What to wear for work if you’re not a lawyer

I have a hard time choosing wardrobe for those work days when I’m downtown. I’ve always had trouble with this — I am not much of one for dressing up, and I hate how so many clothes fit me (and I’m cheap — I mean frugal) so I have a limited wardrobe to begin with, but figuring out what’s appropriate for an office seems tough.

My old job was with a construction group, but the office dress was “business casual.” I’m not really sure what “business casual” is supposed to mean, other than the fact that t-shirts and jeans are not allowed. Women at that office wore denim skirts, or cotton pants, or other stuff that to me seemed less dressy than my nice jeans. But that was the rule at the office.

And my new job has an informal feel to it, despite being surrounded by lawyers and working in a downtown office. Jeans are okay, and casual is fine, unless you’re seeing non-staff people or doing something important in front of others, like an interview or something. So my “business casual” wardrobe stretched here too. Even with my limited choices, I’m only supposed to be in the office two days a week, so can usually find what to wear.

But as of last week, the dressing up begins. Because I’m working on a judicial inquiry, and we’re now into the courtroom phase of our work. So almost every day that I come downtown now, I’m at the court. And ALL the lawyers wear suits and ties. The female lawyers wear suits too. And there’s a chance that on any day I’m at court, I might have to give an interview to media, so I have to look professional. Of course, the media with whom I deal are almost never dressed up. Most of them are in jeans or casual clothes, but that doesn’t mean I can be as casual as them.

I once heard that if you want to see how a professional woman should dress, watch the ladies on the Apprentice (yes, Donald Trump‘s show). I guess it’s true — they all dress nice, although this season I find the women dress a bit too sexy for what I would have considered boardroom wear.

Anyhow, most women I see in downtown Vancouver are not dressed like the Apprentice ladies. We’re a lot less telegenic, and we wear more reasonable shoes and show less cleavage. But if I ride the elevators at the high rise towers where the lawyers and financial types work, the level of dress is definately above “business casual.” Is it harder for us middle-aged Gen Xers to figure out this dress thing? The Gen Y types I see seem to have less issues going from dressed down to dressed up. Of course, most Gen Y ladies don’t have the post-baby, middle-aged middle we older mommies tend to have. 

So I’ll have to dig out my two suits, my handful of blazers, and start looking for more formal work wear for my downtown days. Thank heavens I’ll be working at home the other three days, when I can wear jeans, or even pyjamas.


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