Monday, 21 May 2012

Properly dressed?

At Hederlige Harrys I talked with a girl who asked me if I dressed like this on a daily basis. I said that I dress more or less “vintagy” every day and mentioned that I had worn this particular outfit at work that very day. She asked “But what do your workmates say?” I felt a bit puzzled- why would my workmates say anything and then it got me thinking on how “normal” I see myself. I don’t think my clothes stand out, if anything I feel I dressed rather modestly and unflashy. I don’t always dress myself in full regalia vintage-wise, but I always wear skirts and at least moderate heels, I fix my hair and even if I don’t wear much makeup a normal workday, I do usually wear red lipstick. And of course that does stand out, especially at a workplace like mine where people either wear uniforms or dress very casually.

The outfit in question. Usually, though, I don't wear suits at work.


When I went to art school in my late teens it was very easy to see where you belonged. The girls in art classes died their hair red, wore a lot of tie dyes and long skirts and a lot of dangly jewelry. The girls in music tended to have curly hair in top knots and dresses patterned with flowers. And the girls in drama were easy to spot too- they were the ones who worked hardest to not look like everyone else. Of course, not every girl looked like that, but enough to make these particular looks the norm. A few years later I was standing at a bus station with a friend when a group of people approached and I said to my friend: “Musicians.”. She wondered why I thought that as they weren’t carrying any instruments, but when they come so close that we could hear what they talked about, I was proved right. At first I couldn’t answer my friend to why I had come to my conclusion, but later it dawned on me that all the women in the group had the “right” look.

More typical workwear, usually paired with a cardigan too- my workplace tends to be chilly.




It’s not so odd that people in a more or less closed group start to look alike. Its people you see often and it’s much easier to think something look good if you are exposed to it again and again. I don’t think any of my school mates thought that now that I’m in art/drama/music I need to adapt a certain look, rather they got attuned to it and unconsciously adapted. I certainly died my hair red, though I never fell for tie-dye, but I certainly didn’t do it too “look arty” Of course, my interest in looking the way I do started a long time ago, but my actions these last years have certainly fuelled and influenced my interest. I don’t buy glossy magazines to find clothes inspiration, I read blogs written by people who, like me, like the vintage look. And even if not all of my friends share it, a lot of them do. I’m not a part animal, but when I do go out I go to places like Fraulein Frauke, which inspired me further. I have, by choice, distanced myself from contemporary fashion and as I don’t see much of it, the way I and my friends dress, have become my norm.

I wear a lot of dresses too


What about my workmates then, what do they say? Not much, actually. They are used to me and if they say anything then I get compliments. I have, though it is a couple of years ago now, been told by my boss that I don’t have to dress up like I do, but I think she actually thought that I thought that I had to dress this way. But I do dress casual at work. Casual for me, that is.

Two examples on what I don't wear at work. Far too body-hugging and, in case of teh white blouse, far too low-cut.




What is proper work wear is, naturally, something that varies according to what kind of work it is. Many jobs demands uniforms, for example and if you work out of doors, then skirts and heels are not very practical. A more formal workplace may frown on clothes that are considered to stand out too much, and so on. What are your experiences? Can you wear what you want at work/schopol7with friends? And have you, like I have realized I do, started to see yourself as dressing perfectly normal and nothing to look twice at?

23 comments:

vintagevisions27 said...

While I have always loved vintage fashions, only recently have I started thinking about wearing them on a semi regular basis. I love skirts but don't often wear them. I work in an office building where some people dress very nicely and other much more casual. A 1940s style skirt, for instance, would not be out of place. However because I don't "dress up" that often when ever I do wear a skirt my friends and/or co-workers will say things like "oh you look nice today" or "what are you dresses up for?" I find it a little frustrating because I don't feel you need a special occasion to "look nice." Ah well.
I've really enjoyed reading your blog and I think your work outfits are lovely.
-Emily

Kristina said...

