Part Four of a Five-Part Series – Jewelry Slacker

Does your style at work match your personal style of working? Is it possible the jewelry you wear is “saying” something about you (and your perceived abilities, preferences, priorities, etc.) before you even open your mouth to speak? It can, right? It can share your relationship status, your financial status, your religious interests, your group affiliations, your attention to detail, your creativity and other personal “context” about you. Again, you be you! And wear exactly what you want to wear, including jewelry. Just know, it’s visible and some people will notice and make assumptions based on their own experiences.

I’ll never forget a few uncomfortable moments after I commented on my CPA’s very interesting necklace during our first meeting (more than a decade ago now). It looked like some kind of Egyptian emblem and I was so curious about it. After all, he was asking us so many personal questions (since he was doing our taxes), it was just natural to want to know something about him (maybe not for everyone, but I like to get to know people I work with). My husband was with me at the time and he was also taken aback by his reaction to my inquiry. The CPA froze up and specifically decided to not answer (after I thought maybe he didn’t hear me and I asked again – gasp). When I realized he was purposefully not answering me, I was a little embarrassed and even more intrigued. I looked it up as soon as we left the office. It turned out to be an Alcoholics Anonymous symbol that neither of us had never seen before (little did we know it would be a much more prominent symbol in our world in the very near future – another gasp and big sigh but with a bright light at the end of the tunnel). And even though he was proudly displaying the AA affiliation on his chest, he was not comfortable owning that affiliation with people he didn’t know very well. I get it, it’s called Alcoholics Anonymous for a reason. Either way, you have a choice of what to wear…what to “display” for all to see. Unlike our CPA’s assumption, it wasn’t the AA affiliation that sparked any judgment, negative or positive, but his weird response that had us questioning his decision-making.

For me, I have no issue with sharing bits and pieces of my personal life, interests and affiliations as I select and wear jewelry today. My own problem was the serious lack of jewelry – or finishing touches – on my style at work and my personal style in general. I never even considered the jewelry part of the equation unless I was getting “dressed up” for a wedding or some kind of formal event. I’m sure my “Jewelry Slacker” mentality stems from my super-slow progression into fashion as a whole. I was a late bloomer for sure. My mom had absolutely zero interest in fashion when I was growing up (at least that’s how it seemed – since fashion was considered completely frivolous to her and only for the shallow minded). I completely missed out on the teenage and early twenties fashion learning phase, although my dad did teach me how to buy quality materials, I just had little interest and no natural ability for putting outfits together. Whatever the store mannequin was wearing is usually what I bought, the whole outfit. I was a little preoccupied in my twenties, as a single mom with two jobs and going to school full-time, so my personal fashion style was just not a priority.

Fast-forward to my 30s, a professional office job and a boyfriend with impeccable style who regularly bought me work separates…and I had to catch up somehow, fast. It started with shoes (hence my shoe porn addiction). I had to figure out what shoes to wear with these new work clothes. I had to figure out what tops to pair with the skirts he bought me and what bottoms to wear with the tops. It became a great big learning decade. I devoured the What Not To Wear television series and my subscription to In-Style magazine was my favorite monthly read. I didn’t learn quickly, it just wasn’t natural for me (or my budget). My 10 year old daughter was a way better shopper and casual outfit maker than I was! But I was interested and consistently learning and trying new things over time, starting with and focused on dressing for work. After all, I didn’t want these beautiful items just sitting in my closet because I didn’t know how to wear them. BTW, I did marry this guy and he still buys my clothes…and they just keep getting better over time…and now I’m closing in on 50 years old with a really fun closet of quality clothing – and my casual style knowledge is growing as I no longer work in a stuffy office setting. This whole style thing is more of a marathon for me. And the jewelry side of the equation is one of the last pieces of the puzzle that I’m still learning, but am feeling more confident about it over the last few years. Kinda’ like purses…I don’t quite have the bag accessory “down” yet either…but I’m working it on it. I am the girl who always wanted big pockets and didn’t want to be burdened with a purse to carry…I mean WTF…so annoying that guys have all these great pockets. I still get my man to throw my lipstick in his pocket on the regular, I digress.

With jewelry, the main idea for me is to not forget it – and even trying different pieces on with the same outfit to see which I like best (this is very new for me…just in the last year or so). I had always just decided which earrings, bracelet and/or necklace to wear, put them on and left. There is wisdom and creativity in testing and viewing from a full length mirror though! Jewelry doesn’t have to be an afterthought, it can really turn great clothes into beautiful outfits and start to solidify your own personal style. It’s the finishing touch! You wouldn’t make your bed without fluffing your pillow. You wouldn’t leave all the walls in your home empty without artwork (ha…I did just this for 8 years after buying my first home). Overall, jewelry can also contribute to your style at work, your perceived “working style” and even how well your communications are received by others.

Pinterest has been an excellent teacher and catalyst for me in this area of dressing for work. There are so may amazing images of work style – complete outfits (with work style jewelry) to help inspire a well thought out pairing and continue to home in on my own personal style. My In-Style magazine is no longer as exciting as it was ten years ago due to Pinterest having all the great looks already published beforehand…and from every country, every designer, every everything! A plethora of style inspiration right in the palm of my hand. And What Not To Wear has been off the air for years now…but I definitely saw every episode at least twice 😉 Thanks Clinton & Kelly <3

jewelry style at workSo, the fourth question I ask myself when dressing for work:

#4. Did I forget jewelry?

  1. Just don’t forget! Any attempt is better than none.
  2. Diamonds and precious metals are great, but tiny and don’t add much to a look. Mix them in, wear them…don’t put them in a box. They just won’t likely be the star of the show unless you’re truly wealthy and/or have some family heirlooms of significance. Size and scale matters.
  3. Mix it up – try different items on in front of a mirror – test test test. Different jewelry = new outfits. Mix up length, metals, colors, textures – layer necklaces, get creative and just try something different.
  4. You don’t have to buy the expensive stuff. I only have a few pieces that were over $100 and about the same number of “real” jewels (ruby stud earrings from my dad and a few nice diamonds from my husband). I like to stay under $50. If you find something you love that’s $200 – I guarantee you can find something exactly the same or very similar for less than $50 on Etsy or Amazon (or second hand if you love buying brand names). Locally, we have (arguably) one of the coolest “costume” jewelry designers in our region. Because of their success, their bead/stone suppliers have moved into town…and they’re selling the same exact supplies to other up-and-coming jewelry designers! So lucky us, same cool beads, stones and style…without the price. BTW, my regular buying price is only  $20-35 for most pieces. I’ll spend $75-180 for something really amazing and unique, but that’s rare for me.
  5. Don’t go overboard. Dangly is a good barometer to watch for when styling for work. If it gets caught on your desk or something external, if you have to move it to sit down or bend over, if it makes a lot of noise…it’s probably not a great choice for work. Comfort/movement is also a good barometer. If your bracelet is annoying you while typing on your keyboard, it’s probably annoying someone else too (especially if it’s making sounds).
  6. If you’re giving a speech or presentation – dangling jewelry or anything that hangs or makes a sound can be distracting for the audience. Don’t forget scale and size here too, the audience will not be able to see small sparkly pieces…opt for larger scale, color and/or high contrast pieces.

ICYMI, be sure to check out the rest of the series. Start with Part One – Pink Ruffles at Work?

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