Origin story? How did you get interested in fashion?
I loved dressing up as a kid, but the concept of fashion was a foreign one – literally – when I was growing up in a Communist Eastern Bloc country. I remember watching Dallas in the early 90s, before my family emigrated to the West, and thinking about how glamorous the women on the show looked. I had no concept of fashion trends as such. Once we arrived in Canada, it took a few years for my parents to re-establish their careers (from zero, I cannot even imagine), and I spent my teens shopping at thrift stores and places like Walmart so I had no incentive to care about fashion – it was out of my league.
I remember when the first Forever21 store opened in Edmonton. I was in university at the time, and had disposable income from a part time job (I still lived at home), so I started to pay more attention to what I was wearing. Most stores were still too expensive for my budget. I vividly remember lusting after an aqua blue fleece hoodie from the Gap; it was one of my Christmas gifts from my parents that year. I also remember a silk, floral H&M halter dress I bought in Paris in the early 2000s, before H&M opened here. It was the most beautiful dress I had ever seen, and I pushed myself to “splurge” on it because I was on vacation. A decade later, I had it altered into a skirt; I never wear it, but I can’t bear to part with it.
However, I don’t really remember much of what I wore during most of my university years, and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have been considered a “style” of any sort. I was in my mid-to-late 20s when I started to become interested in what you might call “fashion”. A combination of things is probably responsible for my “awakening”, including a newfound interest in fashion magazines and access to my first “grown-up” paycheck. Speaking of powerful influences, though …
Were there any role models in your life?
One of the most stylish people I personally know is a former co-worker. She is not only beautiful (inside and out) but is one of those people who knows exactly what to wear on every occasion, and has a knack for putting together outfits that look effortlessly elegant. She is also a very savvy shopper. She introduced me to consignment stores, Winners (TJ Maxx), and eBay. Those things, in turn, opened up a whole world of sartorial possibilities.
I’d also be curious to hear about your thoughts on the impact of your wardrobe at work. Has your interest been received positively or negatively?
I blog semi-anonymously, but my blog is an “open secret” at work. Edmonton is also relatively small city, so I do run into people within my professional network who read my blog or are at least aware of it. I have never received direct negative feedback; in fact, most people have been generally very complimentary about it. With that said, I have no idea if it’s something that has been or will be held against me. I’ve always been very careful about what I post, so I can’t imagine that it would be, but you never know.
My evident interest in clothes is, well, very evident, so people have certainly noticed it. Again, I have not received direct negative comments about it. It *is* something I do, at times, worry about for various reasons.
When I was more junior/younger, I used to worry that people would judge me for spending what might appear to be a lot of money on clothes. For example, I was embarrassed when a partner once complimented me on my shoes, and asked me what brand they were; I found myself blurting out the answer (Manolo Blahnik, I probably should have just fibbed), and rushing to tell her that they were thrifted. I’m sure she probably wouldn’t have thought twice about it either way, but I was concerned about the optics of an “intern with a Birkin” situation. Now that I am both older and more senior, I kinda … DGAF what people think about my spending habits, you know? Again, I’m not even sure anybody is judging me on that score, but it wouldn’t bother me (too much) even if they did.
I do occasionally think about how my personal style and interest in clothing is perceived at work and, in particular, whether they make me appear less competent and/or professional. Fortunately, my practice area offers quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to style; I only have to conform to formal business attire on very, very rare occasions. My office is also relatively casual for my professional field, and other (female) co-workers are quite stylish so I don’t think I stand out drastically.
Are there certain types of things you shy away from wearing at work?
Mainly, I stay away from the usual “suspects”: nothing too low cut, too short or too tight. No leggings, unless worn with a tunic-style dress, and then only on casual Fridays. (This is not currently one of my go-to looks, but I think it’s acceptable for my office dress code.) I also tend to avoid platform pumps, which I find to be too “clubby”. I usually stick with knee-length skirts (or midis), but if I am wearing something a little bit shorter (typically not more than 2-3 inches above the knee), I make sure that everything else is covered (high neckline, long sleeves). I will take off my blazer and rock a sleeveless top from time to time, but mostly in my own office; however, if someone else sees me, it’s not the end of the world. No spaghetti straps, though.
Lately, I have also been avoiding fit-and-flare/skater-style dresses at work because I think they have a more “gamine” vibe. Ditto with other details with a similar vibe (frills, ruffles, full skirts, etc.). It’s not a rule that’s written in stone, though. My love of twee has not been completely eradicated. I have also switched from wearing cardigans to wearing blazers. Structured toppers look more polished to my eyes now, though I am always on the hunt for ones that don’t feel constrictive.
Got a question? Shoot me an email or leave a comment, and I’ll be happy to answer it.