Working Wardrobes

During a phone interview today I ended up saying “No, this wouldn’t work” because their corporate dress code is Business Professional, defined as suits or suit-like combinations; ties for men; no athletic shoes allowed.   Refusing to dress up every day for work isn’t all that uncommon a stance for a software person to take in Seattle, but my reasons are a bit different.

You see, in the past 10 years I have found ONE standard Business Professional suit jacket that fits me.   It’s a medium “business” blue, which I pair with black slacks for interviews.  Size? 34W.

Do you know how common suits are in size 34W?  Heck, in anything bigger than size 28?  (Hint:  They’re not.)  I could get away some coordinating jackets and slacks.   Even if I’m just focusing on blazers, though, they’re hard to find.  Oh, and I usually need to go up a size in pants/skirt size than top/jacket, and 34W is really a ballpark; sometimes I can wear a 32W, sometimes I need a 36W.

So, it’s not just that I would have to buy a totally new wardrobe for this job. I have the money in savings, if I felt the job was worth the cost.  It’s that I would have to FIND the appropriate clothing IN MY SIZE for this job.

Yes, some catalogs carry suits in size 34W or 36W.  Making It Big has some suit-like separates, and Plus Woman will make a custom blazer (and skirt and pants to match).  That’s assuming the time lag of ordering, delivery, trying on, arranging alterations, and/or returning clothes that don’t fit doesn’t cause problems.

But what I’d actually want, for that sort of job would be this suit, or possibly this jacket or this one.  None of which are made in my size.  Possibly Rochester Big & Tall could make some serious alterations to a man’s suit … or I’d have to have suits made for me, either by Plus Woman or someone local.

Then there’s shoes.  I wear “walking shoes” because they’re comfortable and supportive.   I only own a couple pairs of dress shoes, and I don’t want to wear them daily.

Fortunately?  Most software jobs in Seattle are strongly influenced by Microsoft.  “Business casual” is often regarded as dressing up.   But if I weren’t in software? This could be a serious drawback to getting work.

Update: I had previously posted about what I usually wear to work here.

23 thoughts on “Working Wardrobes

  1. I would have to say the same. No. A new wardrobe, new shoes, all uncomfortable, plus everything else they want you to have to look ‘professional’ is not worth the job. If you have to, you have to, but I’d keep looking too. Life can be a pain but we don’t have to let it be a pain all the time!

  2. I don’t want to minimize in any way the suckiness of the situation you’re in, suit-wise. I’ve never seen a suit in anything over a 32W in a bricks-and-mortar store, either. Nice suits are rare in plus sizes and even rarer over a size 24.

    But… there are Chinese and Indian companies online that will custom make suits for around what one would cost in a department store. So, if you ever do need a matching suit, that’s one route to try. For example, at http://www.eshakti.com, which has a good history with the Fatshionista community, you could put together a suit by ordering a custom jacket and pants or skirt that match. Or, just Google “custom suit.” I don’t know which companies are best, but with a little research, you could probably find a source. Just in case you ever need to.

    Also, you can buy businessy-looking shoes that are supportive. Birkenstocks has an oxford, for example, and you could probably get away with a plain black athletic shoe with most pant suits. Just get the pants hemmed on the long side so that they’re mostly covered.

    • True, eshakti is another option, similar to Plus Woman (still mail order, and returning custom garments can be problematic). But if I can get a job that pays as much or more without the outlay and hassle…yeah.

      Re: shoes, I mostly wear all-black athletic shoes with pants, though I also have a pair of “mary janes” from Birkenstocks. I ASKED the interviewer if all-black “walking shoes” would work and he kept emphasizing “No athletic shoes”, so I took that as a “No”.

  3. This is why I am glad I work in the environment that I do. As you say, not only is it a wardrobe that you would personally find uncomfortable, but is simply not available to us as fat women. This is why I campaign for quality, variety and reasonable pricing for plus-sized clothing so vociferously.

  4. Not that it helps with the overall situation, and not that it’s near as nice as the first Norsdstrom’s jacket (which I am in love with and consider it just as well that it doesn’t come in my size either because it’s waaay too much for me to spend on a jacket), but this is a 34W and, I thought, really pretty especially in the navy: http://www.roamans.com/clothing/Ruffle-Top-Jacket-Dress.aspx?PfId=198650&DeptId=9907&ProductTypeId=1&PurchaseType=G&pref=ps

    And I hope you land a fantastic job that will let you dress in clothes you already have or can actually find withouth the level of effort required to locate Amelia Earhardt and the Holy Grail.

  5. Gah, that sounded like I totally missed your point and went, “hey, how about this outfit”–I thought I’d posted another comment before that was much more along the “Wow, yeah, that’s ridiculously sucky” line.

