I did a fun experiment few weeks back: what happens, when I wear only bright, colorful outfits to the office the whole week. The goal was to see, if I’d feel more energized, or perhaps cheer up other people’s day. I also was curious to know, if forcing myself not to blend in makes me more confident with my wardrobe. The experiment was very spontaneous and I came up with the idea on a dull Monday, when I was thinking about what to wear, and saw my bright pink blouse in the wardrobe, which I always thought was too „inaproppriate to the office“. I thought to myself, why on earth would it be inappropriate? Because it’s of bright colour?
The idea started snowballing forward, and turned into an analysis of the office fashion and if colors have some kind of an effect on how professional you look. So one thing led to another, and my experiment took place. After announcing the idea in social media, I became unsure. I thought I wouldn’t even have enough colorful outfits to put together for five days, and that the process of dressing up in the morning would become stressful and annoying. I was also worried, that people would think I forgot, how to dress up to work, and think I dress up inapproriately. The results turned out interesting.
What is „office wear“?
When you have to define office wear, you instantly get an image of a collar shirt, blazer, or depending on the office culture, perhaps jeans with a collar shirt. Neutral. Especially color-neutral; black, grey, dark or light blue, white. Interestingly blue is somehow one of the few approved colors in calmer tones, like navy blazer and baby blue collar shirt.
What is then not approved in an office wear? This is I guess depending on the company itself; its image, values, messages it wants to convey through its employees and eventually, what kind of functions it has. I guess that is why officewear has become so neutral: employees, who represent the company don’t want to be sending their own message.
When I really start to think, what could be too innaproppriate to the office environment, it is actually hard to define. Perhaps too sexy, too childish, too casual/untidy? But these things mean different things to different people. Some might find a lace top under a blazer too sexy, when someone else doesn’t. Perhaps that is why there are these standard ways to dress up in the office, since it is hard to count on the fact, that everyone thinks the same way.
In this conclusion it is interesting to bring the element of colors. As I mentioned earlier, interestingly blue is considered as somewhat acceptable tone in the office clothing. Blue is a color of calm. How about the other colors? Orange conveying energy, yellow conveying joy? Wouldn’t these be messages that send out a positive image?
Utilizing the whole wardrobe
One of the most interesting results of my brief investigation was, that I realized how small procentage of my wardrobe I actually do use on regular basis. Many of the most beautiful items there are of course saved for the „special occasions“, or are considered something you wear on the weekend for a date or a night out with you friends.
I guess the golden rule of every structured wardrobe goes something like this: if you work in an office for 5/7 days of your week, your wardrobe should mirror that, and have 5/7 of its clothes suitable for work. The rest 2/7, would then represent the special occasion department and what you do on your freetime. I have it the otherway around; the colorful beach shirts, going out outfits and party dresses take most of the space in my closet – yet I use them less than 30% of my time.
Now, I could Kon Mari my closet, go all minimalist on it, and sell or donate all of the pieces I don’t use regurarely and leave only a couple of them hanging in my closet, and the rest would be the office outfit-section. As much intriguing as it sounds to have a half empty closet, where you can pick a matching outfit even with your eyes closed, I decided to do it the other way.
I think, that using the whole of your wardrobe is more sustainable thing than filling it with new ones, when you feel like you can’t find anything to wear, or erasing anything which is not „timeless“ or a „classic“. You cannot go back in time to unbuy that piece of clothing, so before getting rid of it, give it a thought and try to combine it with the rest of your clothes. There must have been some reason, why you fell in love with it, and decided to buy it in the first place. Only then donate or recycle it if you’re sure you will never use it. I find this way of cleaning and organizing the closet an excellent thing to start with: if it’s well structured and thought through you can actually find things there, you probably utilize your wardrobe better.
What I also learnt from my experiment, is that when you plan your outfits the day before – or better yet, for the whole week, you force yourself to plan the outfits, and might even make more out of the box solution, that if you’re doing it in a busy morning while brushing teeth. I’ve turned this into a sunday routine, which I quite enjoy. I take my time and plan ahead; I plan what I will wear to my worktrip, I check how the weather will be. And yes: I have more time also to think, how to combine those colorful pieces to my office wear.
Already on a first day I got positive comments at work (where they of course didn’t even know about my experiment) and on social media. I found it delightful, that people actually saw the bright color as a positive thing. What was not so good, is that everyone still sees it as something out of the ordinary. If I’d dress up like that on the weekend, nobody would react, but in the office environment it is something different – not something you see very often.
“I had a bit of „Yes I can“ in me more than usually”
I don’t know if it was because of the positive comments, or the fact that I was wearing a screaming red hawaii shirt under my blazer, but I genuinely looked more energized, when I looked in the mirror. Accurate or not, the test proved, that it doesn’t hurt to wear something colorful to the office. Based on my opinions, nobody saw me as unproffesional nor inappropriate. It is odd, how much we all stress about the way others see us, and how in this bold, innovative world we’re having, there are still certain ways which are stuck. For me this was definitely a confident boost.
I didn’t expect this brief test to have any bigger influence on my daily way of dressing up or for that matter my attitude towards my clothes. Eventually it did. I wear more colors now, than before and I don’t hesitate so much anymore to carry the pieces of clothing, that stand out the crowd. Of course the shirt didn’t make waking up easier, or make deadlines disappear, but I had a bit of „Yes I can“ in me more than usually. I also now plan my outfits beforehand, which means I can concentrate on having a lovely breakfast with my boyfriend in the mornings, instead of going through my closet. It’s a win-win folks.