Åh vad intressant! Jag är så nöjd över att jag bär uniform på jobbet! Va? Hur kan du vara det som är klädintresserad? Jo, för att jag slipper investera i ngn trist dresscodes klädsel som inte är jag, jag slipper tänka på vad jag ska ta på mig på morgonen och sliper slitage på "mina" kläder. När mina arbetskamrater ser mig som privatklädd får jag oftast massor av komplimanger.
På min högskola fick jag nästan aldrig höra ngt positivt om mitt yttre, det var väl ytligt och "fel", Jag som tyckte att det var kul att visa upp mig och för engångs skull utrycka mig genom kläder när jag nu inte gjort det annars....
Sammanhanget och arenan och hur personer med hög status agerar sätter exempel på hur man tas emot antar jag i en mer kultur/estet utb skulle jag säkert smält in mer.
Vintageklädsel är vädigt feminin och vädigt feminin anses fortfarande som mindre seriös väldigt tråkig attityd tycker jag och något att slåss för.
Varför blir folk mera provocerade av mig som är propert, kvinnligt klädd sminkad och fixad än utav någon i illasittande, färglösa kläder och råttiga dreads?
Jag söker inte att utmana men någonstans verkar jag göra det ändå och det kanske är bra?

Rowenna said...

Great post! In my area vintage has some weird, pre-conceived connotations--people see vintage (or any vestiges of vintage, like red lipstick) and associate it with either alternative/hipster culture or burlesque. It's very narrow-minded, but it's enough to keep me from dressing as vintage as I would like in some situations--I don't like being judged and pigeonholed :(.

It's also funny how, in my area, just dressing up at all is seen as strange. I wore skirts and dresses to work most days, and that was seen as dressing up more than necessary. Even just wearing a sundress to a BBQ gets people asking "why did you dress up?" Just because I'm not wearing jeans, doesn't mean I'm trying to be "all dressed up!"

Emma said...

Jag har aldrig kunnat ha på mig "vad jag vill" på jobbet innan jag startade eget företag, men det har aldrig stört mig eftersom kraven har varit så speciella (stenålderskläder, ökenkläder och stålhätteskor, hijab). Annars har jag alltid klätt mig som jag vill. Ingen har någonsin reagerat negativt. Sedan jag började klä mig "klassiskt" och "vintage" blir det dessutom en hel del positiva kommentarer från främlingar.

Men, nu när vi har flyttat till Frankrike fick jag förresten en fråga för ovanlighetens skull. Vår granne som vi umgås en del med vände sig till mig och maken (som brukar gå i skjorta och kavaj till vardags, och aldrig lämnar huset utan hatt) och undrade: "Är det så här unga klär sig i Sverige?" :)

Lina Sofia said...

I totally agree with you, I've also started considering my style and the way I dress as pretty normal. But I dress slightly differently at work now than I used to, or still do at weekends. I still wear vintage and do my hair and wear lipstick, but I tone it down a little, so the hair isn't in big rolls, it's just curled, and the lipstick is a sheer red rather than a bright red.
I have only had a couple of comments which have been positive, but I have noticed some surprised looks in the hallway sometimes. I work at a university and academics tend to dress toned down and casual. I work with sociologists and I've come across two people who research "the vintage brand", i.e. the rise in popularity of vintage style etc. It makes me slightly uncomfortable to be seen by colleagues as someone who is just being sucked in by a fad or some sort of marketing ploy. In academia it's expected that people adopt a sort of "critical distance" to any subculture and study them rather than be part of them, so that makes me feel slightly different from most people I work with.

btw, I love that figure-hugging black dress! va va voom!

Brittany_Va-VoomVintage said...

