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Mini rebellions: wardrobe version

Preserving your sanity in a bad fit job requires a multi-pronged approach. One of my coping mechanisms is my nearly daily mini-rebellion against the business casual wardrobe of a law firm. Everyone around me is wearing a skirt suit and blouse? I'll show up in wide-leg, pleated culottes topped with a faux fur, leopard print vest layered over a white leather jacket. Don't worry, there is a white button up shirt on the first layer, tethering it to the "business" part of business casual.

My non-traditional big law wardrobe allows me a form of self expression in an environment that is otherwise unwelcoming to me. I can be creative and offbeat in a way that cannot be manifested in my work product. An appellate brief has rigorous parameters, but I can at least feel like my most genuine sartorial self while still coloring inside the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure lines.

I have realized that I also wear it as a form of armor. My clothes say "I am impervious to criticism," while internally I blanch at every email that is of ambiguous tone or even mildly rude. My stomach sinks every time the phone rings or my email chimes. But at least I can look like I don't care and that I am above the fray while panicking internally.

My wardrobe has also become increasingly non-traditional the further into my career I have progressed. I don't know whether it's because I am increasingly frustrated and rely on it more and more as a tether to my sanity. There is also some security that comes with age and a modest amount of seniority - no one has ever told me to tone it down and I am getting more confident that they never will. Or maybe my style has just gotten increasingly bonkers with age. I am inching towards Iris Apfel territory, albeit with less panache and a less interesting backstory.

Whatever the cause, on my more anxiety-filled mornings, I reach for my most bold and brazen outfits and hope that I will end the day feeling as confident as I may look.

What are your workplace rebellions that keep you sane?


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