This isn’t college anymore (or entry level): Workplace Attire

Valuable lesson learned via Post-Its in the Workplace
I learned one of the most valuable lessons for finding success in the workplace while working at my first paid full-time internship at the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF), and it has to do with post-its.

I love post-its! I only wish I had invented them, but Romy and Michelle got to it before me.


I use them in all colors, in activities for lesson plans, and even buy the cute star and heart shaped ones. However, in the workplace – post-its don’t fly. A co-worker of mine at DHF, Pablo, asked me to share my ideas on a project I was assigned. I started scribbling on my post-its and Pablo said, “Write in a memorandum.” I asked, “Why can’t I just use post-its?” He responded, “Because this isn’t college anymore.”

Of course, I never let him live that one down. In fact, I recently sent him this photo of my post-its rolodex of ‘how-tos’ at my current job.

postitskleenex

If You Have to Cry Go Outside, This is the Working World
The life lesson in all this was of course to make sure you cover yourself in the workplace by putting things down in writing. This has everything to do with attire for the workplace because there are certain rules to follow. As Kelly Cutrone says, “haul those FedEx boxes and don’t give me or anyone else the luxury of seeing you lose control of your emotions in a professional setting. Once you enter a workplace, you’re surrounded by grown-ups, not friends. Your boss is not your boyfriend, and she’s not your therapist. She is a person who is paying you to do a job. If you (or she, for that matter) think otherwise, you will be burned.”

Who do you think you are?…Respect yourself
Communication is key in life, but especially in the workplace. Communication even includes the image in which you present yourself – I’m sure we all can agree we want to be respectable professionals in our workplaces. So let me begin by what not to wear in order to communicate the desired image and use my own growing pains as examples.

From post-its to memorandums: From College to Post Entry-Level 

Look One: Keep the ‘panza’ in check
I am presenting a mural piece I completed with other artists, including Barbara Carrasco, at an opening ceremony in my junior year of college. Seriously…What was I thinking? My panza is all over the place – wearing junior-sized, cheap quality jeans, an unflattering clearance Express half-top layered on a $3 zebra tank from Pales Faredes (formerly Factory 2U). I’m pretty sure I was wearing my go-to rainbow sandals as well (not pictured). This is just all wrong for such a pivotal moment in my career in the arts and of course my only picture with artist Barbara Carrasco.

barbaracarrasco

Rays of Justicia‘, 2007

Look Two: Stand Up Straight 
For starters, I’m slouching – big no-no. Here I am at one of our events where we acquired media coverage for at the Center for Salvadoran Cultural Development. It was for Rosanna Perez’s book signing and I was representing as a board member. I was also making connections with media outlets and doing it all looking like this. A Fox riding zip-up hoodie from Ross! (senior year of college) Que penoso! (How embarrassing).

I can explain. Cost has always been my biggest obstacle for dressing in the workplace.

centerforsalvadoranculturaldevelopment

It does get better, though. I promise.

Look Three: When on a tight budget, start with ‘Start-Up Staples’
When I got hired as a high school teacher it was a must that I must invest in workplace attire. I started with staples because at the time because I needed to stick with my tight budget. My entry-level attire consisted of going to NY& Co. and getting some black and white collared shirts, black slacks, and a black belt, some black flats from Marshalls, a pair of Roxy insulated loafers for the cold winter months (no heating) and a black fleece. For a splash here and there, I had: one nice collared, purple shirt from H&M, one short sleeved, blue v-neck sweater from Ross, one pair of beige Express Editor pants, a powder blue collar shirt, 2 dresses in black and red. I became known for my Roxy “slippers” and black slacks – but in the 1st year of teaching I literally rolled out of bed every morning and didn’t thinking too much about shopping for clothes. At the start of the year, I dropped a couple hundred and made it through my first year with these staples.

RivasC8_1

Look Four: A Splash Here or There Will Become Necessary
As time went on, my work was taking me to other events. I needed more than black slacks and fleece attire to attend and look professional. During my 1st year of teaching, I put on my “teacher twenty,” which was on top of the “freshmen fifteen” I never lost. This dress is still a go-to, $20 at Forever 21 and the ultimate panza cover-up. Here I am at a commissioning mass with one of my professors and now collaborators, Dr. Knotts. (I promised it would get better).

DSC02550

Today, I have grown my wardrobe
Especially after some of years in the workplace, I had some time to save up on some some cash to spend on more non-staple pieces with higher quality. In this picture, I’m visiting Harvard University with JT wearing a bebe diagonal striped ¾ sleeve dress, flower printed bebe black tights, black velvet flats from Steve Madden, a black Guess toggle coat, and my business bag – a Michael Kors black leather purse purchased for half the price at TJ Maxx. The attire is all sophisticated these days: mixing prints, patterns, colors, bold dresses, and layering for weather protection and aesthetic balance. Best of all – I’ve gotten really really good at working with my panza

bebestripeddress

I’ve taken my lessons learned along the journey, but nowadays I am not as concerned with sticking to a tight budget and only getting the necessities. This blog and my approach to wardrobe prioritize quality, construction, fit,  ersatility, price, and of course style – the art of curating.

Recap: Lessons learned on my journey to mastering curation for the stylish petite and curvy body (the tanchi):

  1. Keep the panza in check – be mindful of flattering fit.
  2. Stand up Straight. Enough said. But really posture signifies confidence and doesn’t make panza problems worse. 
  3. When on a tight budget “Start-Up Staples” are Okay.
  4. Start-Up Staples don’t last forever and eventually ‘A Splash Here and There Becomes Necessary’
  5. Upgrade & Play. It’s a worthwhile invest. Remember style is fun – and Curate away!

This isn’t college anymore (or entry level)

You’ve seen for yourself, if this ‘tanchi’ can evolve, and so I it inspired a new column for this blog, ‘This isn’t college anymore (or entry level).’ I hope it will serve tanchis well in inspiring great style and a pratical “how-to” for dressing in the workplace.

You’ve seen for yourself–this ‘tanchi’ can evolve, and thus inspire a new column for this blog. NY & Co. like attire can get you by, but won’t cut it forever. The quality isn’t up to par with other brands such as Banana Republic, J.Crew, etc. Most of those staples I purchased upon entering the workforce are long gone and I have undergone the Kelly way of life, because as she says, “Whoever said less is more was right: the less bullshit and frivolity you have in your life, the more attention you have to focus on what is really going on.” I’d rather buy, for instance, a bebe pair of slacks at $90 with a $25 off promo code than spend $90 on 2 or 3 pairs of NY & Co. black slacks, when I also have to purchase leggings because the lining is non-existent (added cost). A bebe pair that will last me years versus NY & Co. that will last me 2 maybe 3? I’ll take the bebe for sure. I’ll be featuring Banana Republic, Express, and some up-and-coming designers such as Jeetly to tell you how I did it: dressed la bella tanchi mujer post college and post entry level and on a budget.

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One thought on “This isn’t college anymore (or entry level): Workplace Attire

  1. I loved how the article showed your style developing. It is always important to have the staples. The article was well thought out and should be shared with all. xoxoxo

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