I am a trainer, a consultant, a marketing person – all rolled into one. And before that I was a training manager, a communication coach, a painting instructor. My ex-boss always wanted us to “walk the floor” and “be seen” as coaches. And my current boss is very particular about how we dress up as consultants. (So particular that I cannot even wear my sequinned sneakers to the office when I’m not training or consulting and just doing admin work). That effectively means is that I have been in roles where I have to be standing in front of people, in front of strangers, in front of 200 eyes that would assess you…you get the idea?
My dad pays a whole lot of attention to attire. As children, my siblings and I had to just polish our black school shoes every day, the tie had to have a perfect knot and the skirt pleats neatly ironed. I guess it is ingrained in me – dressing well. No wonder I bought clothes with my first salary. If I am training for 4-6 days in a row – I would wear trousers, a skirt, a kurta, a saree – all on different days, with my hair done neatly. And even though I’m standing for 8hrs, I would wear heels. When I had an office job, I’d still wear a saree to work at least once every week.
Not that dressing well is always appreciated. I bought my first business suit when I was working as a coach. I heard murmurs from the “floor” that “the girl had changed her dressing style ever since she became a coach”. Well, you needn’t exactly be in a business suit when you are sitting at your desk and typing out emails to customers or talking to them but never seeing them. But you do, when you are making presentations and when you are coaching. You cannot look like a drab, or may be I didn’t want to look like one. Whenever I wore a saree, I’d get to hear, “Umm, what’s the occasion?” And I let my irritation upon the question get the better of me once and retorted “You are also wearing clothes, is there an occasion?”
Then, there have been times when my training participants kept looking at the door on day 1 of training, thinking that the trainer will walk in any minute because this perfectly dressed person (read woman) cannot be a trainer. And when they couldn’t take it any more, one of them would walk up and ask “Ummm, we should be starting training in 15min, is the trainer going to be here anytime soon?”. I don’t know what the issue was – too well dressed to be a trainer or a woman trainer or that I look younger than I am (or so I am told).
So I like dressing well, I don’t know any other way and I don’t think there should be any other way. But…then I move countries and start working from home! I get up in the wee hours and start working so that I am done by the time my daughter gets back from her preschool at noon. And I need to pack as many hours as I can while she is sleeping and while she is at school. So I get up and sit at my desk in my pyjamas – no dressing up needed. On some days when I have an occasional video conference, I change my blouse. Yeah, that’s all. No power dressing any more.
What do I do with all the formal clothes – the button down blouses, the crisp and sharp shirts (many of which are either white or black), the pencil skirts, the trousers! And the stilettos, the wedge heels, the ballet shoes 😦
I thought all this time, that I like dressing up for myself. So that I felt confident, so that I was probably being judged on one less thing…but that means I wasn’t dressing up for myself at all! But it doesn’t matter whether it was for myself or the audience, does it? So…until I can bring out all that I loved wearing again, I guess I will just dress better to the park, to drop my daughter to her school, to family barbecues and grocery shopping. Why the heck not!