State of the Blog: Ideas for Work Wednesdays

Mar 19, 2014

Hi Ladies,

I got up this morning to finish the posts for the Interview Pieces and I hated everything that I put together.  This doesn’t happen very often, but I don’t want to post anything that I’m not excited about or wouldn’t wear myself.  So I’m going to work on them tonight so that they look just like I want them to and repost them for tomorrow morning.

A friend mentioned that one of the biggest challenges she faces when interviewing for work is knowing how to dress for different kinds of interviews.  For example, how to dress for a professional office vs. a creative one vs. a casual one.  I think that I’ll cover this topic next week, since it’s one that many of us will face at some point in our careers.

But I wanted to take a moment to ask what other work-related fashion conundrums you’d like to see discussed on Work Wednesdays?  I have a short list going, but I’m sure there are things I haven’t thought of.  So leave your suggestions in the comments, and I’ll work in as many of them as I can.

xoxo, Belle

Ask The Edit, Style

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  1. jj says:

    This is probably on your list already, but I would like to see posts on work travel outfits – outfits that still look good after a flight or long drive so I don’t look like a rumpled mess. Or conference outfits, particularly how to artfully layer for freezing ballrooms but then be able to remove layers for an evening outdoor cocktail reception. Secondly, how to look crisp and professional in the heat of the summer. Love this column!

  2. What to wear for conferences and firm events that call for athletic participation (volleyball, teambuilding etc.). I’m a curvy girl and my gymwear isn’t exactly office appropriate.

  3. Sara says:

    What should you wear to an interview where the dress is casual or business casual? I still opt for as professional as I can, but I’ve heard that can backfire. The idea of not wearing a suit to an interview is terrifying.

  4. Ash says:

    Perhaps also cover how to dress for an interview (or bring pieces along) when going from current business causal work environment so as to not raise flags (i.e. if I wear a suit to the office, something is up)

  5. G says:

    “Cocktail Business Casual” Seriously? Who made that up? And what do I wear that still hits the casual part without going too far from cocktail?

    • Belle says:

      I HATE THAT! The dumbest dress code I’ve ever seen on an invitation was “Relaxed California Beachy Black Tie.” My first thought was, “Oh go screw yourself!” Then, I realized that I got to wear flat sandals to a wedding and felt better about it.

      But why can’t people just keep it simple?

  6. Danilyn says:

    Conference Outfits are a great idea! Especially since I’m leaving for a conference in two weeks! I also find myself wearing dresses and blazers to my conservative (yet trying to be fashion forward??) law firm all the time. I just can’t bring myself to rock the whole formal suit look. I would love to see more outfits like that.

    • Katie says:

      I love the conference idea – When you are around professionals during the day, but then typically head immediately to a cocktail reception, dinner, or happy hour at the end of the day.

  7. Britt says:

    Hi Belle! I am in law school and have had a lot of work experience (through internships) in the public sector. I’ve worked in a variety of environments and the one I seem to have the most trouble dressing for is an office that says to wear business casual, yet the employees stress the “casual” environment. As a burgeoning lawyer, I don’t feel like it is appropriate for me to be casual, even when my peers and superiors do dress on the more casual side of business casual. This is the situation I will be in during my internship this summer in DC. How do I straddle the business casual line – dressing office appropriate (for the legal field, while still in government) while respecting the casual setting of the office. Thanks!

    • Kim says:

      I know this was for Belle but I couldn’t resist. I am a federal gov’t attorney, and when it comes to clothing, the gov’t is a do-as-I-say and not-as-I-do environment. Never ever go full-on casual as an intern. It will be perceived that you think the office/gov’t work isn’t worth the effort, the attorneys will be insulted, and you’ll never get a job there (if we hire ever again!). Your shirts don’t need to be collared, and you can wear cardigans instead of blazers. However, do wear a suit on the first day and to brief managers – first impressions and all that.

      • Belle says:

        I totally agree about do as I say, not as I do. Senior staff want to see subordinates following rules they don’t follow themselves. Esp. when it comes to clothes. But a lot of comments have been about business casual, so I’ll add that to the list.

    • Theresa says:


      Though I don’t work in government, I struggle with the same issue. Since when are all-black gym(ish) shoes appropriate for business?

      I take this into account by using more traditional garments (pencil suit, button-down blouse, cardigans) and playing with color, pattern, and texture. Today: purple pencil skirt, popover button-down in polka dots. Still looks professional but loses the “stuffy” attitude that some of my coworkers might think when I wear neutral/traditional options.

  8. LB says:

    I’d love to see something on how to liven up a “business dress” work wardrobe. For those who work in a very conservative/formal office (like many law firms)–what are some fun pieces that you can work in to your wardrobe to keep wearing a suit every day from getting too monotonous.

