While everyone else is still reminiscing about the good and the bad of the past decade, I thought it would be fun to talk about three (yes, three) decades of fashion in Corporate America.
I’ll go first, starting with the 80’s.
I know what you’re thinking; the 80’s were so boring. Well, yeah, they were. I remember getting memos about what (and wasn’t) appropriate to wear to work that suggested the only appropriate attire for men was white shirts and ties, and women needed to wear skirts. I tried to find a photo of what would become my work ‘uniform’ for the majority of this decade, but alas, I seem to have shredded any evidence that I ever dressed like this, so you will have to bear with me as I describe it to you.
I wore what every aspiring female manager wore – a suit. A boxy-cut, shoulder-padded, totally unflattering, matching skirt suit. Never pants – only skirts, with nude stockings and pumps. I wore these suits with a button down shirt, usually white or pinstripe. Sound awful? The crowning accessory for this glorious outfit was the tie. I had quite a collection of those colorful (so I could express my creativity) silk items that I would tie into a beautiful bow at the neck. Sadly, I wore this every day.
I kept those bow ties for many years in the cedar closet. At first I thought they may come back in style (thank goodness they didn’t), then I thought they might be useful for a craft project (never had time for that). Eventually they made their way to the Salvation Army (so someone else could make a pillow out of them).
When my company started allowing ‘casual Fridays’ later in that decade, I had a big problem. I owned absolutely nothing appropriate for a non-suit workday. I didn’t own a skirt without a suit jacket and I wouldn’t be caught dead in pants at work.
But I got over that very quickly in the 90’s.
I ditched the suits and vowed never to wear stockings and pumps to work again. My ‘uniform’ for the 90’s was uber-casual – khakis and a top in the summer, corduroys and sweaters in the winter. I even wore sandals (with no socks) to work. This was partly because my unit had moved into an area that was previously occupied by a manufacturing division, and there were no carpets on the floor (leather soled shoes were dangerous here), partly because I was a working Mom and had no time to think about what to wear, and partly because no one cared. The memo to managers about dress in that era read something like, “Please remind your employees that cut off shorts and low cut tops are not appropriate.”
And now we move to the 2000’s (have we decided the appropriate term to summarize that era?).
In this decade we were bombarded by fashion advice. Stacey and Clinton from TLC’s What Not to Wear taught us that we can think of suits as separates. The good news was that we learned we could wear black with brown because they are both neutrals. The bad news was that we had to actually think about what to wear.
I reintroduced the suit to my closet again for this era. But this time it was pant suits, with jackets cut shorter and more fitted. I wore wool pants with twinsets, and leather and suede jackets. This was a decade of variety, but I still stayed away from stockings and skirts.
Your turn. What was your least favorite, or most favorite workplace attire in the last three decades? C’mon, I know I’m not the only one who wore those awful bowties…