there’s unlikely to be a huge amount of room for maneuver available to you, so you may want to skip onto the next step.


However, if you’re a healthcare worker or beauty therapist, you likely have a few more options. You may be required to wear scrubs or a tunic, but you have an element of control over the exact items. If this is the case, then you can head to the likes of www.UniformsAndScrubs.com for unusual scrubs, or choose to decorate a tunic with embroidery. You will likely need to get the approval of a manager to do this, but if you get the go ahead, even these small, more personalized tweaks to your uniform should improve how you feel at work.


If you don’t have a uniform but do have to adhere to a dress code, such as business casual, then your options are even wider ranging. You might have to wear a black skirt and a white shirt to the office, but you have control over which exact skirt and shirt you can buy. Look for a way to add personal touches to everything, playing with discreet patterns, different cuts, and different skirt lengths. If you’re willing to experiment, you should be able to put together an outfit that adheres to the dress code, but still allows you to feel like you.


Step Three: Customize


The next step is to customize items as far as you feel comfortable. The key word for this endeavor is discretion; it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to make drastic changes to the items you selected above, so you’ve got to keep it simple.


Here are a few ideas for helping to give your clothes a more personal touch:


  • Have your clothes tailored to fit you exactly. When buying off-the-rack, you’ll likely have to go with the options that fits you best, rather than the one that is the absolute best fit. Having your clothes tailored to your exact measurements isn’t cheap, but it’s one way of reclaiming an outfit and work-appropriate style that is really yours. This is a particularly good idea for women who have to wear a uniform to work; uniforms are very much designed with a standard body shape in mind, and if you deviate from the norm, customization will make you feel far more comfortable when wearing the ensemble.
  • Add an embroidered patch. Patches are a useful way of making an item truly yours; there’s a great guide to how to use them on www.TheSpruce.com. You will likely need to keep the patches small, but they’re a small way of reclaiming your independence.
  • Tuck and roll. Give your work outfit a more individual look by cleverly tucking and rolling sleeves and collars. These are relatively insignificant areas of a garment, so your employer is unlikely to notice, but these changes nevertheless do help you to regain a sense of control.


It’s important to note that your customizations should be small, and you should be prepared to remove them if asked. However, whatever you can do to make your workwear feel more like something you would expressly choose, the better you’ll feel while wearing it.


Step Three: Consider your makeup options




So far, we have talked primarily about clothes, but the garments you wear are just part of your personal style. With your clothes as personalized as they can be, the next step is to think about other areas. First up: makeup.


Can you get away with using a bright eyeliner to give your face some personality? Or perhaps try a few nail art ideas from www.Buzzfeed.com? These small touches can help you feel a strong sense of self without attracting the ire of your managers. Nail art, in particular, can be toned down and kept “business appropriate” by using muted colors, but can still be personalized to your particular preferences.


Step Five: Consider your jewelry options


Unfortunately, if you work in healthcare or retail, your jewelry choices will likely be restricted. This is often for health and safety reasons, and sadly, there’s not much you can do to combat the issue.


However, if you do have more flexibility with your jewelry choices, then seize on the opportunity. Why not try wearing homemade jewelry— it’s tough to get more personal than that! Alternatively, you could try wearing lockets or charm bracelets; pieces that have a personal significance to you, and can help you feel like yourself.


Step Six: Consider your hair options





Final thoughts

The above steps should help you curate a work look that you feel comfortable in, with elements of your personal style able to shine during your working hours.

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34 comments:

  1. Great subject and solutions! I clicked through to UniformsAndScrubs . com and they have such cute choices for both my daughter and daughter in law. Nurses often find themselves working with very nerves and upset patients these uniforms would make them feel more comfortable. Iloved the Mickey print, the flowers and the heartbeat print.

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    1. Cute, right? I remember shopping with my sister when she used to have to wear scrubs. There are cute ones available!

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  2. Great tips! I love how you incorporated everything especially nail art. It is super true that you can wear mute nail color at work! And your tips on homemade jewelry, I'll definitely want to try that tips.

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    1. Thanks, Monica. It's the small things that can add just *that-much* of your personality.

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  3. Interesting blog. Especially when starting a new job, it's important to know what is the typical dress code.

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    1. Yes. It's important to understand what the culture is at your job, so that you know how to dress appropriately, before you can add your own personality.

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  4. These are all awesome tips! I work in an office with a dress code. So I usually play with my accessories and hairstyles. I actually like wearing uniforms as they make it easier to decide what to wear daily.

    www.vancitynbeyond.com

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    1. Wearing a uniform every day does add a certain level of ease, doesn't it? It's great to be able change things up a bit with your hair & accessories.

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  5. These are great suggestions. It’s a great idea to personalize work outfits with jewelry, new hairstyles, and make-up.

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  6. I have found that teachers in different states how different informal dress codes. Florida and Georgia are very casual. I was initially hard pressed to identify who other educators were even! I sometimes take advantage of that lax environment, but I also find it is easy to look like a go-getter in such an environment!

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    1. I would imagine if everyone else dressed supercasual, then you would stand out when you wear your "go getter" outfits. :)

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  7. Thank you for sharing these valuable tips and suggestions. I know style can be so important to some people, so I like so you gave suggestions on how to maintain style even in the workplace! Hairstyles and makeup can make all the difference.

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  8. It's been years since I left the corporate world, and there are days when I miss wearing my office clothes. My bosses weren't very strict with the dress code back then, we can wear pretty much anything we want which really worked in my favor when I was pregnant.

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    1. I know that that's what a lot of stay at home moms miss when they decide to leave the work force! I bet it was nice when you were pregnant. It seems like it's easier to find casual maternity clothes than professional maternity clothes.

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  9. I really do appreciate that I work in a field that lets me kind of do my own thing. I do still need to look appropriate at events though.

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    1. Flexibility with the dress code is a great thing!

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  10. Wonderful guidelines to “fit in” and not lose your individual flare. It’s inportant to feel like yourself no matter where you go and what you do, and having these guidelines will allow others to feel comfortable too. Xo Evelyn, PathofPresence 🦋

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    1. Thanks, Evelyn. I think it is important (in most jobs) to feel like you can impart a little of your own personality.

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  11. You provided some really great tips in this post. I really like your hairstyle options. I love a braid!

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    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. I love braids, too. They help to keep hair from driving me crazy while I work when my hair is longer. Now, I cut it all off, though!

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  12. I love all of these tips! I'm getting ready to finish school so these will come in handy as I get ready to buy work clothes.

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    1. Congrats on almost being done with school. Good Luck once you get ready to move on to that next step!

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  13. I am loving those braided styles!! I have been practicing braiding on my daughter's hair. Can't wait to try out these styles!

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  14. This is great! I'm pretty sure everyone's on the same page with LOVING the braid. I've definitely always tried to find the balance between work-me and me-me, y'know? This is super helpful.

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    1. Balance is good, whenever and however we can achieve it. I think being able to be yourself helps to create an environment that's conducive to being more productive. Glad everyone is loving the braid. ;)

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  15. I feel comfortable making fashion choices for my workplace but I could use a bit of practice with hairstyles. I am a bit lazy in this area.

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    1. Hairstyle was just one way to be able to express yourself. I'm sure that what you're currently doing is perfect for YOU!

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  16. Great post and i love this tips. Obsessing over the braid hairstyles they are awesome.A nice way to change spice the look up

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  17. I'd love to have a job where I could wear business casual. I've always worked retail and cute shoes and clothes don't work out when you're unloading trucks! Haha

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    1. Or standing 8 - 12 hours a day! Been there, done that.

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