Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Retro Style Goes to Work

How do you dress for the office?

I’ve discussed this topic before, back when I first start this blog, but I wanted to revisit it as I am working in a new office with a much more relaxed dress code than my previous workplace.

I’ve always worked in “business professional” settings, where you are expected to dress neatly and can only wear jeans on Fridays. My attire consisted of tailored vintage or repro dresses, blouse and skirt/trouser combos, and the occasional suit, and though I was dressier than most (standing out even further by wearing red lipstick, reverse rolls, and the like), I found that retro style was right at home in the office. For years I had Fridays off, and rarely had the option of wearing jeans. On the rare occasion that I could wear them, and chose to wear them (I find dresses to be more comfortable to wear than jeans, though I love the look of cuffed dungarees), I wore a vintage or repro high-waisted style, again with a nice blouse or top.

Now my new office is very laidback, and employees have the option of dressing casually every day of the week. Most do, and I was a bit apprehensive about being too dressy—I like to blend in while acclimating to the new environment, but luckily people dress in a wide range of styles, and have no issues with my retro look (which I’ve been slowly easing into—I always tone things down a bit at first ;-).) It seems they do encourage uniqueness, which is always a good thing no matter where you are

How do you dress for your job? What kind of environment do you work in, and do you have to change or tone down your vintage look for day? Considering that vintage styles are very classic and well-suited for an office environment, I think most places would be very accepting—but I’m sure there are some places out there that would mind!

Amanda Lee


  1. You should post some of your work outfits. :)
    Well, as I'm 16 I don't actually have a real job yet (I didn't really want to work at Tim Hortons at this point like all my friends), however, I babysit often and usued to have a regular sitting job. Now it's just twice a week, so I do dress vintage but try to wear flatter shoes as opposed to the normal 2 to 3 inch heels. I also try not to wear necklaces or too fancy hairstyles that will get destroyed by toddlers, babies and little kids.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Kir! It's nice to hear from a stylish student, and I appreciate your input :-)

    I'll try to post some of my work outfits :-)

  3. Well now I work for myself so I wear whatever I damn well please ;o) However I've worked a lot in more formal environments.

    When I first started out I worked for a famous record label so there was no problem looking like I did. Then I remember at that time having an interview with a cosmetics company, the interviewer was called away and I sneaked a look at her notes. I was wearing a beautiful 40s suit and blouse and she had written, is wearing old clothes not suitable!!!!

    When I left my last job I was working in an upper managerial type role although not very formal, however I thought I damped down my look a bit, I still did my hair and makeup but would wear a sweater and pants (Trousers!!)and I thought I blended in quite well, apparently not, when I was out for a night out with colleagues celebrating the end of a tough job, one drunken colleague said, but you always looks so glamourous and 50s, really I thought I was blending in ha ha!!

  4. That would be really cool if you could post some of your outfits. I am translator, and work for myself, so in theory that would be ideal for dressing the way I want, but sadly I don't as I lack the self confidence.

    Great blog, I am new to it,and have featured you on my blog list.

  5. Yes try and post some of your work attire,we would love to see them...I work in a school at present and I dress vintage hair and clothes every day.No matter where I am I can only dress vintage for their the only clothes I have.

  6. I've always worked in casual environments, so it's very much jeans and t-shirts or jeans and a nice top/shirt for me.

    But I do mix it up and wear vintage jeans and nice tops when I feel like it.
    My commute includes two bike rides and a train ride, so skirts and dresses aren't an option unless it's summer or I really feel like dressing up.

    We have people in suits at my office, but I work in communications/IT which tends to be more relaxed.

  7. You're very lucky to work in a place that encourages uniqueness...I'm working in the sports business so there are lots of men...who are usually not the gentlemen you would like to be surrounded a result my vintage dresses stay at home to avoid bad or "too good" remarks!;)

  8. This is something I am personally fascinated by!

    I am currently temping so I am very aware of dress-codes and 'fitting in' within an office environment.
    For this reason I tone down my vintage inspired look for interveiws or the first day or two, but I never try to be something I am not. Why pretend to be someone your not and then find yourself stuck in something unsuitable?

    My current position has a very relaxed dress code, but I still dress in my usual smart outfits which are all vintage inspired, some vintage dresses, but mostly reproductions and vintage inspired pieces from the high street.

    I have howerve, noticed over the last few eeks that my collegaues are becoming slowly smarter - which I can assume is due to my indirect influence.

    I get so many positive comments about my look and style which I find it encouraging and would still maintian my look in even the most corporate of offices!

    Apologies - I didn't expect to write so much!

  9. I am on a co-op schedule for school so basically I have a new job for 4 months then school for another 4 months. The last job was at a museum so wearing vintage didn't seem out of place :) My job before that was in an office but it was fairly casual so I just wore a pair of trousers and a nice blouse. Flats are a must when you have to walk 30min from the train stop to get to work!

