Archive for Monday, October 8, 2012


Lawrence Laundry: Finding her work-appropriate style

October 8, 2012


Ali Edwards models an example of clothes that suit her personality and her office.

Ali Edwards models an example of clothes that suit her personality and her office.

Ali Edwards models an example of clothes that suit her personality and her office.

Ali Edwards models an example of clothes that suit her personality and her office.

For me, growing up and getting a job in a professional environment meant that I would have to change the way I dressed.

Before I graduated from college, I worked nights and weekends at a place that specified a white-and-black dress code but still allowed employees to express creativity with their clothing choices otherwise. I also worked days at a retail store that carried the perceived philosophy of “the funkier, the better.”

A couple months after receiving the honor of starting my career, I begrudgingly took out my eyebrow ring; changed out of my homemade T-shirt; cut my curly, tangled hair; and retired my giant hair bows. In their place, I wore slacks, cardigans and invisible bobby pins.

I survived for a while like this, wearing silk shirts and olive green pants, because that’s what I was supposed to wear. I bought clothes that I didn’t understand simply because they fit into the category of “business casual.”

This didn’t last long. While my young self once thought that I could get away with having an eyebrow ring forever, after sitting in a couple meetings feeling young and inexperienced, I quickly purchased a wardrobe that took away my preferred method of “expressing myself” in an effort to look more like an adult and less like an out-of-place 20-something.

But it just didn’t work for me. As someone who relies heavily on her outward appearance to broadcast her inner values and personality, this new way of dressing wasn’t sustainable. I needed a balance between “irresponsible college student” and “stuffy business woman.”

In my young career, my work-attire perspective has gone from “naïve and young-looking” to “over-analytical business casual” to “with all due respect, I’m going to wear what I like.”

When shopping, the question has changed from “Do I like these pants?” to “Would a news anchor wear these pants?” to “How do I style these leather pants in a way that gives the illusion of business casual?” From “Do these boots go with this outfit?” to “Can the definition of business casual be stretched in a way that includes boots?” to “Can I wear these vintage boots and still convince people to take me seriously?”

Sure, there’s a degree of appropriateness that one needs to consider before wearing an expressive outfit to work, but I am of the opinion that life’s too short to spend it wearing clothes you’re uncomfortable in.

For some people, this means not being cornered into wearing the latest trends just because magazines tell them to. For others, it means staying away from high heels and blazers. For me, it means transcending the slacks.

Don’t get me wrong — I still subscribe to the rules of business casual (i.e. no short skirts, no visible shoulders, no wrinkles), but I’ve now discovered that I can still look professional without sacrificing my own style. At this thought, I sigh a deep breath of relief.

— Ali Edwards can be reached at


mriley 5 years, 1 month ago

Ali, first of all, you always look fantastic, and you have transitioned perfectly from a young-and-funky gal into a young-and-spunky lady!

Second of all, you have hit on something I'd like all young women in the workplace to think about-- and for Lawrence retailers to think about, too!

Ali says it all.... to put forth an image that communicates your desire to be taken seriously as you're starting your career, unfortunately you do have to make some fashion adjustments. Not sacrifices.... just adjustments! Look around for a professional fashion mentor.... I found a few ladies that I admire professionally and I think always look fantastic (not boring) and I try to picture them as I pick outfits.

But to the retail community of Lawrence-- there is a HUGE opportunity waiting to be grabbed here! We have a lot of young professional women without many shopping options. We have great access to jeans and t-shirts and cute-college-girl duds, to low-cost / low-quality but professionally acceptable clothes, and to more "mature" styles. But it is very hard for us to shop locally for quality, fresh and modern while still professional attire. Help us spend our dollars in Lawrence by stocking the types of clothes Ali and I are both seeking!!!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.