When it comes to fashion, most young women don’t realise how easy they have it until they get their first corporate job. Sure, replenishing your wardrobe with power suits is fun, but that doesn’t compensate for the pain of walking in heels, in mastering a professional-looking hairstyle that can be done in less than 10 minutes, and in being told off for wearing colourful nail polish to the office.
Read below to get a dose of the angst women suffer while trying to dress for work – and our recommendations as to making it more bearable.
1. Learning how to run for the bus or MRT while wearing heels
No matter how often you wear platform stilettos to the club, nothing really prepares you from having to walk in heels five days a week for twelve hours at a time. Or for running after the bus in them while carrying a briefcase and a laptop under your arm.
Our remedy: Aside from the age-old trick of wearing flats on your commute and changing into heels after you get into the office, you can also try applying a blister spray to keep the shoes from chafing your skin. Dermal’s Blistop, which provides and invisible protective layer on your skin, is a nice substitute for ugly bandages and even uglier scarring.
Blistop, by Dermal: S$11.90, available at Watsons and SaSa
2. Being judged for your handbag
This is basically a lose-lose situation if your colleagues are nosy and judgmental. You’re either trying too hard, or you’re not trying enough. Carry a branded bag, and they’ll gossip about how on earth a person as junior as you was able to afford it. Carry a crappy bag from the mall and they’ll judge you for having cheap taste.
Our remedy: While you might be tempted to buy a fake designer bag from China to fit in without breaking the bank, we’ve got to insist that anyone who’s shallow enough to regard one’s handbag as a mark of her character isn’t worth trying to impress.
3. Having to tone down your hair and nails
If your office is on the conservative side, you’ll have to bid your nail art and anime hair adieu. Even the classiest of non-traditional nail colours, such as grey or jade green, are banned in some corporate offices that only approve of reds and pinks. If your job requires you to meet important clients in person, you’ll also have to stick with natural-looking hair colours applied evenly – no ombre, no highlights, and definitely no rainbow hair extensions.
Our remedy: There might not be a lot you can do about nail colours, but when it comes to hair, practice elegant updos and plaits to keep yourself from getting bored. And if it’s any consolation, you’ll be so tired during the busy season of work that you wouldn’t have time to do your hair or nails even if it were allowed.
4. Sweating through your outfit before even getting to work
Well, this one’s pretty self-explanatory – except for in the latter half of the year, where you show up to the office dripping sweat AND rainwater. As if that weren’t miserable enough, it also ruins your clothes.
Our remedy: The good news is, you have options. On especially hot days, you can skip the inevitable deluge of unwanted fluids by taking a cab. If cabs are too expensive, you can keep a change of clothes in the office. You could even quit your job and go work as a lifeguard or a zookeeper, where sweat is not only inevitable, but encouraged. But if you’d like to make an investment into not sweating, we’d highly recommend undershirts from UNIQLO’s AIRism line, which absorb sweat and dry quickly so that you feel refreshed the whole day.
5. Ripping the seam of your pants or skirt five minutes before a meeting
Believe it or not, this is not something exclusive to comedy. People’s clothes do split open at inconvenient times, but especially when you bend over the wrong way while wearing a pencil skirt.
Our remedy: Don’t have time to change or sew yourself up? Grab a stapler and go to town on that tear. Granted, it’s not a perfect solution as the staples can prick you, but it should suffice until someone can bring you some replacement clothing.
6. Having to starch and iron your clothes
No matter how hard you try to convince your colleagues otherwise, “wrinkle chic” isn’t, and never will be, a thing. You tell yourself every week that you’ll set aside a couple of hours on a Sunday night to iron your button-downs, but somehow, that option always gets foiled by the prospect of marathon-ing a drama instead.
Our remedy: You don’t have enough discipline to iron your clothes, nor do you have enough money to hire a maid. Nor will you deign to ask your mother for help. There’s only one solution: buy clothes that don’t need to be ironed. Avoid cotton and instead go for sheer, flowy button-downs made of synthetic fibre. But if you’re really desperate, at least iron the collar of your wrinkled shirt with a hair straightener before leaving in the morning, and then cover the wrinkled bits with a fancy scarf.
7. Breaking out after staying late
Just when you thought you’d conquered your teenage acne, you started working overtime and BAM – it returned with a vengeance. Thanks to our hormones, lack of proper hydration, and exposure to the elements (that is, the office’s overly strong air conditioner), working long hours can summon pimples that last unto eternity.
Our remedy: Call us high-maintenance, but we’d recommend keeping a skincare kit on your desk. A package of makeup-removing wipes, some lotion, and even toner will not only keep your skin radiant, but it will even wake you up. If you’re uncomfortable going bare-faced in the office, touch up with Garnier’s Miracle Skin Perfector Gel, an oil control moisturiser with a BB finish. This lemon-scented concoction will keep acne at bay while illuminating your tired, dulled complexion.
Garnier Miracle Skin Perfector Gel, S$15.90, available soon at Watsons, Guardian, and major supermarkets.
8. Debating every morning whether you should get up early to do your makeup and hair
On the one hand, you could wake up half an hour earlier to put on contact lenses, do your makeup, blow-dry your hair, and sculpt it into an actual hairstyle. On the other hand, you could wake up at the last minute and show up to the office wearing spectacles and a ponytail. It’s not exactly glamorous, but it’s definitely more appealing at 6 in the morning.
Our remedy: We all have our slack-off days, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with a ponytail, a bare face, and spectacles, those of us who work in corporate settings know that you make a far better impression on people in the office when you look put together. If you really can’t bring yourself to get up early, beat bed-head by applying dry shampoo and sculpting power for some much-needed bounce.
Toni & Guy Cleanse & Nourish Dry Shampoo, $10.90
Toni & Guy Casual Sculpting Powder, $12.90
Now available at selected Guardian and Watsons outlets
9. Taking a shower in the morning only to get stinky again after you emerge from the MRT
Well, this is the ultimate “NOOOOO.” Despite wake up 20 minutes early to shower, you still came to the office reeking of cigarette smoke, strange foods, and body odour.
Our remedy: You’ll need to keep two things in your cubicle drawer other than an extra shirt: a packet of wet wipes and a giant bottle of hydrating body mist, which works the same way that Febreze works on carpets. Have no shame – cleanse away.
Crabtree & Evelyn La Source Refreshing Body Mist, S$30, at major department stores
10. Losing your passion for fashion six months into the job
Dressing up for a new workplace is fun. Dressing up for the same old bosses, colleagues, and clients, is not. More often than not, you start off stylish and strong, only to regress into slob mode once the novelty has worn off.
Our remedy: Neglecting your appearance makes you seem depressed. Don’t give the people around you reason to wonder if anything is wrong by way of your wardrobe. If you get bored with your old office clothes, buy a few new pieces every 4-6 months. Get a haircut. Try a new lipstick colour. All of these tasks might sound frivolous, but making an effort with your appearance prepares your mind for self-respect and success.