I’d Rather Dress Like An Elf Than Wear Shoulder Pads

by Katy on March 20, 2010 · 24 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!


I’m lucky. As a nurse I don’t have to maintain a work wardrobe. The hospital provides scrubs, and even launders them. That means that in the past 15 years of my job, all I’ve bought for work have been a few pairs of unattractive squishy shoes.

This was not always the case.

I worked many different jobs before landing as an RN, and having to maintain a respectable work wardrobe was always an expensive stressor. I would get to Thursday, and suddenly Monday’s outfit would make a re-appearance. I hoped nobody noticed, but probably they did.

I was once so overdressed for an interview, that I was dubbed, “The Lord & Taylor girl.” Boy were they surprised when I was hired and got to know the real me. It had been my only nice outfit.

One of my favorite jobs was working as an elf at the New York’s Macy’s Santaland. You might think the highlight was working with the hilarious David Sedaris.

No. (That part was second best.)

It was because wearing a costume to work saved me from having to buy and pick out work clothes. (Keep in mind, it was 1988, the heyday of shoulder pads.)


I was talking to a fellow RN last week about how great it is to wear free clothes at work, and she surprised me by saying she wishes this were not the case. She feels she isn’t able to show off her sense of style in baggy blue scrubs. She wouldn’t budge from this opinion even when I pointed out the thousands of dollars she’s saved through the years.

I feel like any possible downside from wearing scrubs, is more than outweighed by the benefit of free work clothes. Perhaps she’d like a nice elf costume. Maybe even one with shoulder pads.

Do you enjoy dressing up for work, or would you rather wear a style-free/cost-free wardrobe?

Please share your workplace wardrobe experiences and tips in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Gypsy March 21, 2010 at 12:03 am

Oh I would LOVE to wear a uniform – even better one that I didn’t have to wash. As a student I worked in a supermarket and really found the uniform great even back them – I have never been a clothes horse. I am in the process of seriously simplifying my working wardrobe though


angela March 21, 2010 at 3:59 am

Since leaving school I have never worn a uniform for work but I do think it makes life so much easier. At my workplace they are taking a vote on whether Fridays will become a dress down day. Personally I don’t agree to this – I feel comfortable enough in the clothes I wear at work and don’t see the need to be in jeans (if I even owned a pair!) but then if it is voted in, I can still dress as I do anyway so I suppose there is no problem.


Marie-Josée March 21, 2010 at 4:25 am

I would love to wear a uniform to work, but only if it was as comfy as your scrubs. I too have been known to run out of work cloths options by Thursday. I have improved in that area and now basically have five or six work tops and two pairs of work pants (grey and black) that I mix and match. I have to make a conscious effort and try not to wear the same outfit from Monday to Friday week in and week out. I buy a few new items each spring and autumn (mostly tops) to vary my wardrobe a bit, and am a big fan of costume necklaces which I think really liven things up in the style department ( I often get complemented on those). I also own only one (1), gasp, pair of work shoes. Rockport loafers that I polish once a week, and that really need to be renewed. Comfort is the number one criterion for me, so no skirts with tights or nylons in my wardrobe. I resent having to pay for clothing while spending lavishly for food, wine or restaurant celebrations- go figure.

I too always make an extra effort for interviews, which is the one and only time those people will see me wearing some makeup! That’s a bit of a fib, because I will wear makeup for extra special work meetings or functions, but it really has to be a bid deal. I currently assist two judges, and was a legal assistant before that, and they all have had to make due with an assistant that didn’t own a suit!


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl March 21, 2010 at 5:06 am

Fortunately for me, I don’t have to be dressed up for any of my jobs except for playing for church (there I just wear what I normally would wear to church, which varies greatly). When I teach piano, I wear nice-ish jeans and nice-ish shirts, though in the summertime I often wear a light skirt and a tank top (I prefer skirts to shorts).

And when I do photography, I HAVE to be comfortable. I squat, kneel down, lay on the ground, bend over, and generally do whatever I have to do to get a shot, so being dressed up is completely out of the question.

I do dress appropriately when I play for weddings, funerals, music competitions, festivals and such, but I just wear items I already have in my wardrobe for church.

So yeah, my work really doesn’t require much in the way of special wardrobe purchases.