This is an excellent post! I think that most people can wear a little vintage at work even if it's just a piece of jewelry. Since I work at home, as a housewife/mommy I wear cotton or other easily washed dresses, skirts, trousers and blouses, always with vintage hairstyles and jewelry. My "work" as a mom makes me wear low heels to chase the kids, clip on earrings to protect my ears from baby related injury and hair pulled back in a snood. I keep short nails so I can do my hobbies and play with the kids without scratching them. When I leave the house for errands or date night, I wear more fancy dresses, jewelry and higher heeled shoes. Also, being a housewife/mom means that I have to reserve my tiny evening bags for date night only because they aren't big enough for diapers, coupon books and everything else a vintage housewife needs :)

pimpinett said...

Great post. Yes, I also think of the way I dress as fairly normal, not really anything that out of the common way, especially seeing as I used to dress in what I think of as far more conspicuous styles when I was younger. I think the way I dress now, which is old-fashioned and a little theatrical, perhaps, should garner less looks and comments than my old goth looks, but... it doesn't. Possibly I get more comments now simply because I look easier to approach than I used to, but it's a simple fact that I do. Most of it is positive, anyhow.

monika said...

I'm studying to be a nurse, and just came back to college from a period of training at the hospital. I rather liked wearing scrubs! They feel neutral and professional. I think I would have a harder time accepting a dresscode that didn't have practical reasons. All the rules about clothes, nails, hair and jewellery in hospital work is for hygiene and safety reasons, after all! Normally, I wear skirts and dresses, and usually somewhat vintage inspired.

Erin said...

Very interesting topic! I find it hard to feel like what I wear is normal because I don't have any friends who also wear vintage-- I still love it though! When I wear vintage clothing (at least a few times a week) I usually mix in some newer pieces as well. It's funny though, either way I get looks and comments (positive, negative and neutral "why are you so dressy" types). I do think people who dress vintage DO get quite stereotyped though, people either peg me as a Hipster or a tattoo-less Rockabilly. I'm just Me. Since I'm the only person I see in my area who dresses this way, I'm not sure why people see it as a "fad"-- wearing vintage is just a way of loving history and great style in my opinion! :)

Isis said...

Emily: I often find that what I think is pretty relaxed everyday wear it what other people consider party clothes. And then at parties when I dress to the nines… Well, I’m sure you get the picture. But I rarely gets comment on my skirts nowadays, probably because people are used to see me like that. One day I will wear trousers at work and see the reactions!

I’m glad you enjoy my blog!

Isis said...

Kristina: Ja, jag skulle också hellre ha uniform än tvingas in i någon trist klädkod med ”vanliga” kläder. Och absolut, utbildningar kan vara lika begränsade som en arbetsplats, även om klädkoden inte är uttalad. Och visst blir man definierad efter sitt utseende. Hur många gånger har jag inte hört att tjejer med stora bröst kan inte vara smarta- men du är ju det. Men jag har ju mina hjärnceller i huvudet, inte i kroppsdelar som mitt genetiska arv har utrustat mig med. Numer så märker jag att folk utgår från att jag skulle ha någon sorts hemmafruideal. Och att klä sig feminint och propert är provocerande, det har jag också märkt. Som jag snuddade vid ovan, att folk utgår från att jag är obekväm i mina kläder och ”hellre” skulle klä mig mer avslappnat- jag vet bara inte om det. Eller nåt…

Isis said...

Rowenna: How people look at vintage dressing do seem to vary- for example: I know many who have had very negative comments about red lipsticks, but the only one who ever commented on that was a very jealous boyfriend when I was 20. But I agree, it is never fun to be judged and assumed to be someone one is not, just because you look a certain way.

Isis said...

Emma: Vad jobbar man med om man bär stenålderskläder? Och vad svarade du din granne? :D

Isis said...

Lina Sofia: How interesting. If anyone ever comments your look at work, then you can always say you are studying sociologists in their natural habitat. ;) Joke aside, as you notes, there is a dress code at work on your job and what, really, makes them different from you. They have opted for a certain style for certain reasons and I don’t think one can say that their reasons have a better value than yours (and vice versa).

