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business casual March 31, 2007

Posted by andrea in ephemera.

So, I’m at BA World (um, Business Analyst World – yeah, I know who would’ve thought there’d be an event like that?) today. And the attire says “business casual”. So I put on (and actually have to think “what do I wear?”) what I think is probably the lower limit of what’s acceptable: I’m not wearing jeans, or leggings (no I don’t own any, except for yoga pants that I wouldn’t be caught dead in outside the house), or sneakers. When I get to the convention centre, take a look around, and realize that I’m one of the better-dressed people. Lots of people in black pants, sweaters, regular shirts, maybe a cardigan or two, presentable, like me. But there’s some people in, um, workout clothes. Not a lot, but still. Jeans (and there is a difference between “work” jeans, and not), sneakers, ratty sweaters, leggings with STIRRUPS. Ah, gofugyourself.com could branch out into a new market. Bad business wear.

I think it might be me. I work from home, and I generally wear what’s comfortable, you know, ’cause I have to lie down on the floor a lot “to think”. If I’m going to meet clients, yeah, I’ll bring it up a notch (okay, three, depending on the client). No suits – I banished those when the home renovations took over my closet (truth be told, I haven’t missed ’em one bit). But I know when I need to wear a suit. And I know when not to. But to treat a conference/course like it’s a garage sale on Saturday morning, I don’t know.

Why do I think that? Probably because of CKWPTDG, where we were provided in orientation with a dress code that stipulated “small, coordinated earrings, ie. gold with gold rings; belts no wider than two inches, no contrasting pantyhose, subdued pantyhose are to be worn at ALL times, no open-toed shoes” etc. etc. I know, crazy, eh? And all of us, who had thought we “dressed up” looked down in shame. We had all tried, and to a person, we all looked good. Different, but good.

So, now, why am I judging others? I remember that corporate world, and how donning the “suit” was like putting on armour, or a signal to others that you could be taken seriously, had a head for what was going on. Power, influence, money in your budget. And it provided self-armour – at least, it made me actually go out and make small talk with clients, and try to bridge the gap between us (consultants) and them (clients).

I was worried today that what I wore…wouldn’t be taken seriously. That I was just some goofy girl, trying to make her way (damn you, Working Girl!). But then it struck me, that this conference was basically for all the people who are crazy analytic, and deep into their heads, and clothing is just a means to cover your body. Huzzah!

But I think there’s something to be said for dressing “up”, whatever you call it. It’s bizarre how something like a suit can either a) make people feel comfortable, like they’re dealing with one of “their own” or b) make people feel pressured, and sold a bill of goods, based on ….class, and dress.

A digression: my dad works with everyone; prison guards, hospital benefactors, CEOs, railway-yard workers, contractors, truckers. And I only realized in the last few years how he (maybe unconsicously, though I doubt it) dresses, talks, walks when he’s with each of them. He’s a different guy – I never heard him swear such a blue streak until he parked me in a prison yard (playing happily with Lego) and had a ‘chat’ with the head guard. Dad has four separate “uniforms”, all of which mean something to different people. And when he puts them on, he takes on a role.

By the way, I wore jeans on Wed., and got four people asking me to come in and consult for them. So, pish-posh to the working armour, although I still need it sometimes.



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