Rocking the Unconventional (or at least the asymmetrical hemline)

For almost a week, I didn’t have my conservative three-button suits. They decided to take an extended va-cay in the LA sun; it was too soon to join their brethren in “Windy Wellington”. In winter. I can understand that, actually.

I felt asea. Adrift. Unclothed. Now before you get too excited, when I say “unclothed,” I mean in the suited sense. There were plenty of jeans and sweaters to go around. However, scruffy jeans and sweaters that really did just come from the L.L. Bean catalog are hardly appropriate interview attire.

You see, the day after I arrived in New Zealand, I had a job interview. An important one, because it was with a company that I had been courting for months. It’s not overstating it to say that I really, really wanted to work there. So you can see why I needed my conservative three-button “nothing-to-see-here” suit. It’s what I wore when I went into court. When I had Very Big And Important Meetings. When I had to have those horribly staged professional pictures taken (you know the ones–the waxy smile, the blinding white lights, the “action” poses where you’re meant to look as though your thinking about the implications of the recent Supreme Court decision on handgun control). To be without “The Suit” made me feel unprepared, out of my element. If a suit makes the man, then perhaps, (in a small way) it defines the woman.

Now at this point, I could diverge into such weighty things as women in the workplace, how far we’ve come, how far we still have to go; how we define ourselves by our jobs (and by extension) our preferred “uniforms.” I could even wax poetic on gender roles vis a vis attire. But instead, it’s better just to tell you how I wound up with a woolly skirt with an asymmetrical hem.

There are no conservative three-button suits to be found in Wellington. Not ones I could afford, at any rate. No one seems to wear suits, really. There are lots of boots–leopard print with stiletto heels, and leggings that are meant to pass as trousers (for the younger generation), shortish skirts over some of the leggings (for my generation), and mismatched sweaters and cardigans and jackets, but not conservative three-button suits. Had I not been in such a state, on such a mission to find a suit exactly like one I already had, I would have stopped and marvelled at the beauty, the whimsy, the functionality of what I was seeing. There’s a real sense of creativity here. An experimental and edgy spirit. The clothing is as beautiful as it is practical (in some cases), but it definitely has a “New Zealand” aesthetic. I can’t describe it, necessarily, but as was said in another landmark Supreme Court decision, “I know it when I see it.” And it makes me smile.

And so, I ditched the idea of finding a suit like I used to have, and instead embraced a new aesthetic. Which led me to a lovely gray skirt with an asymmetrical hem and ribbon flowers. Along with an unstructured boiled wool black jacket and a red blouse. My shoes, my beautiful necklace from Zia, and in the end, the ensemble was a little Kiwi, a little Jenn, and a whole new kind of three-button suit. Definitely the kind that says, “Why yes, there IS something to see here.” It felt unconventional at the time–still does, really–but hey, it’s a whole new world, right? Part of the journey is finding your place in the world. Which requires you to go with it (or “rock it” as I’d like to pretend I’m hip enough to say).

(And of course, when one rocks the unconventional, one aces the interview, as well.)