  9. Kelly says:

    What about interview outfits when you’re interviewing at your current place of employment (jeans are appropriate for every day), but for a new position? Thanks!

    • Rachel C says:

      This would be so helpful! My office is business casual (jeans on Friday), but no one wears suits. It’s hard when interviewing for an internal position because I know a suit is overkill (and let’s the universe know you are interviewing) but I’m unsure how to step up my normal dress.

  10. Larissa says:

    I hate wearing dresses, but need something to spice up my cardigan / pants routine. Also, my office wears jeans mostly – so something in between a corporate (like law office) business casual and you know, sweatpants would be helpful. 🙂 Also, a post by season — what to wear year-round to the office for business casual, for creative, for law-firm esque, etc. Mixing prints and patterns would be fun too for those that can be more creative at work.

    Thanks Belle! Love Work Wednesdays. 🙂

  11. k-t says:

    How about tips for getting through the metal detector without getting undressed. How can you tell when considering a belt or costume jewelry if it is apt to set things off?

    • GoGoGo says:

      LOL to this. I wish shoe stores and malls in DC could put stickers on each box that says “Contains Metal” and “Metal Free.” Or, “Contains just enough metal that it will only go off occasionally, like when you’re ten minutes late to an important meeting.”

  12. Heather says:

    In line with the posts about dressing for interviews with different styles of offices, what about how to dress for a Skype interview? I’m preparing for a second interview with a company across the country from me and I’m expecting it to be via Skype.

    • Anna says:

      I actually think more important than attire are all the elements that go into making you look more presentable during a Skype interview, for example, lighting, makeup, camera positioning, in addition to clothes. I think all of these things make you seem more professional and the whole situation less awkward. I’ve seen something similar for long-distance relationships and making you look your most attractive, but nothing for online interviews.

    • Sarah says:

      To expand on Anna’s comment about camera positioning, make sure that you know what the background behind you is showing the camera: unmade bed, piles of laundry, tacky posters, your fill-in-the-blank cute/geeky/nicknacky collection? Set yourself up well ahead of time in as close to an office setting as possible, whether that is a desk, dining room table, or living room chair with table in front of you and look carefully at the scene on all sides of you. Close any curtains or blinds directly in front or behind you so that neither you nor those on the other side of the camera are dazzled/blinded by the sun. And don’t forget to put the pets in another room–far away from where they might be heard.

  13. Heather says:

    Great business casual outfits would be great. Or work appropriate outfits that are good for casual Fridays.

  14. Lily says:

    Here is a topic: what clothes/items would you recommend keeping in your desk for emergencies and wardrobe malfunctions? I keep a pair of black slacks, a hideous black cardigan, black shoes, snacks, tampons and a spare pair of underwear in my drawer. What would you put in your “emergency drawer,” Belle?

  15. Kate says:

    What is your ideal work wardrobe? i.e. if you could have just the right amount of items (dresses, skirts, tops, shoes, etc), so that you wore them often enough to get use out of them but not too often, how many would you own of each? And what types? (how many sheath, wrap, jersey dresses, how many tops would be button-up, tie-neck, etc).

  16. GoGoGo says:

    There’s a lot of requests in here about the styling of suits for different occasions.

    This is more in the inspiration category than advice, but if you needed some filler and wanted to do like “Woman looking awesome in a suit of the week,” kind of like Pinterest Mondays, those would be kind of fun. Feeling like yourself in a full suit, and staying professional while letting your personality show, is a fine art.

    I love the idea of those new Sheryl Sandberg stock photos collection that shows a variety of realistic looking professional women. They’re young and hip, they’re old, they have edgy short grey hair, they have funky long hair, they have big smiles…I thought that was neat.

    • GoGoGo says:

      Here’s that Sheryl Sandberg/Getty stock photos collection, for those who haven’t seen it. This is what comes up under the keyword “expertise.” Makes me smile.

    • WorkingGirl15 says:

      I second the suit of the week idea! I’m 30, been in my organization for 5 years now and I find as I’m moving up in leadership that I more and more need to wear blazers and suits most of the time. It’s challenging to keep coming up with fresh ideas and I really struggle to find suits beyond the basics that I like. I don’t want to wear an interview suit every day but I also don’t want to dress like I’m 60!

      • Belle says:

        Corporette does a post called suit of the week. I wouldn’t want to copy an idea that a blogger that I’m so close with already had. Definitely check hers out.

  17. Alison says:

    I’m currently job searching for a laboratory/research position. How do I tune my wardrobe so that I can transition from being in a lab coat to being professional for presentations other than having two sets of clothing in my office every day?

