Thursday, May 7, 2015

That Old Suit Jacket


At some point during the winter of my senior year of college, I went shopping with my mother for professional and, frankly, dowdy interview-appropriate clothes. After quite some hours at the local mall, sprinkled with some drips of sweat and some passive-aggressive barbs thrown in slightly raised voices, we completed our mission, purchasing a basic black suit jacket with both a matching skirt and pant. The jacket featured a fitted, feminine waist, while maintaining a mature, professional tone with a looser fit knee-length skirt and wider-leg pant. So, my mother was satisfied and I was compliant and pleased to be finished with the ordeal. Over the course of those next few months, during my interview process and then up to accepting an offer at my first company, I amassed two other similar suit-skirt sets: one in charcoal and one in lighter gray. Standing out like sores amidst my closet of bizarrely whimsical vintage finds and flimsy party frocks, these three suits catapulted me harshly from my university haven of intimate literature discussion seminars and advanced sociobiology reading courses to the new frontier of working world tedium. I was entering a conservative industry and I had the costumes assembled to play this new role. Donning them did feel like assuming the life and personality of some other character, distinctly and decidedly not me, yet one that I could, for the most part, adopt convincingly.

After some months in my new life, at the office, I learned the nuances of following the traditional doctrine of business casual, or in cases of client meetings business professional, dress code, without feeling as though I was merely posturing what I imagined to be a businesswoman. I discovered that, contrary to popular perceptions onto which previous generations desperately cling, there is an advantage to being yourself, being natural, exuding a sense of personal style and from that, confidence. And this advantage is vast, is important. Over the years working at my former position, I continued to add to my collection of classic suits, but I found methods of personalization. Infusions of flair. Of fun. A silk scarf in a bold print tied adroitly across my shoulders. A signature cocktail ring, with sharp angles, in a simple ivory tone. A bevy of unique and still bizarre, still whimsical earrings and necklaces.

My current office dress code vacillates wildly in interpretation by various individuals, hovering mostly between crisp, clean casual and pajama party. While I have certainly embraced the lenient denim policy with open arms, I have not allowed the arsenal of more business formal items in my wardrobe lay sallow. Those suit jackets, stiff and often old-fashioned when paired with their matching bottoms, are reinvigorated when partnered with a pair of sleek, skinny-cut jeans and some modern accessories. I hate letting pieces that are nice and classic go to waste, and welcome any and each opportunity to explore how to adapt these professional items to my personal style.

Earlier this spring, when the air was still chilled and it seemed winter would just never end, I played with the pattern of this tailored, double-breasted houndstooth suit jacket, layering texture with texture. Houndstooth and stripes. The result is busily modern and sophisticated, and is saved from complete visual complication by the matching, simple color palette. White and black. To complement the houndstooth and striped tee shirt, I kept the rest easy and solid: black, tight denim and black leather boots.

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