Jinger March 21, 2010 at 5:08 am

My work uniform is anything that is comfortable..in winter, usually black cotton knit yoga pants and a long sleeve top with a cotton knit zip up jacket. I sit all day reading essays and need comfort and flexibility in my clothing. Spring and summer, sandals, cotton capris and cotton tops. It’s HOT in Texas. Even when I taught, I searched a school that had a casual dress code for teachers…working with young children is messy and anything good would have been ruined.


Valerie Heck March 21, 2010 at 5:14 am

I did like dressing up for work, I enjoy wearing skirts but they definitely did not pay me enough to buy clothes. I work from home now and I still like to look nice (I don’t sit around in my pj’s). But now I’m just trying to shop at all of the thrift stores and I’ve been finding some really nice skirts. I have trouble finding shirts that aren’t stained. So I buy them new sometimes. Shoes are an addiction for me, I was very proud of myself, last year I only bought 4 pairs and one went with my wedding dress.


Molly On Money March 21, 2010 at 8:38 am

My last job was as a construction manager at a high end spa. I never knew what my day would hold. I would try to get a balance of clean and sturdy clothes but could yet still show up for a meeting with a high end client without looking like I just inspected the trenches dug out for the plumbing lines. Thank god we had showers on site!


Lisa March 21, 2010 at 9:27 am

Comfortable uniforms are the way to go in my opinion. The employer taking care of laundering and replacing them is an added bonus. Should the urge strike to express my own personal style, it would be simple to do on my days off. Uniforms are a great time saver too. Mornings are usually hectic enough without having to consider what to wear. The savings in money and in time can be used in different areas of our lives….areas that provide more pleasure.


Hiptobeme March 21, 2010 at 10:29 am

I wore scrubs for years when I worked 3-11’s and I hated it. It seemed that all I wore was scrubs and pyjamas. Now I can wear what I want to work, it is more home-like, so jeans and tees are acceptable. I get almost all of my wardrobe from thriftshops and I love being able to express my personal style and creativity. I get alot of compliments on my choices too. I hope I never have to go back to scrubs!!


Dana March 21, 2010 at 10:40 am

I used to be a dental assistant and scrubs look like baggy pajamas on me! I’m much more comfortable in a dress any day. I suggested that I make myself (or even buy) scrub dresses that would match the other assistants and wear a nice lab coat over it if I had to. I could have whipped up 5 nice dresses out of scrub fabric, matched everyone else, and been comfortable to boot! But, NO! They’d rather have me look like I was heading for bed!

Such is life. I’d been at that job for over 5 years, but left soon after they made me wear baggy scrubs every day.



Rebecca March 21, 2010 at 11:40 am

When I worked for Macys we had to wear black, all black, if we wanted a colored top, then we had to wear a black jacket/vest over the top. I used to like black but now I hate it. And although there were times when I wore the same 3 outfits over and over, I refused to buy more black, because then I dressed like I was at work when I was at home.


Cindy March 21, 2010 at 2:34 pm

I would love to wear scrubs every day that someone else bought and washed – but I work in the court system and have to dress accordingly. Never fear, it is possible to look really good these days by shopping at Goodwill, Salvation Army and consignment shops. While I remember when I, too, found myself wearing my Monday outfit on Thursday, over time you can build a great work wardrobe if you will use the second-hand shops. I’ve gotten lots of clothes with tags still on them and suits for next to nothing. I have to wonder if one reason for the inexpensive dress clothes is because we’ve become such a casual society. Hmmm.


Barbara March 21, 2010 at 2:39 pm

I also work in healthcare (unit secretary/C.N.A) and have since my very early 20’s. I don’t like to shop for clothes…feel like things don’t look good on me and I feel like I never had a chance to get my own sense of style. I don’t even know what my style is! I am more than happy in jeans and shirt. I am happiest finding cute things second hand at Goodwill. And around the house I am very happy wearing work out pants and old t-shirts.


Shannon March 21, 2010 at 3:00 pm

I’ve had jobs with and without uniforms. As a movie manager, my company provided a pretty nice uniform: grey pants or skirts, white button down shirts, navy blue sport jackets and neckties. I wasn’t wild about the ties, I mean it was all a bit mannish, but being fresh out of college I didn’t mind not having to spring for a wardrobe. I had to spruce up my look when I went to the credit union…but I found heaps of nice business attire at the thrifts. I preferred wearing “my own” nice clothes at the credit union to the uniforms at the theater, even paying for them myself. That said, I think it is dependent upon the job. I was often glad I didn’t have to pay for clothes or dry cleaning at the theater, especially when I had to step in and sell popcorn or clean up the auditoriums with the ushers.