Your comment has renewed some thoughts I have had about sub culture- I don’t think of myself as part of it, but I guess I am. And not just one, probably more like two or three. Hmm, there might be another post on the subject…

Isis said...

Brittany: Of course, vintage style can be adapted to just a touch. If I were to use a uniform at work I would probably fuss more about my hair and earrings, for example. I’m sure hosewifes adapted their look even “back then”. It wouldn’t be very practical with high hells and delicate fabrics and one would very quickly just feel uncomfortable. I don’t wear heels when I walk my dogs, I wear trainers. (and I only wear them for dog walks, so they get very exited as soon as I don them). :)

Isis said...

Pimpinett: Perhaps the fact that the goth look has been around for some time, so people have got used to it. I still vividly remember how strange (and scary- I was seven or so) the first punk rocker with his hair in spikes were to my eyes. The look I still around, but now it has been seen in adapted version in mainstream fashion, and it isn’t as odd anymore. Wearing vintage is, funnily enough, a rather new phenomena. Easier to approach just because it is a bit closer to “normal” than goth or punk, but still strange enough to feel alien. Hmm, perhaps the “normalness” of vintage dressing is just what makes it strange. Almost, but not quite right, so to speak.

Isis said...

monika: Oh, absolutely. Uniforms on a nurse have very sound reason, as you note. I worked in a coffee shop when I was around 20 and wore an uniform, had to wear my hair up and no nail polish and rings for the same reason and I never had problems with that. I did, however, work with girls who couldn't get why their long hair couldn't hang loose.

Isis said...

Erin: Having friends who also dress vintage is a very positive reinforcement- I don’t think I would wear it as casually as I do if I was all alone in it. I may be alone at my workplace, but not when it comes to my social life. I agree on the stereotyping. I’m often pegged as someone with a narrow old-fashioned morale, often paired with a condencending “You are so innocent”- type of comment. It doesn’t bother me much, but I have met people who have been almost affronted when their prejudices on who I ought to be, doesn’t mesh with who I really am.

“wearing vintage is just a way of loving history and great style in my opinion!”

Well put- I couldn’t agree more!

StephC said...

I don't really notice anymore, like you. But I never dressed "militantly" vintage, I tend to dress in whatever comes to hand and is clean, and a lot of that is vintage or vintage inspired. People get used to it.

And also, I've had heaps of people tell me that it's nice to see someone my age walking around looking nice- combed hair, a little makeup, and showing a little "style" through my clothing choices... Great post. :)

Isis said...

StephC: They do. :) I'm glad you liked the post!

Caroline M said...

This post made me laugh so hard!!!

I was a Creative Writing major in college, and you could TOTALLY tell the difference between people who were serious fiction writers/poets and the people who should have been in journalism or who were there for an 'easy' major.

The non-serious creative writers looked pretty mainstream-college -- pink, flowery tops, sometimes cleavage, makeup and curled or flat-ironed hair.

The serious writers went for a more sloppy and/or natural look -- t shirts and modest blouses, scarves, natural hair and minimal makeup, lots of black, and unshaven faces for the boys. Oh man. So funny the way that is.

Caroline M said...

PS I like vintage and wear a little vintage and some vintage-inspired clothing. I do always try to dress up a little when going to work or school, just because I like to. :) But I still haven't figured out how to respond to comments -- the positive ones! I feel like people think I'm trying to impress or out-do someone, and it's really just that I like dressing up a little. But this is still kind of a new phase for me, so maybe I'm just paranoid about my style.

Lady D said...

I thought your workwear outfits were quite subtle and normal.
I do have different 'levels' of vintage. but then they are organised by environment.
For example what I would wear to go lindy hopping is polar opposite to something I would wear to work.
You know when you've got vintage in the blood when you dress 'normally' but everyone tells you you look 'a bit 40's'. lol!

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