    I also bet places with strict dress codes don’t even think about how disproportionately difficult that is for fat folks, fat women in particular. And I wonder why a software job has that level of dress. Do ties or pantyhose have some mystical power that allow people to write better code?

    • I wonder why a software job has that level of dress. Do ties or pantyhose have some mystical power that allow people to write better code?

      It’s the “corporate culture” — they want customers and coworkers to know at a glance you belong to the company, so everyone dresses to the same standard. I kinda get what they’re going for, but doesn’t mean I want to play.

  6. The company I work for has different dress codes, depends on where office is located and who is in charge of that office. For several years I worked in the office with the strictest dress code. I know that my ability to “move up the ladder’ was definitely hindered by the fact that I could not find that type of clothing in my size. I could not afford to have clothes made at the salary they were paying me. I finally was able to transfer to a new department that paid a lot more money and is casual. In fact, I now work from home 99.9% of the time. Fortunately, my salary has continued to increase as well – and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that my managers live in other cities and never see me. I’m judged by my work, not my size. I know this was not the case in the department that I worked in before.

    • I’m judged by my work, not my size. I know this was not the case in the department that I worked in before.

      I’m glad you were able to get into this position, but it sucks that size discrimination is so common.

  7. I will loathe the day I must job hunt again for this reason specifically. Well, that and the fact that I’ve been wearing jeans everyday for two years. Ha-ha! That will be a hard habit to break! =0)

  8. Totally take your point. I have been self-employed, worked in IT, and worked in the public service. In all three positions, either I could decide what to wear, or it didn’t matter, although for both the IT and PS jobs, I had a devil of a time figuring out what to wear to the interview. I ended up going with a black jacket and all black clothes, as I couldn’t find a decent suit in my size (6x). It’s all fine by me as I wouldn’t want to work someplace where there’s a strict dress code, but what if I didn’t have the option of taking it or leaving it? This must be a huge problem for fat women in more ‘conventional’ professions and industries.

  9. It is a HUGE problem for women in more conservative professions. As a recovering lawyer, I don’t have to wear suits most days now, but when I do it is impossible. The only jacket I have right now is 3-quarter sleeves (so probably not conservative enough) and pants that coordinate, but not match. There’s no way I could go back to a courtroom in that outfit (as in some courts I wasn’t allowed to wear pants, anyway).

  10. I’m around the same size. I worked in Bellevue for awhile and bought most of my “professional” attire at Catherine’s. The Southcenter location is good and the salespeople are very nice. They often have GREAT sales, and carry 5X, so I have purchased many nice jackets and blazers on clearance for 10 or 15 bucks each. Dressing up sucks though, and “professional attire” has little imagination…

    • The blazer I have was purchased at Catherine’s on sale. They have lots of business separates but not suits per se, and I was specifically told that “formal business suits” were the preferred attire.

      If I already had a professional wardrobe Catherine’s would be great for filling in gaps, but I’m not sure I could create a new one from there before starting a new job :(

  11. I haven’t had to wear a corporate wardrobe but I know it’s difficult for us who wear extended sizes to find suits and dress slacks.The only place I’ve seen actual so-called corporate wear for women 3X and up is Roamans & Woman Within, and some in Jessica London, but a lot of it might not be appropriate (garish colors, semi-tacky embellishments, weird cuts like the “car wash” hems).

    It’s class ism rearing its ugly head again. It seems retailers think us fat women can’t get hired in a formal corporate culture so they don’t make those kinds of clothes for us. I’d like to take those folks to the streets of downtown Baltimore—plenty of fat women in corporate office jobs!

  12. Ugh, this is something I’m dealing with right now. I live and work in Washington, DC – a very business attire place. I actually underdress a bit because I just can’t find business attire in my size. It’s stressful because I don’t want to be seen as an uncooperative minion, totally blowing off the dress code.

  13. I work for a large company (on the phone) and in the last year and a half they finally relaxed our dress code. Apparently they gave us a few months test run and when productivity and quality wasn’t affected they went “Ok, you can dress more casually” Kind of nice. We still have to dress up when important people tour the building, though the last time the CEO visited they sent out an email two weeks ahead of time saying “Business Professional only on the day the CEO” is here and then sent another email the next week saying “The CEO wants everyone to dress in jeans and their favorite sports team shirt” which *cracked* me up.

  14. Every time I see your “BeingSuperFat” tag, I like to imagine you standing on top of the Space Needle with an S on your chest and a blue cape streaming out from your shoulders.

  15. Pingback: Fat Discrimination Research | Living ~400lbs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s