Non sequiturs: Pasta sauce and business casual

I was initially planning to post today about the wonderful, amazing dinner that I cooked for us last night. For the first time, I made my mom’s Italian pasta sauce recipe, which is probably very close to my grandma’s recipe, which in turn is probably similar to my great grandmother’s recipe. So if not in exact ingredients or steps, it’s a sauce that’s been passed down at least four generations. My great-grandmother died when I was very, very little, and I don’t remember much about her except that she was an elderly woman who didn’t speak English very well and who wore a lot of black. But the one distinct memory I do have is having a soft-boiled egg eating contest with her. So perhaps it’s fitting that this amazing sauce has had-boiled eggs in it. (If you’ve never had pasta sauce with hard-boiled eggs, you don’t know what you’re missing. Really.)

Anyway, it took a year and two sessions watching my mom make The Sauce to have a recipe I could work with. Actually, that should read: a recipe that I didn’t accidentally lose for a year. That’s right. At Christmas a couple of years ago I watched my mom make the sauce, writing down meticulous notes. Which I promptly lost when I got home. Last year, I made her do it again, writing down more meticulous notes. Which I then put into Google Docs for safe keeping. Of course, as soon as I got home I found the original notes. Which is actually fantastic, because they weren’t exactly the same and now I really have a good idea about the variations my mom does when she makes her sauce. In an ironic twist, today I was telling her about making the sauce and she requested a copy of the recipe I wrote down. Because I had left her a copy last year. And she lost it.

Oh wait, apparently I did just post about the dinner. But on to what I now really want to post about: a rant about work clothes.

I hate office wear. I hate business casual. I even hate the term. Yuck. I mainly wear a plain crew-neck t-shirt, a cardigan, and boring slacks. Nothing vintage, or retro, with the exception of an occasional vintage cardi. I’ve never really felt I could find a way to incorporate that into my work life. For four main reasons: 1) I have a lot of tattoos that need to be covered up. No dresses or skirts, no sleeves shorter than a hand-width above my wrist, no button down shirts unless they have a really high second button. 2) I’ve always felt it would be a little funny wearing vintage clothes in such a boring business casual environment. Probably because I’ve never been able to do it. 3) Being limited to pants, I must admit that I don’t find high-waisted vintage or retro pants particularly comfy to sit in for 8 hours at my desk. 4) It gets really hot and muggy in Chicago in the summer, so I end up sticking with thin store-bought cotton cardigans, since all of my handknit and vintage cardis are wool or acrylic. And both those fibers make me want to pull my skin off when it’s 90 degrees and humid in July.

With the new year, I thought it might be nice if I at least stepped up my wardrobe a bit. I bought a few nicer pair of slacks, a couple of new cardigans, a couple of button downs. Ordered online. I got most of it today, tried it on, and wanted to throw it all out the window. Perfectly nice, serviceable clothes, but I felt like a complete idiot in them. I hated the lower rise on the pants, the button down looked manly and weird, and every combo I tried I hated. I felt fake and weird and yuck!

So now I am completely down on work clothes, and I have no idea what to do next. I may just have to suck it up like office workers decades before my time and deal with sitting for hours in somewhat uncomfortable clothing (yes high-waisted pants, I’m looking at you). I may just have to button my shirts up all the way, even though I don’t generally do that. But apparently I did on New Year’s Eve at our friends’ party, and that worked, right?

As for cardigans when it starts to get warmer… okay, that one I’m still stumped about.

I also think this all means I need to sew some lighter weight shirts to wear to work, since of course if I’m sewing it, I can put the buttonholes anywhere I please. But finding fabric may be a tough job for me. It would need to be light enough to work under a cardigan without being too stiff in sleeves (so it would fit smoothly under a cardi), or too stiff in general. I’m thinking some kind of cotton or cotton blend that’s lighter than quilter’s cotton. I have some adorable voile that I think wouldn’t be too sheer enough to show tattoos with a cami underneath and paired with a cardigan, but I’m still a little scared to sew with it (mostly because I have no idea how you do facings when your fabric is sheer).

So… I think I need to stop being a lazy vintage enthusiast when it comes to the workplace. I can tell it’s going to take some serious work, though!

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Golly, 6 Comments!

  • How horrible to have to wear yucky business casual all day! I think it would depress me too. So do you have to dress plainly in your office or could you make some vintage styled clothes that cover all your tattoos? What you have on in that photo above is totally adorable! Could you get away with wearing that in your office?

    Some of my favorite patterns are for office wear. In fact, one thing I hate so much about winter is that I end up wearing jeans and sweaters all the time and have no opportunity to wear any of my projects. Today I wore my thing cotton green “uniform dress” and froze my ass off, but it was worth it to feel fancy for a change.


  • Yes, it is rather depressing! I think I could get away with most kind of prints for my tops since I’ll always have to cover up a large portion of it with a cardigan anyway (in general I find it way more comfy than wearing long sleeved shirts). But I’m thinking probably more floral, abstract prints, stripes, plaid, etc would be best most of the time. I could definitely wear the outfit I showed in the post, now that I think about it! Though only that cardi in winter since it’s wool. So for summer, even if I was wearing a plain modern cotton cardigan on top, I think if the rest of my outfit was more ‘me’ that would make a huge difference in how I feel now.

    Winter is a fashion damper! My only warmer pants are jeans, but I’m not really supposed to wear jeans at work. I guess I’m going to have to learn to sew pants, too!


  • I work at a downtown library which (so far) has been kind enough to let me get away with all kinds of crimes against implied business wear rule. I tend to use the defense that “dress + tights = I AM WEARING BUSINESS CLOTHES”. Which, in my interpretation, may or may not mean a 60’s hawaiian dress, tights, and ankleboots. 🙂 Anyway, I know how drab it can be to not feel like you’re dressed like yourself.

    Love your blog! I came over from Deluxeville, and her high praise was deserved. You write so well and your vintage look is great, you should somehow gradually, incrementally implement it in your workaday wardrobe, too much fun to be missed.



  • Thanks so much for the kind words on my blog, Lisa! ♥

    Even though my rant was Monday, I’ve already been making changes in my work wardrobe. Fortunately I didn’t need to do it too gradually because my office is big enough that I don’t interact with 99% of the people, so I don’t really care if they notice a major wardrobe shift, and my own co-workers work from home often enough they probably won’t notice, either. And I can definitely already tell a mood shift. I’m feeling a lot better about my decision. Now I just have to find/make more work-appropriate clothes! 🙂


  • I was surprised to find this post in your “back catalogue” because everything I see in your blog is so confident and self-assured re wearing vintage out in the world. I am intrigued – do you get away with wearing cats-eye glasses at work? Because to me they are the biggest “statement” of all. I wear a lot of vintage style clothes to my fairly formal workplace but thought that retro specs would be pushing it too far. Maybe its different here in the UK.


  • @Roobeedoo I think what is considered “normal” for eyeglasses must be a little different here. Either that or I’ve been wearing vintage specs for so many years that I have no clue what reality is. But yes, I wear them at the office and the only thing I’ve ever gotten is compliments. I’ve definitely never felt that was something that was pushing it too far.

    I am definitely not always so confident and self-assured, although quite honestly the epiphany I had when I wrote this post went a long ways in helping boost me up a bit, as now I don’t have to feel completely lame when I dress for work every day. 🙂


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