Sunday nights often arrive with at least a few negative emotions – apprehension, a touch of dread, disappointment that the weekend is nearly finished. Even though my day job is satisfying and my coworkers are clever and fun, I still have to concede that come Monday morning, most of my daylight won’t be as wholly mine as it is on the weekends.
I work in an office environment that has a somewhat loose dress code. I make an effort to dress somewhat professionally, though, to visually mark myself as “not a grad student.” Most of my coworkers are professors who taught me only a year or two ago, and I aim to make it as easy for them as possible to treat me like an employee instead of their student.
But I make an extra effort to dress up nicely on Mondays.
On an average day, I will probably wear a skirt, flats, and a nice t-shirt (tailored, solid color) or a button-down. In weather that doesn’t feel like Satan’s armpits, I might swap out the skirt for some pants (I’m a fan of the Sloan and Ryan cuts from Banana Republic). My hair, which is several inches past my shoulders, is probably slapped up in a bun or maybe braided.
But on , I usually wear a dress and possibly some heels or a pair of suede sandals (particularly if I’ve painted my toenails on Sunday night). I’ll wear my hair down, or perhaps clip just a bit of it up.
Of course, “dressing nicely” means something different to everyone. I ask myself, “what would I wear to a black-tie event?” and base my choices off of a scaled-down version of that.
But what’s the point? Mondays are full of bleary-eyed drones who miss the weekend, so who cares if my hair is up or down?
Well, for one, I do. It’s similar to the principle of wearing nice underwear – no one else knows, but it gives the wearer a little boost of confidence. When I dress up at black-tie events, I feel elegant and powerful. On Mondays, I like to tap into that feeling.
And because I enjoy feeling elegant and powerful (c’mon, who doesn’t?), I look forward to dressing nicely. That anticipation takes away some of the sting of the weekend’s close.
Moving away from personal effects, I believe there are also benefits to others when I dress nicely. In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth argues that one way to grow and improve is to surround yourself with gritty people so their habits and values will rub off on you. Now, I’m not thinking “gritty” when I slip a dress over my head (unless I’m at the beach), but I do think that dressing nicely encourages others to not only treat me more professionally, but to subconsciously make similar efforts in their own lives.
Okay, let’s take some leaps and say I’ve ignited change. Everyone in the office is impeccably dressed, and we look fiiine – but so what? Well, for one thing, the subtle boosts of confidence all around can improve the quality of our work (which I’d argue is already excellent, but I may be biased).
Looking professional and put-together also makes a good impression on the students, faculty, and visitors who come through the office. Whose advice would you be more likely to follow: a woman in a wrinkled t-shirt and holey khakis, or a woman in a tailored suit with styled hair? And if they both presented the same idea to you, would you support the one who looked like she just rolled out of bed, or the one who looks like she has her life together and can easily see the idea onto the next stages?
I work at a public university in a state ranked #49 out of 50 in education (purely looking at higher education, we do slightly better at #42). Ouch. We need all the help we can get. Therefore, when it comes down to votes or public issues related to supporting education, it’s in our best interest to have the most positive associations popping up in the minds of everyone who comes to us – and that includes dressing nicely.
“But wait!” you might be shrieking while jabbing accusatory fingers at your screen. “You specified Mondays as dressy days!”
I did! But here’s the thing: I’ve found that starting the week off by making an effort at my appearance means I’m more likely to continue doing that throughout the week. In other words, if I don’t care about my appearance on Monday, I’m less likely to care for the rest of the week. However, if I dress nicely on Monday, that subconsciously becomes my standard for the week.
But, ya know . . . as soon as I get home, the dress goes back in the closet and out comes the rags and the muddy garden clogs. Life’s about balance.