Ashley March 21, 2010 at 3:03 pm

I would love to wear scrubs to work (again)! I love uniforms, but I really should be careful of what I say.

I work at a school, and though we are in no way changing to school uniforms (don’t I wish), there are certain things expected of us. Mondays are for the special t-shirt that the staff has to buy (and the kids get free as a prize). Fridays are red shirt days. I wear the same shirt every monday (I don’t care for it and I get jokes from the older kids I coach, but I don’t have to think about what to wear so I don’t complain) and every friday… again, the same red shirt. Except for special fridays when we have awards ceremonies…. then it’s the nice red shirt.

Rest of the week, I rotate the same 6 shirts and they’re always paired with black slacks.

And yes, the squishy shoes. If I’m chasing after 5 year olds, I’m not wearing something that will hurt my feet. So ugly crocs it is.


Dawn March 21, 2010 at 3:11 pm

I love wearing scrubs to work! It makes my life so much easier. When I am at the hospital, my work attire is supplied by the hospital. When I work in a school-I also wear scrubs. I buy cute tops for the students to enjoy and it makes my mornings so much easier. I spent $100 for the entire school year for “work clothes”. If I didn’t wear scrubs, I would be wearing clothes that I could not wear outside of work. Easier and economical.


Melissa March 21, 2010 at 6:53 pm

As a teacher at a community college, I like to be dressed nicely, just as a sign of respect for my students (but I only work one night a week, so it’s not such a big deal). However, when I used to live in Japan and teach, I got to wear the company uniform, and it was so blissful only ever having to think about which of my three shirts to wear under my jacket.


Caroline March 21, 2010 at 7:17 pm

I love not having to think about what I wear to work. As long as my clothes are comfy – i would happily wear the same clothes every day for the rest of my life.

In my industry we wear cotton drill shirts/pants/steel cap boots all supplied by the company. Washing it is up to me, but that’s ok – it’s all just wash n wear.

We can wear whatever colours we like, but I’m not sure how i ended up with a beige shirt, green pants and purple boots combo!


Ellen March 21, 2010 at 10:28 pm

I’m going to buck the trend here and say that I HATE wearing a uniform. I’ll admit that it is simpler to always know what you are going to wear, but it offends the artist in me. I like to pick out beautiful clothes that I find flattering, something that I have always been able to accomplish at thrift stores, regardless of my size. I feel very stifled having to wear the same thing every time I go to work. I don’t really mind dress codes, because they still offer some flexibility, but I don’t feel good in a uniform. I love my job, but if I were to quit tomorrow, chances are it would be because I couldn’t stand the idea of wearing that wretched red polo one more day.

Not that this hit a sore spot or anything ; )


teri March 22, 2010 at 7:23 pm

I must be REALLY cheap because I bowed out of choir at church because I simply didn’t want to buy the coordinating outfits they demanded. I buy everything thrift, while the choir demanded a specific set of different colored blouses and black jacket, skirt, and pants so everyone would match. It would have been almost three hundred dollars to buy all the different pieces just for Sunday wear for the year.
As far as uniforms, I love them as long as they cover everything private. I have seen some waitress uniforms that are way to short and tight. Those don’t suit me at all.


Tracy Balazy March 25, 2010 at 8:14 am

You worked with David Sedaris? AWESOME!!!

I’d love to wear a uniform to work. Much less stress in the morning.


Jean March 25, 2010 at 8:15 pm

I wonder how I would feel about a uniform at work–haven’t had one since my teenage job at Baskin-Robbins. I work in a somewhat dressy office and do shop at thrifts to save on wardrobe expense, and always shop from the clearance racks on the rare occasions I buy new. Shoes are a problem to really save on because I have very wide feet, although I recently scored some bargains on Dillard’s web site, a surprise since they don’t stock wide widths in their store. What intrigues me about the uniform idea is not having to think about what to wear every morning–the time savings are even more attractive to me than the cost savings!


Gina McGuire March 27, 2010 at 6:47 pm

I will take a uniform any day! I hate buying clothes for work. I hate putting out money in terms of work in any way, I guess because I strongly dislike my current job. Plus, I went to Catholic school all my life, so basically I am lost without a uniform.


Kristen July 14, 2016 at 7:18 am

I went straight my student job at a grocery store (free uniform provided!) to my “real” job in a very casual setting. Shorts and tee-shirts are acceptable in the summer!! I didn’t have to buy any new work attire, which is awesome as a recently starving student


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