Originally written for Onloan
Friday 13th March 2019 was the last time I commuted into the City of London and it was the last time I got up and got dressed for my corporate job in Insurance. Even though at the time I didn’t know it was going to be the last time, that morning I remember laying in bed and dreading the thought of having to get ready.
For those of you who may have not worked in the City, it is like it’s own principality, fuelled by coffees from the local Pret and after work drinks. More recently it has become a battle of old school traditions versus new thinking, whether it be processes, salaries or even something as trivial as office culture. Shoreditch and Whitechapel are quite literally a stone’s throw away and now it seems that the more liberal, creative world just outside of the square mile is beginning to encroach on its 300 year old existence. This job was my real first experience of it, before that I had worked for businesses that had a very different approach to business dress.
I had an interview when I was 23, for a role that was similar to what I already had and after the interview, the recruiter called me and said that I hadn’t got the feedback because apparently I didn’t look “tidy enough for a corporate role”…I sat in my car on my way home from the interview and wondered what that even meant, I had worn smart, navy trousers from H&M with a tiny polka dot print all over and a blue, button down shirt with some patent black loafers. I quickly began to realise, the way I had dressed showed too much of my personality for a corporate environment.
Over the nearly 6 years I spent within the City bubble, I realised that my personal style had changed. I had always been a jeans, tee and a blazer kinda gal and once I got there, I found myself questioning my style and wardrobe, a collection of clothing I had curated over a number of years. I swapped my jeans for simple black trousers so as not to commit a similar faux pas as I did in my early twenties; and began to tie back my thick, curly hair or straighten it; in a bid to conform to the more conservative and therefore acceptable, style of dress. At the time, I didn’t realise how much I was curtailing myself by wearing clothing that just wasn’t me. I bought simple black pumps and added pencil skirts and white, collared shirts into my wardrobe, with the mindset that I wore my work clothing 80% of the time and my “me” clothes the remaining 20% so wanted to have more of that.
Looking back at it, I saw how different I became, I had lost my colour and my zest. My mood was exactly that, a mood and for a while it just seemed, that was how it had to be. When I started working there, I had just started a fashion business of my own and took the job to help keep my business afloat. I specialised in wardrobe classics, pieces you would wear forever and a day. I looked at my stock and started to wear the odd piece to work. It was as if someone had turned a light on and shone it on me in the most positive way. I began to look forward to getting dressed again and the days where I would feel my best would be the days where I allowed myself to be me, let my hair out, wear some colour, wear things that made 8 hours in an office more enjoyable.
Soon after, something changed in me.
I changed my approach and instead of wearing smart jackets and blazers into work, I left a few smarter pieces in the office and commuted in a paired down version of my “office look” for something that felt more like me; and instantly it changed my attitude to my job. It lifted me, made me ready for the day and even after I swapped a few pieces once I entered the office, I was more relaxed because I started my day in a way that brought me happiness.
Over that time, I did buy a few things that I really loved, some dresses (specifically a yellow snake printed Damsel In A Dress piece) and a few amazing blazers and coats – which are a little bit of an obsession of mine; and it was also in the City where I stopped shopping so much fast fashion and started to shop more classic pieces, that I would like to keep forever. It is where I grew into the woman I am today and even though for a short while, I just felt like I didn’t quite feel right, or like I didn’t quite fit the culture, eventually I found my place.
After leaving my job to become self-employed more recently, I did a huge clearout and donated a fair amount of those pieces that were specific to “work me”. They had no place in my wardrobe anymore. The past 18 months have been another change for not only me, but all of us and as life goes back to “normal” we all need to find those items that make us feel confident and lift our spirits high, even in the most uncomfortable of situations. I want to step into this new way of life being joyful and wearing what makes me smile. I find joy in colour, in pieces that stand out and make me feel like I am my true self again. I want to wear the prettiest of dresses and the most colourful pieces I can find. I’m in a place where I no longer have time for clothing that doesn’t elevate my mood because getting dressed really is an expression of your truest self. As I continue this journey with my wardrobe, I hope that it begins to scream JOY once again.