Dress for Success

I take a normal amount of pride in my appearance, and I like to be pampered. But being unemployed, or even just underpaid, means there is little money for manicures, haircuts, new clothes, or that perfect pair of shoes.

I have stopped shopping since I quit my job, basically. I have purchased one shirt, one bracelet, and one pair of pants. I have gotten two manicures. This represents a total of less than $200 in spending in 6 months. This is unprecedented for me. I used to shop to celebrate, to drown my sorrows, to alleviate boredom, and I always needed something new.

When I got my last job, I immediately started buying “work” clothes. (My job before that was very casual.) My ‘new’ boss wore expensive black suits every day, and those who were under-dressed were subject to a certain number of dirty looks. I always felt under-dressed. Now I have lots of winter office wear and no place to wear it. It’s also New York in July, not a great place for wool pants and bright, solid colored sweaters.

But now that I am about to hit the six month mark, I need to make some decisions. I can’t wear the same skirt to the office where I temp. So I bought a nice pair of neutral pants. I have long hair, but I need to get my hair trimmed. I’m going to get a cut for 1/3 the cost of my old hairdresser. My nails are a mess, but that’s just the way it is. I can paint my own toenails.

There is a way to look presentable without breaking the bank. I do Bikram yoga, which is like getting a mini-facial each class. I keep my hair long, which means I only need 2-3 haircuts per year. I don’t need to wear heavy expensive foundation and other makeup every day. I can get away with rotating two or three nice, neutral outfits for when I have to go to midtown. I have a handful of job interview outfits. I never get things dry cleaned. Nobody can tell.

I realized a while ago that if someone doesn’t hire me because my nails are messy, or my skirt is a little wrinkled…fine. That’s their problem. It’s not that I don’t love fashion, and love to put together a cute outfit, I do. I love to look nice. But it can’t be the focus of my morning, or my neurosis. I have been able to simplify and streamline my wardrobe, and I have started to focus on high quality, versatile pieces that I can wear more than once a week without too much trouble.

I’m saving up for a pedicure. It’s going to be amazing.

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