As part of the lolita_handbook rewrite I put together a set of recommendations for wearing Lolita fashion at work that I'd like to share with you. It's electronically published so there's no such thing as a final draft, so suggestions and crit are welcome, as always. I hope you find it amusing or helpful. ♥
definitive guide to wearing lolita at work
These are guidelines and suggestions, not gospel. Use your common sense and good judgment.
"How can I wear Lolita to work?" is a frequently asked question, but there's an equally important question that isn't asked: "Should I wear Lolita to work?"
While it's tempting to completely immerse in a beautiful fashion like Lolita, it's not always appropriate for the workplace. Whether it's fair to judge others by appearance is immaterial: it's going to happen.
We do have the ability to control our appearance so far as grooming, hygiene, and professional attire are concerned. In a world where appearance matters and fitting in may mean wearing mass market ready-to-wear, clothing and personal expression take a backseat in favor of being noticed for the right things.
Your image is your personal brand. How you carry yourself, how you react in situations, your accomplishments, your skill set, and your appearance are parts of it. When people think of you, what should stand out in their minds? It's important that your good reputation reflect your talent and abilities, and not just your fashion sense.
It's also important to remember that while you are at work, you are acting as a representative of your employer. What does your clothing say about business, and what is it saying to clients, guests, and customers?
If you work behind the scenes and only ever have to interact with your colleagues, establish your reputation as a hard and excellent worker before focusing on bringing Lolita to the office. If you work with clients or the public, comply with any guidelines dictated by your company so you remain approachable and customers are confident you can help them. No one wants to be known as the disorganized, scatter brained employee who can't even show up to meetings on time, despite looking fabulous!
Sometimes wearing Lolita in the office just doesn't work out, and there's nothing wrong with that. There's a time and a place for everything and Lolita doesn't have to fit into everyone's career plan. Honestly assess your situation and see if Lolita is right for your workplace. If you think you can make it work, read on...
Right off the bat I can tell you that OTT sweet won't work in the work environment. The easiest styles to wear to work are classical, old school sweet, and toned down goth. "Toned down" is really the central concept in transitioning Lolita from tea party to office: somber colors, low volume petticoats, discreet hairbows, reserved embellishments, and limited accessories. This may sound boring, but the goal is to strike a balance between indulging fashion preferences and fostering a professional image at work.
Brands like Innocent World are a wonderful resource for mature elegance that transition well from meetup to workplace. When selecting work friendly Lolita clothes choose items with less over the top decoration and instead seek refined embellishment. Simple rows of lace and other muted ornamentation will be less distracting.
Jobs to look for
Sales at a Brand boutique
Academia (universities, libraries, but also book stores)
Industries that expect you to express creativity (design, fashion) and
Industries that expect you to be a bit offbeat (web development, IT in general)
Entrepreneur or self employment
Ballerina, princess, virtuoso, mostly kidding
Anywhere dressing professionally is not a priority
This isn't to say you should choose a career from this list so you can wear whatever you want. That would be silly! Most people choose careers based on their talents and passion, and what the dress code will be is an afterthought. Don't give up a valuable internship or coop experience in favor of a job with fewer opportunities but loliable dress code.
Practicality and Considerations
Is heavy lifting or sweating going to be a part of my work?
Will I come into contact with mustard, bleach, chocolate, or blood?
Does the company have a preexisting dress code?
Will I be required to wear a certain kind of footwear?
Will I have to be on my feet all day?
Does my job include crawling around under desks or on the floor?
Will I interact with clients?
Do I need to look polished but mainstream?
Is my work more behind-the-scenes or front-facing?
Carefully consider what stresses your outfit will face at an average day at your job. As much fun as cloning frogs all day is, it also has a lot of potential for ruined prints.
See what other women in the office are wearing. Where do their outfits lie on the spectrum between casual and business? Is there a Casual Friday policy in effect? Do you see any other alternative fashionistas, perhaps a goth in accounting? When first starting out, mirroring the organizational culture you find yourself in is an effective strategy for discerning appropriate dress, especially when a dress code isn't formally provided.
Talk to your boss about the dress code if you have any questions. In many cases your supervisor will appreciate your directness in learning more about the dress code and office culture, and will have useful insight on how to proceed. Your HR representative can also clarify any uncertainties you have about management's sartorial expectations of you. If you have a colleague, mentor, or even an objective friend you can talk to, get in touch with her for an honest opinion on how your Lolita clothes will affect the way people look at you.
Introduce any changes to your wardrobe slowly, especially if you're already established in your current place of work. Coworkers may view sudden changes as a problem at home (and many managers are trained to recognize issues like this) so easing into a more elegant wardrobe should be done in stages.
