In recent days bloggers have taken up the topic of online identity, or identities, as the case may be. Lisa at Privilege launched the discussion last week with this post about authentic self in the online era and materfamilias followed up with some thoughts of her own about how one manages multiple facets of identity, depending on audience. Both are fascinating reads and quite thought provoking.
Identity, in a more quotidian context, has been on my mind recently. We most of us juggle multiple identities depending on the venue: worker, parent, spouse, in addition to whatever online identities we may have carved out for ourselves. And each of these identities may have her own dress code.
Nowhere do I struggle with this more than when it comes to work wear. Probably 80-90% of the time that I spend outside of the house is spent at work, so office wear necessarily occupies most of what I buy and wear. Once upon a time, when I was climbing the corporate ladder, that meant suits, or at least tailored separates. Which meshed nicely with my identity at the time, as I saw myself as Someone Who Was Climbing the Corporate Ladder. I was a Company Gal. I worked long hours (even after petit monsieur came along), I did well at my job, I learned to manage up as well as down, and it paid off.
The workplace has changed in the last decade, but so have I. The dress code at our office in stages became more casual and then mostly disappeared altogether, and at the same time, my own identity slowly became unhitched so that my work was what I did, not who I was. Which may be why traditional business wear, even casual business wear, isn’t feeling right for me anymore.
Take for example this jacket:
This style of jacket elicits a knee-jerk swoon. I keep saying that I need more jackets that don’t look mannish or boxy or like half a suit. Earlier this week, I spotted the above Lafayette 148 jacket at Nordstrom, marked down substantially as part of their pre-season sale. It was the fabric that caught my eye first, a beautiful tweed in browns, olives and rusts, my perfect colors. It fit like a dream. It was incredibly flattering on. And yet…it felt like wearing someone else’s clothes.
And I realized that while my identity has moved on, my notion of “proper” work wear got stuck in the mud a mile back on the road, and I barely noticed. I keep spinning my wheels trying to dress the self I was in the past. This doesn’t mean I’m not still enjoying and committed to my work, it just means that I’m still in the process of refining a “professional” wardrobe that dovetails with my authentic self as it exists today, in the workplace as it exists today. Both are less rigid and structured, more fluid.
Have you struggled to merge your style with your evolving identity? Is there one sphere of your life where find it harder than others?
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