This past Friday, I started a new job (and my old one will now be sandwiched into the night shift at home). I am a proofreader working as a temp employee for a large firm. I have never worked for a corporation this large, and had always assumed such positions in well-established and grand firms came with a strict dress code. "If it's anything like Capital One," said my husband who had visited that office for a project recently, "there won't be a tie in sight."
For a liberal person, I find straying from conservative office-dress code to be a bit of a shock. After all, I grew up with stories of ladies wearing white gloves to go shopping on Canal Street and lived in the no-show era. The no-show era, as I term it, describes a time when it was considered in poor taste to have visible slips or bra straps, visible bobby pins, and visible toes--we weren't allowed to wear flip-flop style sandals anywhere except the beach. My mother always insisted on pantyhose, telling us that women who wore high heels without them were White trash (Yes, Mom, you did say that--don't make me call my sister to back me up!). In those days, even open-toe shoes required pantyhose, with the distasteful seam tucked uncomfortably under your toes. Simply stated, we were raised to dress. If Sundays required ironed skirts, camis and slips, stockings or hose, and styled hair, work was the weekday extension of churchy dress code. I even remember my mother objecting when we wanted to wear jeans to church; she herself was allowed to wear pants to work only on Mondays (which, in the museum world where she still works, is a house-cleaning and organization day).
Times have certainly changed. With advances in technology, all things to make our life more convenient and comfortable, so have we adapted the more convenient and comfortable method of dressing for work. Of course, I despise pantyhose, knowing that it was conceived by some man to torture American women. And I don't for one second miss the feeling of my toes curling against the pull of exceptionally rigorous and gut-squeezing nylon action. I don't miss the red line across my stomach where the hose attempted to cut me in half after lunch. And in particular, I do not at all miss how easily those things ran and were ruined. The expense of keeping my legs glazed with form-fitting plastic-based threads was ridiculous.
I can gladly say goodbye to the hose, but I still find casual Friday in an already business casual office to be a bit of surprise. This past Friday, a woman sailed past me on the stairs in her Bermuda shorts and flip flops. I just cannot go there, even in a former office where jeans were the norm, I still made sure that on a jeans day, the rest of me looked mighty polished. Maybe those norms die hard.
So this morning at the office, I checked my reflection. My make-up was understated and my jewelry complimented my sleeveless dress, which once-upon-a-time was a no-no as well. Feeling pretty and put-together, In my high-heeled open-toe sandals (no hose, thank you), I swished down the hall where I spotted a man with wildly waving hair splayed Einstein-like from his forehead and face, the hair in a thin halo down across his shoulders and back. Maybe he has a rock band on the weekends. Maybe he is the new model for anti-corporate-conformity in a corporate-comfort setting.