If out of Lolita you dress like a tomboy, one or two of these suggestions over the course of a week or two would be your first step. Fitted jeans with a feminine blouse and a delicate hairband would be one way to start. Your coworkers may fuss a bit over your appearance but take in stride and accept compliments graciously (a simple "Thank you!" is all you need.)
If you're starting out from a business casual position, increase the amount of skirts in your rotation. They don't all need to be bell shaped: A line, pencil, and even appropriate length jumpers are workplace friendly.
Try incorporating a few of the following suggestions to increase the loli factor in your outfits:
- Include skirts more frequently in your outfits. Built in pettis or low volume are best for the office.
- Try wearing "normal" blouses and tops with bows, ruching, and other elegant touches.
- Smart blazers with feminine details like puff sleeves, ribbons, ruffles, in natural looking fibers pair well over a cami.
- Wear solid tights or socks as weather and temperature conditions permit. Avoid exposing too much knee.
- Elegant jewelry (pearls, cameos, non-plastic jewelry) adds class to any outfit- don't overdo it!
- Small or discreet low contrast hairbands are less distracting, but helpful in keeping hair out of one's face.
- Floral hair clips are easy to find and add a bit of sweet sophistication to your hair style.
- Swap sneakers for comfortable flats.
- Shop for sensible, sweet shoes like Mary Janes and ribbon pumps.
- Update any existing footwear with bow or flower clips.
- Pair a fitted JSK with a cardigan. It's very easy to pare up or down to accommodate temperature changes.
- The traditional blouse + skirt combination can be improved with a vest or belt.
- Modified T-shirts (bonus points for one with the company logo) are great for casual days.
Working within the dress code
Bummer! You have to comply with your company's dress code. Depending on what it dictates though you may have some leeway to interpret it with more elegance than your coworkers.
If you're working in one of the big box stores that requires khaki or khaki colored bottoms with a work polo, wear an appropriately colored skirt with a row of ruffles at the bottom. You can modify a larger polo shirt to your size and puff the sleeves, perhaps adding a row of ruffles in the same material along the hem. If any shirt of appropriate color will work, choose one with more loli potential.
If your company has a strict dress code (and doesn't require uniform appearance like Victoria's Secret or other stores may), it may be worth it to work together with your coworkers to lobby your manager for a Casual Friday policy, or a seasonally relaxed policy for winter.Lolita Elements
If you work an environment where Lolita is completely, irrevocably, unforgivably incompatible with your job you don't have to give up the magic. Incorporate your favorite elements of the style into your work life in other ways:
Miscellaneous Guidelines for Dressing up at Work
- Deco a few of the items in your bag (makeup mirror, phone, DS case).
- Unobtrusively decorate and personalize some of the tools of your trade
- Decoupage your hard hat with a crown, survey princess.
- Commission a set of scrubs with a loliable print.
- Your network port tester will look cuter with stickers on it.
- Embellish your name tag with a bow, or use quality ribbon as a lanyard for your ID badge
- If you have an assigned locker at work post pictures of your next dream dress inside to remind yourself why you work so hard for the money.
- Keep a teapot, teacup, and other elegant accoutrements on your desk. Don't forget to take tea during your breaks!
Just a few more notes that are applicable to most other working environments but cannot be neglected:
- Skirt hems should fall at or below your fingertips when your arms are resting at your side.
- For both tops and bottoms: there should be no more than four fingers of space between the top of your knee and your hem, or your collarbone and blouse.
- Sheer blouses can be worn with lacy, full-coverage camisoles underneath.
- Undergarments are worn under clothes. Your bloomers, petti, corset, garters and slips should never be visible at work.
- Limit the number of neutral colors you employ in an outfit, e.g. do not wear black, brown, gray, navy, khaki, and white at the same time. Two or three (situationally) of these can look smashing together though.
- Keep your makeup sweet and simple. Save false eyelashes and stickers for meetups and photo shoots.
- Leave the wig at home too.
- Avoid frumpiness by wearing fitted clothes in appropriate lengths.
- Basic grooming always applies: bathe, deodorize, and maintain your dental hygiene.
- Avoid clothing choices that can be misconstrued as the other kind of Lolita, such as white knee socks, too short skirts, and school girl inspired outfits.
The most important thing to carry with you always is your confidence. Show it off with excellent poise and posture, and treat others with the respect you expect to be shown.
PS: If you have reasonable quality pictures of yourself in Lolita at work you feel comfortable with sharing, I'd like to get a gallery started for this guide! Thank you.