Monday, June 1, 2009

Bitchin' About Business Casual

Next to "team building exercise" and "performance review" I don't think any phrase strikes more terror in my corporate heart than "business casual." I have to pack for a conference, and the skuttlebutt is that the dress will be "business casual." Swell.

I've never been a "suits" person. Suits are tricky when you're built like I am, and I've never found jackets are particularly comfortable. I'm much more a twin sets and sweaters girl. Of course, since I work from home now, "business casual" has taken on a whole new meaning. Some days, it means I managed to get dressed. Other days, it means turtleneck and jeans. When I'm stressed, tired, bloated and on deadline, it means fuzzy sweats. I am the funeral cantor at our church, so I do have some "business-y" clothes, but many of the things that I would have reached for when I worked in an office are out of style, or more accurately, out of size range right now.

This conference is causing many of the women some grief, and since we will all be assembling later this week, a great deal of e-mail traffic, tweets and trading of opinions. Interestingly, it's the women who are worried about it. The silence from the male writers has been deafening. Of course, business casual for men is a bit easier-khakis and a nice dress shirt fit the bill.

There are levels of "business casual" for women. When I worked in the insurance industry, crop pants and capris were against the dress code. I don't know whether that still applies, since it's almost impossible to find anything OTHER than that. Skirts and sweaters, or a nice blouse and sweater with dress pants were considered "business casual". Of course, I wore that almost every day because I didn't like suits and denim of any kind was forbidden.

I have an added challenge this time. I broke a bone in my foot a month ago, and I'm still recovering. Right now, my Birks are the only footwear that fit my swollen foot and that I can wear without excruciating pain. I may pack my leopard slides for the banquet, but for the rest of the time, I will be hobbling around in ugly, yet functional sandals with Velcro to accommodate the bruising and swelling. I am still debating whether to tote the cane or not. It would explain the ugly shoes, at least. I have shoe angst, because I am a shoe harlot. I LOVE shoes. Unfortunately, broken foot and hot shoes are mutually exclusive.

I'm dreading it, but I have to go up and play "I wonder what fits in my closet?" to figure out clothes for the conference. I can't afford to buy anything else new, so what there is will have to do. I hope the weather warms up a bit, though. I will be drawing the line at "socks and sandals". A girl has to maintain some shred of fashionista...I know the black capris are okay, maybe the cute denim skirt and those new jeans don't really look like jeans. Then there's the tops, and the sweaters and I haven't the faintest idea what to wear to the banquet...oh hell, calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean...

So what constitutes business casual? I want your point of view.


wizardofwords said...

Hi Lisa:
Great post, as I am one of those females figuring out what to wear to the conference!

For me, biz casual means something fashionable anything other than jeans.

You are so right that men don't fret about the same things as us women. But I think they also miss out on some of the wonderful things we women feel. Like the value of true friendship. Or how to make the best of our hormonal shifts -- and live to talk about it!

Looking forward to hanging out with you in TO. And let's hope neither of us makes the cut for "What Not to Wear."


Tanya Gulliver, PWAC President said...


Birks are awesome. I have a new pair that I am gradually wearing in and a pair of ecco's. That's probably what you'll find me in at the conference. I might have one slightly dressier pair of sandals but its summer so that's all I wear now :-)

I'm doing capris and tank tops and maybe a skirt for one of tbe award dinners.

Hmmm, if the president goes casual does that mean everyone else can follow suit (pun intended)....

Janet Jarrell said...

It does depend on what you want to project and feel.

I have been told that a woman should always wear pants for work purposes - their men counterparts are more likely to respect them and see them as strong.

What do you think of that?

Kathe Lieber said...

Hi Lisa,

I'm only now (June 14) working my way through old e-mail postings. So I can say with perfect hindsight that you looked great throughout the conference.

I think we all develop our own "uniform." Mine is basically dark pants with a colourful top. I realized a long time ago that since I refuse to dye my now mostly salt-rather-than-pepper hair, I need colour close to my face.

As for shoes, my motto is "wear what you can walk in" - but make it cute as well. I don't do heels (and didn't even before my knee problems, which are now - hallelujah! - behind me), so I'm always on the lookouts for cute flats and sandals. One of the many joys of working from home is not having to wear "real" shoes most of the time. Aren't we the lucky ones!

It was great seeing you and taking you under my wing at the conference (though I don't think you really needed the latter).