Posted by: Chelsea Novak | August 29, 2009

Looking for something to dress up for

There’s been a lot of change going in my life in the last three months. Change that reminds me that even things that are good, aren’t always easy. When I sit back an tally how I’m doing, the math says I’m doing very well. Setting goals, completing tasks, thinking big thoughts, making sure that the cats get fed and that the bills get paid (unfortunately I overachieved at that last one and paid some of last month’s bills twice. Bravo Chelsea, bravo.), it’s all happening. It’s so much good that it boggles my mind. But I’d be a big, fat lair if I didn’t confess that I’m somewhat discombobulated.

One significant way this disorientation is manifesting is with my personal appearance. After six years in a business casual, mostly female workplace, shifting to mostly male, uber-casual workplace has put my personal style on its ear. I’ve gone from feeling like someone who pulled off the sensible, yet stylish, look pretty consistently to feeling like someone who is a few steps away from an appearance on “What Not To Wear.”

A recent viewing of “The Devil Wears Prada” didn’t help the growing doubts either. It hit me about half way through the movie that I was way more like the frumpy Anne Hathaway from the beginning of the film than the fashionista she was in the middle of it. Right down to the untamed hair and flat shoes. Ideally, I’d like to end up with the happy medium she achieved at the end, but even that appears lofty in recent months.

I’m having a personal style identity crisis. I’ve always believed that while who you are as a person is the most important part of your character, the choices you make in wrapping up the package that is your awesome self are a reflection of how much you value who you are. I’m not suggesting that there’s but one way to be wrapped and we should all be swept up in high-fashion narcissism, but simply that you should be happy with what you’re putting out there, be it your favourite T-shirt or a Marc Jacobs bag.

So I guess the bottom line is that I’m not loving what I’m putting out there. Last month, I considered it a triumph of style if I actually blow dried my hair. There have been days without eyeliner. Glimpses caught in mirrors that are fraught with frumpy. More often than not seeing my reflection and feeling “that isn’t me.” It seems that I haven’t worked out how to dress when there’s not a need to dress up. And, I don’t think for a second that where I work needs to change, I’m just reconciling myself within that.

I’m also experiencing a huge amount of trouble with jeans. I mean, yay, they’re comfy, but could I get a pair that will stay up, keep their shape and look right? I’m willing to pay money for such a thing if there’s a solution to this problem.

Anyway, this style conundrum is an opportunity. Few people have the luxury of expressing their style the way they truly want to day to day. Learning to set my own boundaries seems to stick with the current state of affairs. A good, but not easy thing and something I suspect I’ll become very accustomed to when this inertia wears off.




  1. You have *never* looked like the before-Anne in DWP. And you’re the only person I know who can wear eyeliner as well as she does in that film.

    Maybe I should take you to Long Legs to check out their jean selection. I know you don’t necessarily need the 36 inch inseam, but they might have brands you like. Check out Denim and Premium Denim. The girls at the store near me are really nice and helpful

  2. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I’m just a dressed-up sort of gal. I hardly ever wear pants (they make me feel like a tranny). If I could I’d dress like Joan from Mad Men every day. Including weekends. The only way I can see this changing for a less formal work environment is if I ended up in construction and heels became a liability.

    Do you need to change your personal style, or is your crisis in the compromise?

    And, by the way, I don’t for a minute buy that you could pull off frumpy, even if you were trying. As. If.

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