Remnants of neon nail polish on my fingers or the long sort of “hippie” hair I sported as an undergrad/beach bunny/waitress isn’t cute anymore, at least not in a professional setting. Because of this style upgrade, I unescapably require more time management, more money and more energy. Evidently, appearing professional goes hand in hand with taking the time to iron your clothes, “do” your hair and moisturize your elbows.
I admit, I enjoy designing an outfit, makeup choices included, almost as much as I like surfing (“yes, I am a surfer girl,” I remind the boys at the beach). On the other hand, I’ve discovered there’s a difference between getting ready for a night out and getting ready for work at 6 in the morning. It’s a whole new ball game.
As an artist, I spend far too much time on details and color, in basically every aspect of my life. For a night on the town, I don’t mind being late or missing hors d’oeuvres so long as I enjoyed the process of design. What really challenges me nonetheless is filing down my artistic tendencies on a morning basis. Friends and family suggest with frustration, “pick your outfit the night before!” I used to do that, only to find that in the morning my mood is entirely different from how I felt the night before. So, I stopped; I calculated that I was wasting twice as much time by choosing my outfit at night, then fluctuating, rearranging and inevitably starting from scratch in the morning.
In order to prevent sunrise stress and tardiness (there’s no glamour associated with arriving late at work, regrettably), I rummaged through my brain like I would a drawer, trying to decipher some way to survive my morning madness. Unexpectedly, I had to dig all the way back to elementary school. I attended a very strict private school when I was little where we had to wear a polyester plaid jumper over a white polo shirt. On our feet, only standard white socks, penny loafers or “dolly” shoes, as we called them, were permitted. I used to get into trouble because of my necklaces and ankle socks (entrances into a few detentions). I hated my life without color. Regardless, I was always ready on time, ready for my mom to drop me off at 7:15am. I was never late; I could never be late.
As painful as it may be to write, as much as I may hate the concept— the reason I was never late is because of my uniform.
Students were not the only members of the school that wore uniforms; there were nuns, but most noticeably there was Ms. H. Ms. H wore a navy blue pencil skirt, a pearl necklace and a pastel colored Ralph Lauren Oxford cloth buttoned down shirt. Infrequently, she would sometimes wear an Oxford cloth with pastel colored stripes. Her hair cut resembled Princess Diana’s. She taught us in dark navy pumps.
Ms. H, my favorite teacher, had New Orleans spunk and a bit of tomboyish confidence. Though we were only seven, in second grade, she expected more from us than other teachers. She respected us and connected to us with mature precision. Ms. H was also the teacher that gave my first detention (unheard of for a second grader). She had warned us that the next person to forget his/her field trip permission form would receive a detention. I guess I called her bluff.
Instead of feeling frightened, I accepted the consequence unquestioningly. I served detention as the one and only second grader surrounded by a flurry of eighth graders who relentlessly interrogated me as to why I was in detention with them. I remember feeling grown-up, unafraid and dutiful like a little soldier (like a bada$$).
Looking back, Ms. H and her “uniform” style distinguished her from the rest of my teachers. I took her seriously. I saw her as an experienced, smart lady that didn’t lie, patronize or sugarcoat like the others. She had more on her mind than apple earrings. I wonder now if my esteem for her partially branched from her daily attire. Her ensemble projected authority as much as it did femininity as well as a classic, timeless prestige.
Maybe there’s value in Ms. H’s uniform-like professional style. As naturally colorful and eclectic as I tend to be, imaginably I may benefit from this streamlining. Perhaps the elimination of decision-making and rushing will improve my professional identity. Does less dazzle equal less frazzle?