Work Wear Wednesday: Wearing Color in a Conservative Workplace
Of course the one Wednesday I decide to post a new "Work Wear Wednesday" post is a day that I'm not working. It's currently my spring break (a break that couldn't have come soon enough, if you know what I mean) but I've been itching to write this post.
Despite the fact that most workplace environments have become more casual, teaching is one of the few professions that remains fairly conservative in terms of professional dress. It's easy to understand why: we're highly educated professionals who are helping grow the next generation of leaders! It's a kick ass job with great responsibility but what I wouldn't give to wear sneakers when I'm doing my fraction dance at the front of the room.
When I first started working as a teacher, I went straight conservative. We're talking black and navy pants, all the cardigans, shirts in every shade of neutral (there's more than you think!). Clean, easy, professional and I fell in line with what my colleagues were wearing.
We can get into a whole big story about how my recent style has done a 180 back to the colorful style I favored in my early 20's but here's the short story: I'm back to being ALL about the COLOR. So how do you add color in the conservative workplace?
Start with solid colors.
This is my number one piece of advice when ladies ask me how to do color in their closet. A bright solid like these fuschia pants I scooped up at Target in the fall pairs really well with the more conservative pieces you probably already own. They're not obnoxious because they're simple and not busy.
Don't go crazy with prints.
The only time I felt like I really stood out was the one time that I did the pattern on pattern thing. I love patterns, especially bright and bold ones, but you're guaranteed to stand out in a sea of blacks and beiges. Luckily brands like J.Crew (#jcrewalways) incorporates sweet and subtle patterns into workplace staples like mini embroidered hearts on striped button down shirts or lobsters on dress pants. If you feel like you can push the envelope with color and pattern in your workplace, go for it with pattern mixing!
Stick to traditional fabrics and textures.
Most people think that color indicates a more casual approach to dressing. That's really only the case if you're choosing colorful items in casual fabrics. Cotton, jersey, and any sort of spandex (though, spandex at work, really?) look really casual when in rainbow colors.
The safest way to avoid looking too casual or cheap is to stick to brands that use structured, quality fabrics. J.Crew and Banana Republic do a great job adding color to their work wardrobe basics and if you're willing to pay a bit more, Anthropologie is the DREAM for colorful pieces.
Stand tall and be confident in color.
Nothing makes an outfit like the confident person wearing it. That's especially true when it comes to color. Everyone's like, get out of your comfort zone, but I'm here to tell you that it's okay to only wear the bright colors and patterns that you feel most confident in. I don't really wear purple ever because I really hate it. But pink? Give me every single piece!
When you're going with color in the conservative workplace, it takes confidence. Choose colors that make you feel powerful. You know, to go along with your power pose.
The biggest misconception about color in the conservative workplace is that you're going to stand out in the wrong way. In fact it's the complete opposite. As long as you keep your colorful look professional, you're going to stand out in the best way. People will recognize you and your unique style and then it's time to shine with your stellar professional abilities.