Monday, August 1, 2011

Proper Professional: This Life, Redefined

The Proper Professional feature was birthed out of my desire to spread the blogging love while also gaining some insight into professional and business attire in various situations. My goal is to feature bloggers from all different professions, whether stay-at-home moms, mega-corporation executive assistants, work-from-home employees, small office staff, business owners or more, to view different perspectives and opinions on what is appropriate, acceptable, and professional. Hopefully you'll be inspired and introduced to some great new blogs, too! To catch up on previous interviews, click here

Today we're hearing from Tara, who blogs at This Life, Redefined. Tara is a mom like me who also, like me, works a four day work week. She's adorable and funny and always looks classy and put together. 

Tell us a little about yourself and your blog. 
I am a thirty-ish mother of one ridiculously adorable (if slightly attitude prone) toddler, living and working in Atlanta, GA. I am originally from Indiana, and because all of my family is still up north, I started a blog when my daughter was born, just to keep everyone updated on her development. But once I started blogging about my daily family life, I realized I wanted a space of my own, where I could explore things that may interest me, but wouldn't necessarily be something the rest of my family wanted to keep up with on a daily basis. And so, my 'style' blog was born.

If you're looking for someplace to talk about Target, the joys of outlet mall shopping, sports, or Harry Potter, I'm your woman.

How did you come up with your blog name?
Before I started my blog, I underwent several life changes, all around the same time. I had my daughter. I turned thirty. My husband got a new job that pretty much guaranteed that we weren't moving anywhere other than Atlanta, ever.

And I realized that this, right here, was my life. There was no more talk of if we have kids or where we settle down long-term or what kind of career we were looking for. We had a kid. We were settled down. And our careers were pretty much in place.

But I don't ever want to be complacent. I don't want to stop growing and changing, just because I'm 'settled' into my life. What's the fun in living if you can't constantly redefine what that means, right?

Do you work from home or outside the home, and what do you do?
I work in finance for a large international company that is based in Atlanta. I recently (well, recently, if you consider six months recent, I guess) took on a new role, managing a team of five analysts, and it's been...challenging, I guess, would be the best way to put it. I love my role, but as it's my first time managing anybody, it's been a learning experience. So, while I would definitely classify it as a good challenge, it's been a challenge nonetheless.
Do you have a dress code by which you need to abide (either corporate or self-imposed)? If so, what is it and how do your co-workers (if applicable) approach the dress code?
My company has a business casual dress code, but I am always amazed at what all falls under the umbrella of that description. I spent two years working for the same company in Cincinnati, and khakis with polo shirts seemed to be the norm up there, for men and women. But as I'd joined the company after three years as a suit wearing banker, my idea of work attire was much different than that of my co-workers. I retired my suit jacket and panty hose (yes, panty hose...that was reason enough to look for a new job, right there) when I left the bank, but I kept my dress pants, pencil skirts, and nice blouses, When I transferred to Atlanta, to work at the corporate HQ, 'business casual' became much less casual, and I seemed to fit right in.

However, my company recently acquired a satellite office. As the team I manage works out of that office, that's where I spend most of my time these days, and I find myself facing the casual mentality of business casual again. But for me, I feel my most professional when I am dressed just short of business formal, and that's the line I continue to take.

Do you choose your outfits in advance or in the morning, and how long does it take you to get ready in the mornings?
I do a little of both, actually. I work a condensed work week, meaning that I squeeze my full-time schedule into four days, so I can have Mondays off with my daughter. And while she naps on Monday afternoons, I try to use that time to get myself ready for the rest of the week, a routine that includes planning out a couple of outfits in advance. Of course, that doesn't always work, since I often wake up in the mood to wear something completely different than what I had planned to wear, but it's nice to have that option, if I'm running late. Which I usually am...
If you were commissioned to rewrite the dress code, what would you change (if anything)?
I don't think I would change anything in our dress code, actually. Nothing is technically banned from the office, except for your usual list of uncovered body parts, clothing that displays inappropriate words, and possibly flip flops. I don't even think denim is forbidden, actually, although it's not really seen very often.
Do you think companies should take into account the potential cost for certain dress codes to be achieved and if so, should they be concerned about the cost being equal for both men and women?
My dad is a fireman, and he has to wear a uniform on the job. Those uniforms go through a lot of wear and tear over time, and they're not cheap to purchase, either. He gets a clothing allowance every year to help with some of the cost of replacing worn out pieces. To me, this is fair. If you are going to dictate that your employee wear something that specific, you should take cost into account. For a general 'business casual' dress code, though, I think it's up to the employee to cover the costs. You can look just as professional as you need to look, whether you shop at Target or Saks.
What is your definition of professional attire and would this vary if the business is a small business compared to a larger corporation?
Professional attire needs to reflect well on you, as well as the company that you represent, whether it be a small business or large corporation. It should be neat and put-together, whether you are wearing jeans, shorts, or a suit. And it doesn't necessarily depend on how big your company is, it depends on what your company's culture is. If I were to wear shorts and a polo to work every day, I'd make sure that my polo was tucked in and my shorts were as wrinkle free as they could be (at least to start out the day, anyway...I never can keep a good wrinkle down for good, though).

