Formal Clothes Can Eff Off: Is Your Workwear Making You Stressed?

Get me in a suit and I come out in hives. How about you?
Publish date:
August 22, 2013
corporate living, fashion, wardrobe dilemmas, workwear sucks

I know that I am very lucky that my office does not require me to wear anything corporate in the slightest.

Every day I get up, pick something from my rail of bright, printed, flimsy dresses depending on my mood and the weather, and skip out the door like a happy little lamb wearing florals. I can wear denim shorts if I please. I could probably even get away with the underbutt.

Vest tops? Yeah, sure. I can show my shoulders, my little heart tattoo on display. I can wear a shiny, metallic effect skirt if I want. Feeling miserable? I can wear my jumper with little pom-poms sewn on. I can wear my t-shirt with "GREAT BRITISH TITS" printed on the front. My bosses don't care. I love how I can truly express my personality through what I'm wearing on a day-to-day basis, and I really and truly count my blessings that I don't have to worry about what I am wearing every day.

I received an email this morning from one of my favourite online stores (yep, I re-subscribed after my shopping ban was over, and I AM NOT SORRY) with the headline "Shop Non-Boring Workwear!" Now, if they wanted me to immediately picture black polyester and uncomfortable hosiery, they succeeded. The addition of "non-boring" may as well not have been there. It said "workwear," and that's the problem.

I would absolutely resent having a separate wardrobe for work. My money is precious, and I would sooner wear no nail polish for a month straight (typing that was painful) than have to buy something from a collection dubbed "workwear."

Don't get me wrong, I have worked in environments where I have had to wear corporate wear. I've spent hot summers in offices with no air-con, desperately praying that my black tights were not causing a savage yeast infection, and uncomfortable business meetings trying not to tug at a shift dress that felt a little too much like a corset for my liking. I've worked in insurance, where you have to look stupidly smart at all times, even if the only person you'll have a meeting with is the bloke behind the hot chicken counter at Londis at lunchtime. Eugh, I hated insurance.

The thing I got from having to wear workwear was that I felt restricted, plain and not at all like myself. I hated having to actually think about what I was going to wear to the office. When the weather outside was heating up, the idea that I couldn't wear a top that exposed my shoulders made me irritable and like I was being punished by The Man. And work shoes! Don't even get me started. One of the best things about where I work now is that I can wear flip flops to the office. I've never looked back. But I'm one of the lucky ones.

My Mum works as a private ambulance technician for sports events and has to wear a heavy, hot, polyester laden uniform with big, thick work boots. The events she covers are often in wide open spaces of land where the sun beats down with no respite or shade, and the very thought of wearing that in heat that has hit 30 degrees recently makes me feel faint. I don't know how she or the many others who must wear such uniforms for work do it without dying in a really dramatic manner.

Similarly, I've been watching Chris get dressed in the morning into a suit, a crisp shirt and full length trousers, ready for a day in the office. His office luckily has air conditioning, but his long motorway commute home in 30 degree heat calls for a change into shorts. With shorts come an audible sigh of relief. Ah. Shorts.

A study was commissioned last week by Parrot Bay in honour of the first British National Shorts Day (YEAH! SHORTS!) and the results showed that the workforce of Britain definitely agree with me that workwear is detrimental to your mental health (slight exaggeration, but I'm sure that someone, somewhere has cited "CRIMES AGAINST WARDROBE" in a mental health report).

2,000 people were asked about their work wardrobe, and whether what they had to wear on a day-to-day basis affected their mood and productivity on the job. Results showed that office workers who have to wear corporate clothing such as suits are generally twice as stressed as those wearing more casual clothing, at 41%and 18%.

53% of employees told that their mood and productivity is affected by the clothes they wear -- with 42% admitting they become more uptight as a result of their work wardrobe. The results found that over half of finance workers are expected to wear smart office attire, but only half of them said that it's actually vital for their role. Shit isn't good, people! Shorts are the way forward!

People saving lives have got beef with uniforms, too! A third of doctors and nurses said that their uniform actually adds to the pressure of their job -- which is pretty damn stressful already, what with the having to save people's lives multiple times a day thing.

So, let's talk work wear. Do you hate it as much as I do? Or maybe you enjoy the difference in your day-to-day clothes and your work clothes? If you wear a uniform, do you like it or loathe it?

I'm on Twitter, if you're that way inclined - @Natalie_KateM