Saturday, April 14, 2012

You too can buy achievement for the low, low price of $455!

How many times have you gone to great lengths to make a better impression at your job? How much has it cost you in time? In energy? In money? Was it worth it?

A few years ago I interviewed for a Big Deal internship in my field. I'd done the proverbial "sweating blood" for it and it would only last a year. I wanted to make a lasting impression. How did I do this?

While living on $1000 a month and paying $500 each month in rent, I went and bought an interview suit that I thought would give me confidence. I dipped into my savings and spent $500 on it.

It did give me confidence. I stood taller, carried myself more confidently, and smiled more because damn, I looked good. I landed the fellowship.Of course, I gave the suit some of the credit. I still do.

Apparently so did my fellow interns. It turns out we all poured a ton of money into our clothes. At the end of the first day, we asked the program director, "So, what's the dress code for the rest of the year?" She looked us up and down and said, "Just keep dressing like you are."

Peach pinstripes on a grey suit? What was I thinking?
So we all ran out and spent huge amounts of money on clothes. Fortunately we were getting full-time, really, really good paychecks by this point. But I still spent $2000 on three suits, three pairs of pants, and five shirts. 

I still work in the same field in a very similar environment and I still feel like I need to dress as well (or better) than everyone else to be able to compete. Fashion seems very important in my office. Makeup too. To the point where I once heard someone express the opinion that she feels like a stellar wardrobe is important to get ahead in our office. It's purely opinion, of course. But clothes do seem to matter in my field.

But as I've gone through my closet I'm realizing that I can't afford to look like I've walked out of a magazine, either financially or emotionally. I would rather be blogging or playing with my gerbils than picking out my 50th blouse at Ann Taylor. Besides, my tastes and size are going to change and my clothes will end up being unwearable.
Oh yeah, that label says what you think it says.

I spent $500 on this suit. I wore it maybe four times before I realized I hated it. Then I gained 15 pounds and I'm determined not to risk having a relapse of my eating disorder by trying to lose weight to fit into it.

I couldn't bear to just donate the suit so I did what Minimalist Mommi suggested (thanks Megyn!) and I sold it for a measly $45. I don't think this suit got me ahead at work. But I was really, really confident while I was wearing it and that did get me ahead at work. Was it worth the $455 I lost? Can you put a price tag on confidence?

We're a fashion-conscious world. People in the workplace can and may judge you based on your clothes. Have you found the happy medium between being a slave to fashion and being able to use clothes to give you that extra bit of confidence?

Can I learn to get my confidence from things other than my clothes? Or can I learn to use nice clothes in moderation to boost my confidence without violating my wallet?

The Reckoning

Item 76: A suit that doesn't fit that I hate.
Fate:The consignment shop.
Cost: $500, made $45 on it.
Total money wasted on junk I never should've bought: $947.


  1. I'm right there with you. I'm preparing to take a trip to the consignment shop with the 4 garbage bags full of clothes that are now out of my closet. I've got Brooks Brothers, too. Talbots, Ann Taylor, Dana Buchman.... Such a waste, but hopefully it will bring me some cash.

  2. This is what I call "to dress like a penguin" (penguin => wearing a suit)....I hate it! I'd rather wear a uniform, it would make things sooooo much easier in the morning :D
    I've never conformed to it. For an important interview I bought a nice outfit and never again wore it, so I decided that rather than wasting money on clothes I don't like, it was better to look for a more informal company to work with! Finally found it :)

    1. I will take your inspiration and wear a t-shirt (with a jacket!) this Friday. Maybe I can get everyone to loosen up a bit at the office!

  3. Glad you were able to sell it, but that is a huge bummer on what you got for it! I wish I understood the whole business attire stuff, but I think I've chosen career paths based on ease of clothing. Working for non-profits puts little to no emphasis on attire (other than maybe having the clothes being 2nd hand or ethically created) and as a *hopeful* professor, I get free reign to wear what I want lol! May I suggest a career switch? Just kidding, but really, that's a shame that you have to wear certain clothes to move ahead. If only the job came with a clothing allowance...

  4. This is my struggle. My job title dictates my clothing choice. I went cheaper in material and ended up throwing all of it away, because it just fell apart. I went more expensive and am having angst over the cost but the wear is getting better. Quality is hard to find anymore, even in what used to be "good" brands...that whole brand name equals certain quality thing does not apply much anymore. I think part of this is I am also realizing maybe I am in the wrong job..but we shall see. Le sigh!!! : )

    1. Same thing here. There's no dress code, but boy do people look at you funny if you don't look like you walked out of an Ann Taylor catalog. But I see some of the guys walking around in polos and jeans....I wonder how much of the "we must wear fancy clothes" is in our heads?


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