It's all about putting your best foot forward, whatever may be on that foot.
What are some pieces that every woman should have available in their professional arsenal?
Pencil skirt. Pencil skirt. PENCIL SKIRT! I commented not too long ago that a pencil skirt qualified as my 'happy place', wardrobe-wise, and I stand by that 110%. This may trace back to my suit wearing days, but nothing makes me feel more professional than a well-fitted pencil skirt. And I just can't get enough of them these days. However, if a pencil skirt isn't your thing, a nice a-line skirt will do the trick just as well. Also, a couple of cardigans, a nice blazer, and pretty blouse or two. You can do a lot when you set to mixing and matching these items.
What pieces are never professionally appropriate regardless of the situation?
Any midriff baring piece is out. Any pair of pants or skirt that looks like it has been painted on should probably be left at home, too. Tube top? Probably not necessary, unless you pair it with a cardigan that never comes off the entire time you're in the office. Basically any outfit you'd put on to hit the bars is not something you should be wearing to work. And flip flops. No flip flops unless your job is maintaining a water park, ok?
Describe an outfit you'd wear in each of the following settings: 
1. A typical day at work.
A typical day at work sees me in (you guessed it...) a pencil skirt, with either a tucked-in blouse or a cardigan to go with it. I have a hard time finding pants that fit me, for some reason (*cough*I'm 5'2*cough*), so I don't really wear them all that often. I love me a pretty skirt, though.

2. A formal business meeting.
For a formal business meeting, I'd probably trade the cardigan out for a blazer. I don't really have too many 'formal' meetings, though, so my blazer doesn't get much of a work-out. I blame it on my three-year-banker-burnout wardrobe.

3. An informal meeting with co-workers.
For an informal meeting with co-workers, I have no problem pulling out the jeans, but I try to stick to a darker wash, and I'll generally pair them with a nice sweater and a pair of heels, to keep things neat.

4. A business dinner with co-workers and superiors. 
For a business dinner, I don't think my outfit would vary too much from what I wear during a typical day at work, although I'd definitely choose to wear a pair of wedges for the day, instead of my more common high-heels, because work plus dinner just sounds like a long day, and I'd need as much comfort as I could find...
Are there any questions you wish I'd asked or is there anything else you'd like to mention regarding this topic?
Nope, I think you pretty much covered any question I could think of! I'd just like to add that I've really enjoyed following this feature since it started, and I'm so glad you let me play along, today. Happy Monday to all!
See, isn't Tara cute?! Stop by her blog and say hello if you haven't met her yet.  

If you've thought about adding your two cents to the discussion of what's properly professional and what's not, EMAIL ME! I'd love to feature you, whether you work from home, work in retail, or stay home raising your kids. Everyone has an opinion and something to add, so email me at {aworkingmomscloset at} and we can schedule your feature!

Have a great Monday, friends!


  1. She is really cute! I love her professional looks...she is a good one to glean inspiration from.

  2. So adorable! Very classy and put together...I love this feature!

  3. We follow Tara and she has a great sense of style! And she likes college football :)

    Heather & Kayla

  4. She will be happy to learn that I'm on the hunt for a pencil skirt :)

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Tara is a popular girl today! =)

    I ummm... deleted my first comment because I put a comma between girl and today. Hmmm... still not quite wide awake this morning. lol

  7. Thanks for the feature today, Mel :)


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