  10. I've worked in an archaeology lab forever so my "uniform" is jeans and a ratty old t-shirt. Not much help to your situation, I'm sure :)

  11. I've been working with scientists for the past 10 years or so and the dress code for science seems to be "the more relaxed the better". Unfortunately, anything much nicer than jeans and a t-shirt or slacks and a blouse sticks out like a sore thumb. My solution has been cuffed jeans, cute T or blouse, cardigan, flats or converse. I am SO bored of that look, tho.

  12. I work as a customer service advisor for a insurance company so I get to wear what ever I like and like one of your other readers said I can only wear vintage as I don't own any other clothes. But I would have to say though I wouldn't dress any other way as my home and life is the 50's. I believe I am still in the 50's and I wouldn't change my life for anything. My husband and children are the same. They have all got vintage clothes and wouldn't think of wearing anything else.

  13. im going for school to become a vintage hair dresser. so i have the color options of wearing red white or black. . this year i had amazing luck on finding a bunch of 40's sailor pants that suprisingly fits me!! :D i keep all of them for work and left two out just for everyday just in case they wont get messed up. haha. i usually wear vintage items to school . it is encouraged to have your own stlye (though im the only one that has the retro look)so i like to come to work with a 50's petal pushers with retro hair style or somedays i can be very 40's with the ala bette grable hair style. -Miss amethyst

  14. *also i do dress vintage everyday with the hair style and the outfit. i stick to only two decades 40's and 50's. I also do work at local vintage stores to model the vintage clothes. i usually arrive there with a button down 50's dress with a scarf around my hair. :D -miss amethyst

  15. A couple of you mentioned "toning it down" as well, thinking you were blending in, only to find out you really weren't--that actually happened to me yesterday, when one of my coworkers commented on my Greta Garbo look lol

    And like a lot of you, my entire wardrobe is vintage/retro, so I don't have anything else to wear either.

    Straight Talking Mama--your comment about wearing a vintage outfit working against you at an interview struck a chord with me--I always wear vintage suits to interviews, and now I wonder what the interviewers think! A marketing professor once told us that it was important to wear a skirt suit to job interviews (though this was old school advice even then), and I have gotten an offer almost every time. So I guess in the areas I was applying, it wasn't considered a deterrent. It's a shame they overlooked you, but perhaps it would have turned out to be a horrid work environment anyway :-)

  16. Vintage Girl--your school uniform sounds very sharp! I am sure once you are working as a hair dresser you will have the flexibility to be creative with you dress as well, and since you want to specializes in vintage styles it will surely be a benefit too :-)

    Kate--I'll bet working in the museum was a lot of fun, and I am sure your style fit in perfectly! Since public transportation is rather terrible here, I drive to work--and I'm glad I don't have to run to catch my bus/train in triple digit weather lol

    twinklez1985--it's nice that you are also able to dress as vintage as you please for your job! My first job at of college was at a health insurance company, and that's when I really started dressing vintage on a daily basis. Nobody minded as long as you were dressed neatly :-)

    Gabriella and Betty2Tone--I am sure the causal dress gets dull after awhile, but it sounds like you both work in very interesting fields! I guess there's a trade off sometimes :-)

  17. Gingeyginge and Danielle--I will definitely work at taking some good "office OOTD" pics!

    What age group do you work with? I am sure the students find you very fascinating, Gingey, especially with that striking scarlet hair!

    Daniele--I encourage you to try dressing vintage more--just go for it! I became a much more confident person when I began dressing this way, and I'll bet you will find that it doing so has the same effect :-)

    punk in writing--the office environments I've worked in have been similar to the one you work in, but again, I imagine that having to bike to work puts a damper on things!

    Lexy--you bring up a good point too--I can see that you would have to be careful with your choice of clothing. Which is too bad, of course, especially considering that a lot of vintage wear isn't overtly sexy or revealing, but I think when you stand out people often say things without thing. You'd think the guys would know better these days anyway, but I suppose that's not always the case (wasn't there a female reporter who was harassed in a locker room recently?

    Foxy--I've noticed the same thing at the different places I've worked at! I think people assume that wearing a dress is so much more work, when it really doesn't take much effort at all! I hope you get hired on at your new job :-)

  18. yes durring school we have to wear pants so i say why not petal pushers or sailor pants (high waist is a must. with just a regular cottan pinn stripped blouse and a 40's sweater . But thankfully when i graduate and go to wrk in a asalon i do get to wear dresses!! So that is going to be really fun to broaden my retro wear at work! i like your idea of going easy on the retro at first . :D

  19. I work for a government contractor here in the DC area. I am a tech writer who has the luxury of working in her office every day. Since I do not have to meet clients or visit government sites like other employees, I am able to wear vintage and do my hair in rolls daily.

    On the rare occasion that I have to go to a meeting (like this past Wednesday), I HAVE to "tone it down." Because DC and the federal government is very fashion conservative, I will wear black pant suits with a modest blouse and pearls. As for my suit pants, I prefer a wide leg style with a high waist. I cannot stand pants with pleats or pockets! I also do not like anything "low waist." Once in a while, I will spot a few government and/or contractor ladies wearing lower waist pants with ill-fitting cardigans and I think the look is too casual I believe that a nice pair of black suit-weight crepe wide leg pants ala Hepburn are timeless and therefore always appropriate for professional attire.