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They Say Clothes Don’t Make a {Wo}Man

Yet, my first job determined that they did.

For the first three years of my professional career, I worked for the federal government where the dress code was business attire. Despite my disagreement with this policy, I never expressed it because it’s what I saw my colleagues wear along with my parents. No one ever questioned this rule or complained. 

Having come there directly from college, it required a large portion of graduation money be applied to a “work wardrobe”. It was mind-boggling that I now had “work clothes” and “play clothes”. Often times, I sat at my desk all day and the meetings I attended were with my colleagues, never external parties. While my clothes did not affect my work, they affected my overall way of living. I had to build in time to iron my clothes daily and/or take them to the dry cleaner weekly. Then I still had to do laundry for my after work and weekend clothes.

Then in 2014, I walked away from my government job and began working at a public relations agency in New York. Aside from the fact, this job was way cooler, I was allowed to wear whatever I wanted to work. I was more comfortable while sitting at a desk for 8-9 hours a day and life were simpler in terms of treating and cleaning my clothes. 

I was no more productive in my business attire. I didn’t receive any more compliments on said attire. I was not taken more serious or given a promotion because of my suit. To be honest, my productivity had increased at my public relations agency gig due to my level of comfort rising.

Then it hit me, “clothes don’t make a {wo}man.” Dressing in business attire is an antiquated rule set in place to make people feel more important about the work they do. It sets the white collar workers from the blue collar workers. I am now a firm believer in companies giving employees the freedom to wear what makes them most comfortable and productive.

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