Clothes without a job

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As I was getting ready for work one day I thought: what if I didn’t have this job? How would I dress? If I didn’t have to work would I still have the same clothes in my closet? Would I have as many?

Considering people associate themselves with their lines of work or what they do, it made me curious to know how differently we would be sartorially if we didn’t have that work.

Some wardrobes are dictated by their work due to status and profession. Would a lawyer not have all the suits in their closet? (Xin, feel free to chime in.) Would doctors not have as many blazers or sweaters? Would a fast food worker who usually wears a tee and jeans wear more dresses or dress up in general knowing they wouldn’t risk getting grease or food stains on their clothes regularly? Once those questions are answered maybe even a bigger question can be answered: Would our wardrobes be as big as they are now?

To answer the top questions, I know I wouldn’t have half the clothes I do now due to my job. In fact, I’d go so far as to say 95% of the clothes I bought last year most likely would not have been purchased at all nor even thought of if I didn’t have my job. So I clearly wouldn’t have as many clothes as I do now. I know my wardrobe has ballooned greatly. However, I’m starting to realize it never needed to in the first place. My job isn’t nearly as strict on the business casual as I thought. It’s simply – clean and casual – period. All that being said, I don’t regret the journey my wardrobe has taken over the years. I’m becoming more comfortable with what truly works for me throughout all of this trial-and…. trial with outfits. But now, the “business casual” mantra is dethroned for my work. I wear jeans and nice looking tees more often. Today I wore a completely wrinkled linen shirt (last photo). One thing I have learned – nice shoes will make any casual outfit better.  Shoes sort of set a bar or a message saying, “sure I could’ve dressed nicer, but this is nice enough and it works”.

Ironically Z’s wardrobe hasn’t changed much from his job. He was wearing nicer clothes he already had – at first. But then he went back to his standard jeans and tee uniform. He did recently buy several new short sleeve button-down shirts that greatly surprised me. When I asked him why he bought them, he simply said he thought he should dress more like a grown up. His decision was more personally than professionally based. Granted, I don’t doubt his job had something to do with it since he’s traveling more often, but the fact that he thought about his fashion style at all and wanted to make a slight change was enough to have me pester him relentlessly for days about this decision (that’s how rare it is that he ever changes anything about himself).


8 thoughts on “Clothes without a job”

  1. I used to work in an office and took pride in wearing nice “work” clothes like sheath dresses, pencil skirts, and the like. (This was a pretty casual environment on the whole and I could have worn business casual stuff daily if I wanted. I did wear jeans on many days too.) Now that I work from home, I’ve gotten rid of most of those clothes. Let’s face it: sweatpants and T-shirts are more comfy. I did like having a place to wear those other clothes when the mood struck me, though.


  2. My sister went from working in an office job, wearing blazers, dress pants, and high heels daily to working from home permanently. She got rid of 90% of her clothes and now wears mostly white t shirts and jeans. I know that my closet would be drastically different if not for my job.


  3. As you suspected, this is a topic I have tons of thoughts about! I would definitely not own or ever wear any business formal clothing if I didn’t think it was absolutely necessary. (Though a lot of litigators, myself included, may not need more than 2 or 3 suits. 2 would probably be adequate for my current work, unless I suddenly find myself with a long trial – 2 weeks or more – which is actually a less than once a year thing in most of my workplaces.) This reminds me that I recently saw a discussion amongst lawyers on twitter who mentioned that they use suits so rarely that they sometimes find, when they need one, that their main suit no longer fits. If I had more freedom to wear more casual clothing at work, casual clothes would take up a much larger proportion of my wardrobe! I feel good wearing more formal business casual work dresses (I like a well-fitting sheath dress), but probably still wouldn’t choose to wear them much if I could dress more casually.

    I sometimes also wonder if my wardrobe would look different if I lived and/or worked in another part of the country. There’s even a pretty big difference between the level of formality for business casual in NYC versus some of the further out suburbs still technically in the greater NYC area. And some of the clothes I wear casually here would just be… very noticeably out of place in California. (One doesn’t need to care about those local cultural norms, but my personality is such that I kind of do. My natural tendency is to dress as casually and comfortably as is normal for my environment, so…)

    It sounds like K’s somewhat similar to Z in that K is also somewhat set in his ways in terms of his wardrobe. (Tees and polos and half or quarter-zip fleeces for casual; long-sleeve dress shirts for work. And if he added a new genre of item or anything with particularly new or different design details, it’d be very, very noticeable.) In all the years I’ve known him, the only real change was when I brought in half and quarter-zip sweaters (he likes lighter-weight sweaters, either cashmere or merino wool would suit) into his work and casual wardrobe for fall-winter after I started getting him those as Xmas gifts!


    1. Ha, I knew as I was writing this that you would have something to say on it. 😉 I found it interesting that you like wearing the more formal business casual attire. There is something to be said for making one’s self look good even when hanging out casually or at work. But yes, even then casual tends to always win out because everyone wants to be comfortable, irregardless of what we have to do.
      Even though Z branched off with some different short sleeve button downs he’s still very much in his strict style of dressing. He doesn’t like V necks of any kind and he’d not even take a second glance at half or quarter zips (although I think he may look good in them). Henley shirts are also out of the question.


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