Deciding What to Wear

With my new job comes many new challenges. One I was not quite expecting was the challenge of deciding what to wear. I am not talking about not liking what I have in my closet or having so many things I like that I am paralyzed by choice (though I do have more things than I probably need and should work on paring myself back down). No, I have the new challenge of setting my own dress code.

Here at the University, each department is pretty much free to set their own dress code. When I worked for the School of Medicine, one of the directors nicely let me know that, despite working alongside people who were dressed in jeans and flip flops, I would do best to err on the business side of business casual. That was because I was part of the Dean’s Office, and the Dean’s Office was overall more formal.

Now, I am in an actual academic department. To go along with that, I am in an engineering department. But it’s a hippie engineering department. My boss, our department Chair, wears jeans and short sleeved, button down, print shirts (think Hawaiian shirts, but the prints aren’t floral) every day.

Every other member of the staff wears jeans and a business casual style top- at least most of the time. (On Friday I saw a couple t-shirts and sweatshirts.) This includes the four staff that report to me.

Let me be clear that I have no intention of trying to change the office dress code. A casual environment is certainly one of the perks of working for an engineering department, and I have no doubt the staff value that. However, I am not a member of the staff.

I am the Administrator, the business manager, the non-academic head of the department. And I am not certain that casual is the right dress code for me, at least not most of the time. In many senses, I am the professional image of the department.

This means that for the most part, I am going to aim for business casual dress that often may err on the side of business. Part of this is because that’s the work wardrobe I have, but part is also because that’s how I want to present myself and represent the department.

I am going to allow myself casual Fridays. My Chair isn’t in the office on Fridays. (He’s off doing research.) We do not have any classes on Fridays, so there are fewer students and faculty around. So on Fridays, I will allow myself nice jeans and a business casual top.

But most of the week, if you want to find me, I’ll be the person in slacks or a skirt, with a blouse and a jacket, or maybe a nice sweater.