Business casual can be tricky — particularly when you’re transitioning from a conservative office. But what if the culture at your company isn’t just business casual, but ultra-feminine business casual — and you’re still most comfortable in a gray suit? When you’re in a new job and feeling pressure to dress a certain way to fit in — even getting critical comments from coworkers — what should you do? Reader E wonders…
I recently relocated and am in the middle of a career change, and I’m really stumped about how to dress for work. I work in a business casual environment in a small, Southern city. Women tend to dress hyper femininely here: today my boss is wearing a pink ruffled tunic over flowy trousers with embellished flats. The job is entry level, but it’s an important step career-wise. I’m all for dressing to fit with office culture. But, really, yikes.
Right now my pencil skirts, sheath dresses, flats, and cardigans are getting a lot of “why are you so dressed up?” and (from the office mean girl) “do you always wear such depressing colors?” I guess these are my questions: how far do I really need to go to fit in with office wardrobe culture? and how can I femme-up my wardrobe without looking like 5’10” wedding cake?
Hmmn. Well. It seems like a few things are going on here, some of which we’ve talked about before, such as transitioning a corporate wardrobe to a casual office, looking stylish and professional in a business casual office, as well as surrendering a bit to office culture (but as the song goes, don’t give yourself away). I may also detect a smidgen of . . . judgment? superiority? in your email, which we’ve also talked about before when you take a job that’s beneath you. I know all about finding your groove with one set of work clothes, having a rough time transitioning to a new office with a very different culture, and then feeling a bit like you’ve lost yourself in the process. So I definitely have some thoughts, but I can’t wait to hear what the readers say.