I spent 3 weeks in professional clothing.
3 sad, long weeks without leggings, sweatshirts, t-shirts, sneakers, moccasins – basically all of my most loved pieces in my wardrobe.
And the reason why I spent 3 weeks in professional clothing was primarily due to the fact that I was pledging Emerson College’s only local, professional sorority, Kappa Gamma Chi! Now that those 3 weeks are over and I crossed into Kappa, I learned a lot about professionalism and what it means to dress professionally; especially figuring out how to balance professionalism with comfort.
For the most part, I had two constant questions running through my mind when I was pledging: Is professional dress limited to a select handful of clothing options? Are we all going to be stuck wearing dress pants, blouses, and heels for the rest of our lives?
Before all of this, I had fallen victim to the stereotype that a professional woman wears blazers, suits, dresses, and heels everyday – that she was stuck in uncomfortable clothing because she had to fit a certain mold or she would not be taken seriously.For me, it took a whole week for me to realize that every woman gets to decide what she finds professional and how to style herself professionally. I learned that my sense of professionalism is truly defined by what makes me comfortable, confident, and appropriate for an interview. I slowly realized that professional dress can be as simple as putting together an outfit consisting a good pair of black pants, a sweater, and my favorite watch.
And my pledge process gave me one message that I will never forget: professional dress can only be determined by you. The second message, which was reiterated by all of the women in Kappa Gamma Chi, was to dress professional think of an outfit that you would wear to an interview. With that in mind, these messages gave me a clear view of how I will dress professionally for now and probably for the rest of my life. This clear view is built around these three very important rules I have made for myself:
1. I Will Not Wear Any Shoes that Make My Feet Hurt.
I have gone through so many flats, heels, boots, and dress shoes to know that my feet can only endure so much and that a good-looking pair of shoes can only last as long as I can walk in them. Plus, when you can walk comfortably, you will be put at ease in any situation where professional dress is needed; it takes an added level of pressure off. Even if you do not get the job, at least you were not left with battle marks on your feet! I have gotten blisters the size of quarters before and those things take weeks to completely heal.
2. I Will Not Wear Any Piece of Clothing that Will Not Fit Comfortably.
Trust me, I have been that girl to buy a skirt two sizes too small just because it would look good with the shirt I had in mind for an interview. And I have learned that if I cannot breathe, eat, drink, talk, hear, or walk normally in any piece of clothing I might buy for a professional situation, I will not put my body through that kind of torture. It’s better to have clothes that actually fit because my deepest fear is to have a pair of pants rip at the seam and you might have to wear the outfit again if you land the job!
3. I Will Never Wear Anything that Would Make Me Feel Exposed.
A long time ago, I wore a shirt that had a low bust to an interview. Halfway through the interview, I noticed that my shirt kept riding down and I had to continuously pull the shirt up to keep my chest covered which made me uncomfortable since my interviewer noticed my actions and wrote something down in her notes. Although I still ended up getting the job, I have never forgotten that interview because I felt so exposed in that shirt and I could not focus on the questions nor could I give good answers in return. That memory made me learn that if I put on a shirt that has a low bust for an interview, I should never wear it out as I would have to constantly watch my chest or if I wore a skirt that was on the shorter side, I would have to constantly adjust it so no one got a surprise look at my butt. This is definitely more of a personal thing as I correlate exposure to comfort!
And March is the month of interviewing and internship searching!
This means that so many of us on Emerson’s campus, including myself, will be looking for ways to appear professional to our potential employers. I say that adding a bit of your personal style into what you consider professional dress is great idea – it will show your potential employer your personality and that you are an individual who did not follow the status quo. You can layer your outfits, add statement jewelry, pick out ‘normal’ professional pieces in bright colors, and there’s so many other ways to personalize your professional dress. In terms of hair and makeup, I think there is no professional way of styling your hair; do what makes you look and feel comfortable. Go natural, curl your hair, keep it straight, put your hair in two buns – regardless of how you do your hair, you are already a professional woman who can dominate the world!
After all, professional dress is what you make of it!