    • C says:

      Similar to this, I work in a professional office but my line of work can at times can be physically demanding – lifting heavy boxes, climbing ladders, and lots of walking. It can be a challenge to look put together but also be able to meet the physical demands my work puts on me.

    • SC MD2 says:

      For women who work in engineering, construction, or field science, and are NOT admins, it’s either be unfashionable in work jeans and work boots, or keep two sets of clothing in the office.

      (Skirts, dresses, high heels, regular flats are all out of the question due to safety policies at project sites or in the labs.)

    • BC says:

      Yes, please. I have the same situation. I keep a black blazer at work for when I need to go to a meeting.

    • J says:

      Jumping onto the engineering/field science/research & development train.

      I’m guessing that ladies in the industrial/manufacturing sector would also appreciate more info relevant to these areas.

      I recently did a workshop for middle school girls on the benefits of a STEM career…and made it a point to be my normal,girly-girl self. “Professional” can be found in many places, not just the office!

  18. Kayla Allen says:

    Hi Belle,
    I work in a casual environment and often find myself struggling how to look put together but not too over dressed? Any thoughts on how to fit the environment with style?

  19. KC says:

    I like seeing ways to wear basics I already own, like black pants, gray pants, black skirts, solid cardigans, etc.

  20. Meri says:

    Love the blog, love this series! My question: I work in a very casual office in the sports industry (jeans are fine, sometimes even paired with cotton t-shirts) but I find I need to get dressed up for work 1) bc I have a closet full of pre-business casual attire and 2) it helps me get in the right mental state (plus, looking chic some days is a must!) How can I dress up without looking overdressed next to my jeans and tshirt colleagues (or without raising “I’m going on interview” suspicions!)? I go for blazer with T and jeans all the time so I’m looking for a littler variety! Thanks!!

    • Ellen says:

      I was just going to post something similar, Meri! I too work in the sports industry and sometimes you just have to wear that polo shirt they gave you or you have to be casually attired to do physical work but at the same time look professional because you are somewhat senior and have to talk to sponsors, clients, etc! Any help dressing up an issued polo would be greatly appreciated!

      Also, Meri, if it makes you feel any better, more than half the time, earlier in my career, I just said “screw it” and wore what I liked (dresses and girly clothes) and didn’t care what people thought! I just made sure to always be able to do my job from carrying boxes to running in game promotions. It totally got be noticed by higher ups because I stood out some.

  21. My biggest struggles are around bags for traveling and bags for carrying my shoes and my lunch without looking crazy. But I work for the government so fashion is optional.

    I just wanted to say — I’ve honestly been LOVING the blog the last few weeks. You may just be feeling a bit of cabin fever since this winter is never ending. Maybe a post on surviving a never-ending winter by inserting brighter colors into your work wardrobe?

  22. Julie says:

    Attire for work related events, golf tournaments, baseball games, other sporting events.

  23. Danielle says:

    This may be a more general question, but I am finding myself struggling to figure out how to wear skirts. I have a wonderful knee-length pencil skirt from Anthropologie but I cannot figure out tops that look good with it. I have a couple more just-below-the-knee skirts, but I think they sit too low on my torso (how can I tell where it is “supposed” to sit?). And I want one of those great black knit maxi skirts, but no clue whether to tuck in or leave a shirt hanging out (and what kind of shirts go with it).

    • Denise says:

      I completely agree with this one. I often pass on skirts I think are super cute because I don’t know what to wear on the top. The pencil skirt I’ve mastered but none of the other shapes.

  24. K says:

    Could you do a post on working with logo polos? My organization requires us to wear polos with our logo on them to conferences and it’s always tough for me not to look like a Best Buy employee. I try to add cardigans and cute shoes, but the shoes also need to be comfortable since I’m standing for hours a a time.

    • Meredith says:

      This! The logo polo is required for a number of events that require hours and hours of standing. What are some cute but practical choices for this horrible fashion situation.

      K – Best Buy employee is the perfect descriptor! I generally try to do a bit more with my hair on those days because otherwise I feel like a waiter at a country club grill.

    • Mary says:

      Add me to the list of people wearing logo shirts for conferences, although not always polos.

  25. Maggie says:

    I truly do miss the Hill Life posts. This blog helped me get my first internship and nail interviews to get jobs in DC. But now that I’ve finally arrived, I would love if you would do posts about how to grow in your position once you’ve accepted the job. I want to be an indispensable member of my boss’s staff and worry about getting too comfortable.

  26. Mira says:

    Nth-ing what to wear at conferences, particularly in very hot or very cold climates. Would also love advice for what to wear on TV… Corporate Fashionista had a great post on the basics, but I’d love to see your own take.

