Lowering the Bar on Corporate Casual

What did you wear to the meeting?

I received this question while scrunched sideways in the backseat of a Mini Cooper, on my way home from visiting a friend in the ER (don’t ever try to stand on a wheeled-chair to change a smoke alarm!). Trish, the driver, had asked how work was going, and I’d shared the story of a new business meeting I’d had the day before.

Things have devolved to such a state that putting on pants makes me feel like I’m going to a Black Tie event. I feel that dressed up. And I’m not kidding.

paula mangin illustration fur coat tennis 2

Working from home, which more and more of us do, changes everything sartorial. Pajamas, sweatpants, raggedy leggings, anything soft and worn to bed the night before becomes my work outfit the next day.

Technology means face-to-face meetings happen less and less frequently, and I have no desire to “play” office by putting on actual clothes. Those days, thankfully, are long gone. As much as I used to love getting dressed for the other women in the office, I don’t miss the stress, discomfort, and hours wasted stewing over outfit options.

These days when I do leave the house, it’s because I’m on my way to a yoga class or to play tennis, not to “the office.” On goes a sports bra, clean underpants and ripped leggings, followed by a fabulous bag slung over a fabulous coat (usually a big fur when it’s cold, pimp-like), and off I go sporting fabulous shoes. Yep. Bag. Coat. Shoes. That’s what I invest in. That is how I express myself and love of fashion.

But back home, the bag, coat and shoes come off, I shower, and I’m back to my version of athleisure, writing decks or balancing budgets. I am comfortable. I am happy. I am clean.

my corporate casual outfit

Curled up in the backseat, I explained to Trish that I’d worn black jeans (R13 “The Drop”), a black tank (Helmut Lang), and my new Celine puffy white sneakers to the meeting, and toted my computer and materials in a giant Gareth Pugh fur bag (all photo’s above). I noticed her raised eyebrow in the rear-view mirror as we pulled into my driveway. I didn’t have the time to explain that I’d raised the bar on my normal everyday attire, and in my own way, this meeting ensemble was fancy and dressed-up.

Some might find this a sad state of affairs, that I’ve let myself go. Quite the contrary: I feel that I’ve let the shackles of corporate norms go, and would rather dress for success on the yoga mat or tennis court. And really, the more successful I am in those arenas, the better my brain works. A blazer and pencil skirt is not the answer, at least for me.


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