It was a workday, a snowy Monday. I sat at my desk, alone in my home office, dressed in a burgundy-colored tulle skirt paired with a black cardigan bedecked with a few rhinestones. When I pushed my chair back to stand up, said poufy skirt could have knocked a poorly-placed cup of coffee onto my laptop.
You might be thinking that a voluminous tulle skirt and rhinestones are not appropriate business attire.
And you would be right.
But that la-di-da skirt was only the beginning of a recent, weeklong defiance of convention.
Tuesday’s work outfit was comprised of black velvet pants topped off with a subtly-sequined blouse – accented with a velvet and satin jacket. By the time Friday arrived, I was putting the finishing touches on a strategic plan while wearing a satin A-line dress that featured a dramatic portrait collar.
A part of me hoped that someone might request a meeting via FaceTime, but then I realized I would have to change into something more office appropriate. Something that didn’t look like I was about to dash off to Lincoln Center for the ballet at eight o’clock in the morning.
Here’s how my week-long fashion spree came about: Ever since I started working solo from a home office, my style gradually morphed into business casual. It was early January when I finally admitted that I had fallen into a rut. I had unconsciously adopted a home office uniform. There’s nothing wrong with wearing a uniform if you’re in a profession that calls for one, but mine doesn’t. My wearing black yoga pants and leggings day in, day out reflected stagnation.
Ironically, I had a business wardrobe that hadn’t seen the light of day in eons. I decided it was time to revisit those clothes. There is something about the ritual of thoughtfully getting oneself put together in the morning – even when you’re working from a home office – that is good for the soul.
If the dress fits, why not wear it?
As I set about choosing the clothing pieces for my outfit overhaul, I became sidetracked by the tulles, satins and velvets hanging at the very back of my closet. They’re my favorites, but I rarely get to wear them. It was then that I came up with the idea of indulging in five straight days of over-the-top office couture. If that didn’t break the spell of the ho-hum office uniform, nothing would.
Yes, I admit that it was a little crazy. Still, I sensed there might be something more to this eccentric, mid-winter interlude. Something deeper and more profound.
In fact, I recalled an interesting conversation I had several years ago with a fashion trends consultant from Europe named Marian. When we first met, I was working on a press release for a client of mine, a textiles manufacturer, and Marian provided me with information for purposes of content development.
After searching high and low for that press release, which was written and distributed in 2002 with 2004’s forecast (fashion trends are forecast in advance), I finally found it the other day folded up and tucked away in the back of my portfolio.
The more things change, the more they remain the same
Just like a great vintage dress, Marian’s insights are relevant a decade-and-a-half later. In fact, it sounds like she could have shared them with me last night. Here are some of the highlights from that old press release:
- Fashion will become more of an outlet for escapism than it has in the past. Consumers will create their own individual freedom, excitement, happiness, and joy. They will escape to their own fantasies.
- Emotional overcomes rational thinking, and this will be the driving force behind the styles.
- In hard times, we see the world from a different perspective, a retrospective. We glance back, live for the moment and dream of the future – all at the same time, while creating our own fantastical escapes.
- In the past, fashion has adhered to the principle that form follows function. The new attitude is fashion follows fantasy.
- Fashion today is a mix of fantasy, expression, atmosphere, identity, and connecting all sorts of differing perspectives. There is an anything goes attitude in fashion as it follows the whims of fantasy.
Your closet has a backstory
Perhaps my week of glamming it up in my home office was indeed a kind of fantastical escape, just as Marian suggested. After all, winter is pretty gloomy here in the Northeast.
Whatever the catalyst for getting decked out at my desk, those fancy frocks helped to change things up a bit. My foray was admittedly frivolous and fun, but it wasn’t entirely futile. It was just the crazy pivot I needed to revive my creativity and start strong in 2017.
Business associates, family and friends – while amused by and interested in my glamour-laden week – are relieved that I have returned to wearing more appropriate attire during the business day. (And I am happy to report that I have completely ditched the home office uniform.)
Finally, here’s what I have learned: When you dress for the day, there is a lot going on – much more than meets the eye. Just like Marian’s fashion trends forecast, words that I penned for an article several years ago, during my stint as a style editor, are words that could have been written today:
“It seems fitting that during this time in history, when just about everyone is in a reflective mood, we should remember that although fashion is full of hype and glitz, it also generates jobs and stimulates the economy. But perhaps most important is that fashion provides an opportunity for each of us to practice creative self-expression – something that many people around the world cannot even dare to dream about.”