Remaining Myself in the Face of Professionalism

Dearest Readers,

I hate being professional. I don’t mean in the sense of being on time for things, keeping my word, doing good work, and all the other things that one does while being professional. Those things are important. They’ve gotten me through undergrad and into a postgraduate program. They make people like me, and they keep me sane.

Aesthetic professionalism, however, is a completely different thing, and that’s what I hate. The things people wear and the items they use in order to be professional are at odds with many things I prefer as a person.

But I’ve realized, in the course of this masters program while trying to present myself as a professional, is that I need to keep the parts of myself that are anti-professional, too. Being professional and wearing clothes all the time that fit the trends is an assault on my senses, my energy, and and my individuality.

My bad sense of fashion keeps me happy, and it makes me willing to put on the well-fitting, clean-cut outfits I’m expected to wear as a serious adult in an academic setting.

Simple colours and limited patterns? No thanks. As my parents were loathe to discover when I was a child, I’m not just a fan of many colors and patterns in the things I wear. I’m a fan of mixing those colors and patterns. During the season or so when putting two bold patterns together was in, the way I’ve liked dressing my entire life was suddenly the cool thing, and it was amazing.

Too bad it’s over.

Ombre dress with striped leggings; plaid dress with leggings covered in skulls; red plaid leggings with a rainbow cheetah-patterned sweatshirt; purple dress, black tights, brown leather jacket, and some hiking boots…all of these outfits exist in my wardrobe, because who doesn’t want the double fun of having two different patterns in their outfit or overtly breaking an unspoken rule?

And pairing any outfit with patterned socks? Yes, please.

However, I’m realistic. I shouldn’t arrive at a serious event looking like a child learning to pick out her own outfits or an athlete that put on comfy pants after a workout. I understand that there are unspoken rules to follow in order to be taken seriously, as much as I wish there wasn’t, just as I know those rules apply to simply stepping out into public and not just to actual professional environments.

My prefered outfits would fly just as badly in a pub as at a conference, although with different possible social consequences.

(Really, guys, the fashion gene/interest/awareness that develops in most people, male or female, through their teenage years just didn’t do much in me. I can recognize things and am able to pass as fashionably aware, but it takes a lot of effort, and even so, I wore a peacock-feather patterned dress to prom in a year when it was the only patterned dress in the store, and the best compliment I’ve ever gotten about my fashion sense was ‘unconventional.’)

Anyway, I’m learning to do what I can in order to stay my pattern-loving self while also trying to pay attention to what successful professional people wear in order to pass for their intelligent selves.

So I might stick to jeans and a simple shirt with a plain cardigan to be casual-professional, but you can be damn sure I’m wearing wierd socks.

And I might look nice all day in tights and a professional dress, but at night, I’m putting on my unicorn and rainbow covered nightshirt and my cheetah-patterned pajama bottoms and relishing in the beauty of the clash.

And if one day I’m successful enough that ditching some unspoken fashion rules wouldn’t harm me, my career, or my chances to be taken seriously, I’m certainly going to throw some bad fashion fun into my work days.

Why?

Because everyone needs to stay 100% somehow.

Your Bonnie Celtophile,

Dani

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