Thursday, 25 February 2010

Hello new world

This year I turned my back on the career I had pursued for the last three and a half years. They say January is a time for fresh starts - ain't that the truth! Starting anew presents myriad challenges, not least financial. The one challenge I didn't think about is the sartorial.

For almost four years years I've scurried about in performance venues, carrying the amps and guitars of bands from Wichita, Wyoming and Wolverhampton, welcomed terribly posh clients ahead of their 50th birthday gala banquets, told a rather well known broadcasting company where they can and can't film, lugged cases of beer about the place, and looked after music industry from the green & nervous to the hardened - as well as all the accompanying correspondence and paperwork. Behind a bar one minute, behind a laptop the next, be it 8am or 3am. It demanded a very hard-working and versatile wardrobe - it paid to be all things to all people. Well-heeled corporate clients appreciated serious presentation; bands were put at ease by a scruffy chick in jeans, flatties and checked shirt. The more unusual clients (including one fabulous and infamous drag-wearing stylist/designer) were impressed by a more creative and colourful approach to one's clothes - and whoever the client, my clothes had to allow physical work. The only wardrobe style I've not cultivated in the last few years is the most obvious - officewear!

Now I find I'm grateful to have my evenings back - three midnight finishes a week will take it out of you if you do it for long enough, and with a new domestic situation I'm glad to get home of an evening. So I've joined the ratrace, seeking to try my hand at a normal day job. In the search for my next adventure, I am yo-yoing between interviews and the second oldest profession - temping. Every job I go for is of the PA/admin variety. The work is easy, the people amiable. Yet, unexpectedly, the clothes are a challenge - because right now I never seem to be in one place for more than a week.

Initial impressions are the first thing. Interview or first day, you want to look professional. But if you are there for more than a day at a time, you want to be liked, right? You don't want to look cold and unapproachable. I like to look chic and modern, but want to be taken seriously, so fashion's extremes must wait till after-hours. My last temp job was a success, and I was encouraged to apply for a permanent job at the company when such a thing comes up. I want that hit rate with every job - someone give me a permanent job! A sharp suit works for day one, but then my creative juices kick in and I want to introduce my personality into the mix.

And of course every company is different. Sharp-shouldered, razor-haired city slickers populate one office, while the PA in another place trots cheerfully about in jeans and boots. The challenge is finding the right vibe in the few days that I'm there, while trying to look smart and memorable. Of course I want my work to be the thing that sets me apart from the rest of the crowd, but it doesn't hurt to leave a visual impression too... right?

I don't own a suit so for smart days I've opted for black suit-y separates - the McQueen trousers (creased just so down the front) and a Tara Jarmon blazer with a tiny waist and three folded corners at each shoulder. I own two white shirts - a very stiff twill-cotton Thomas Pink shirt with a rebellious that I fear carries Harry Hill connotations (sewing the collar firmly in place diminished it, but still...) and an ivory Chloe shirt with a frilled collar - very pretty but difficult under a suit. A recent swishing event furnished me with two more shirts - a pinstripe one I've decided I loathe and a useful white tuxedo-front thing that I can wear with cufflinks. Otherwise I'm opting for knitted dresses, a trusty black Uniqlo pencil skirt, sorbet-coloured Topshop Unique dresses and Mascaro ankle boots, with bits of posh knitwear (Rykiel/Pringle) to cheer things up a bit. Yet so far I never feel I've quite hit the mark...


Anonymous said...

I can relate to this. I'm also in the temp vortex, mixed in with waitressing, and I really crave a job I can get stuck into, where I don't feel I'm constantly apologising to my boyfriend for abandoning him every night.

I also struggle with the right thing to wear. You sound like you are quite natty already - I find it hard to dress up and am a natural scruff. But I want and need to look more stylish as things get more serious and I have to learn to tread the line between interesting, comfortable and professional. A three-pointed line!

Charponnaise said...

Night work is hard isn't it! And not well paid. I wasn't sorry to leave it behind, and I would only go back to it if I really can't get a day-based fulltime job or make enough temping to pay my way. I still do a bit here and there but very infrequently.

The only trusty rule I've found, workwear-wise, is to keep it simple and to wear as good stuff as you can afford. Cheap clothes can look stylish and fun, despite opinions to the contrary, but when it comes to comfort and professionalism I reckon a shirt that fits beautifully or a pair of heels you actually can stand in for hours (I had to test this with 14 hour shifts.. ack!) go a long way, and make it less stressful!