Changing Habits

I started my career at IBM in 1984. Even in as a young woman in her twenties, the times dictated a “uniform” that consisted of navy, gray, or black jackets and skirts (pants were a no-no); starched white shirts or silk blouses; silk ties, often with matching cummerbunds; coordinated pumps, briefcase, and purse; and a simple gold chain or string of pearls. Makeup, jewelry, and even nail polish (as my sister-in-law can attest) had to be professional and appropriately understated. This is just how it was.

In the early 90’s, as I formed and ran my own company, I knew I needed a new look. I dyed my hair blonde (inspired by my infant daughter) and tossed the old frumpy suits. My closet was redecorated with fashions that ranged from a tailored canary yellow linen dress from Tahari to a fitted hot pink silk suit from Victoria’s Secret. The attire, makeup, and accessories still were professional, but a bit bolder. And, the mid-thigh hemlines certainly were noticed.

Then the working world changed. “Business casual” Fridays turned into a Monday through Thursday thing with jeans being allowed on Fridays. For some, jeans became the norm day in and out. I started seeing young women come to work without make up or, in some cases, with wet heads (I’ve NEVER left my house – for ANY reason – without drying my hair!). I noticed young men s wearing brown dress shoes – sometimes without socks – with navy slacks. I observed older men, with expanding midsections; oblivious to the puckering of their shirts as the buttons fought popping open or the fraying of the hems on their well-worn khaki pants.

The working world has changed. Who am I to judge? After all, I now work from home…

*     *     *

It happened almost immediately. Barely into my second week of the new job, I glanced at the clock and saw that it already was four-thirty in the afternoon. Wow, I thought, where did the day go? I hardly took any breaks and really didn’t eat much of a lunch. I had been working straight from seven-thirty in the morning.

And then I slowly came to the realization that I still was in my pajamas. Even worse, I hadn’t brushed my teeth or even washed my face yet. I was warned that this could happen, but I didn’t quite believe it would to me. I was mortified.

Now, I know that colleagues and clients have no clue what I look like or what I’m wearing during our phone or email conversations. But I do! And it’s embarrassing to think how far I’ve fallen in the fashion department in such a short time. Being in a pink flannel nightgown — with no undergarments, messy hair, and no jewelry — all day long is totally unprofessional. It’s not okay…even if many stay-at-home workers do the same thing.

So, I made my “to do” list:

  1. Buy new, more sophisticated pajamas. Perhaps satin? (Goodbye Lanz of Salzburg!)
  2. Buy “loungewear” that is a step up from sweats. (Can someone please design a new fashionable clothing line for this type of work environment?!?)
  3. Buy high-heeled slippers. (A nice transition from pumps, right?)
  4. Get permanent make up. Tattooed eyeliner and lipstick make you look “ready to go” from the moment your eyes open in the morning.
  5. Keep Dentyne gum in the desk drawer. If you forget to brush your teeth (or have coffee breath) the cinnamon flavor will take over.

For me to avoid being a shlump around the home office, the key is to plan outings. Lunch meetings, coffees, and a late afternoon yoga class are examples of reasons to clean up and get out. (Of course it helps to travel and have the boss come into town occasionally.)

No matter what, I’ll never let my husband return home from work and find me looking as I did when he departed that morning. That’s trouble just waiting to happen….Yikes!!!!

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