  27. L says:

    I work in an office where normal business casual (despite the dress code) is often looked at as “someone’s going to interview.” Blazers are banished at the back of my closet and I’m in some sort of cotton frumpy top and pants/skirt because I can’t get the hang of dressing the way I’d like (polished), but dressing down (to avoid office drama). Suggestions would be welcome.

    • Chelsea says:

      Seconded… I actually wonder if we work at the same place. (:

    • Kate M says:

      I’m right there with you on this one! I also have a somewhat specific question: I have nice shoes, but my new company requires walking back and forth across a very large, poorly paved parking lot between buildings. It’s destroying my heels and I get pebbles in my flats. Boots have been fantastic, but we’re getting to the end of the season for that solution. Any suggestions?

      • Mish says:

        A thicker heel maybe made out of wood or something hard to destroy. Lucite or plastic come to mind, but may be too trendy. Also booties! Especially the ones that have ankle straps or are slingbacks- I think those can be worn into the summer, especially if you get a cognac/light pink/nude/gray color.

  28. Clara says:

    I’d love to see you take a fixed number of items and show us a month’s worth of outfits using only those items. I love the work outfits you post, but I’m not buying new clothes every month so I’d love to see how you’d create new outfits using a fixed “wardrobe.”

    • Emily says:

      I second this one!

    • Melinda says:

      I agree! I am in the same boat!

    • Hanna says:

      I recently stumbled across this blog which is pretty capsule centred which is very helpful, although the fashion itself is a bit more casual than what Belle usually posts. Using both blogs in unison (more businesslike pieces substituted in outfits) would probably be a perfect answer!

    • SLG says:

      Seconding the capsule wardrobe idea. Belle, you did something like this at the beginning of spring 2013, I think, and it was fantastic. I’d love to see more posts like that.

  29. Mercedes says:

    I am supposed to be ‘dressing for the job I want’ in pencil skirts and heels, but I am still working the job I have, which requires a lot of walking, moving boxes of publications, et cetera. How can I balance comfortable with ‘always ready to meet the CEO’? Any magically versatile dresses you can recommend that can switch from comfy to stylish in seconds?

  30. Jen says:

    One area that sometimes can be hard to dress for is trendy / casual / chic. I am in sales and we are shifting to a more business casual dress code. How to look professional but in fashion and not too trendy.

  31. SLG says:

    Clothing care! A.k.a. how to build a work wardrobe that looks good without spending a small fortune on drycleaning, replacing stained stuff, etc. Which “magical tips” actually work? How do I pick a drycleaner that won’t shrink my expensive wool sweaters (this has happened to me too many types to count!)? When can I get away with hand-washing silk tops instead of drycleaning them? Is it as stupid as I think it is to wear a silk tank on a hot day if I’m just going to sweat through it on my walk to work? What are the most important things I should do for shoe maintenance at the beginning/end of every season? I’d love to see posts on this stuff.

    Maybe you could even do tests: buying a JCrew wool sweater on sale and gently hand-washing to see if it shrinks might bring blog traffic worth the $80 you’d spend. 🙂

  32. Emily says:

    I work in the interior design field which often requires me to be on construction sites. I always struggle with what to wear as typical professional attire is too delicate or nice when walking through dusty dirty construction areas. I’m sure I’m not the only architect/interior designer with this problem. Any thoughts are appreciated. What I really need is a great steel toed ballet flat!

    • Mary says:

      I work for a small manufacturing company. My role is in HR, so I often have to visit the manufacturing floor, which is greasy and requires PPE. I would definitely invest in steel-toed ballet flats if I could find them!

  33. R says:

    I would really like to see what you have in your wardrobe. You say that you have a very edited wardrobe. This is something that I am working on, especially as I lose weight. It is hard for me to get rid off anything that might fit someday even though I might not like it.

    Also, I would like to know how to look polished. I can’t seem to pull it off.

  34. Anonymous says:

    I work in education and Fridays are spirit wear days. Most teachers come in jeans, gym shoes and a hoodie and I hate that look. I want to be a team player while still looking professional as I have contact with parents, community members, etc in my position.

  35. Eloise says:

    1) styling flats with work outfits– I know a lot of us wear flats to work.
    2) This maybe something I have missed the boat on, but how to evaluate the material when ordering online—what percentage of wool do you want? what is the deal with synthetic stuff rayon etc? What materials tend to be more suited for work?

  36. Calys says:

    As a law student beginning to take on more long-term internships, I have found myself buying nicer shoes so they are more comfortable and last longer. However, I have no idea what I should be doing to maintain the quality of all of my professional shoes – flats, heels, and boots. That may seem really obscure, but I would be interested to hear what you do.

  37. Kate says:

    Work hair! I feel like I’ve finally figured out how to dress but is leaving my hair long and loose okay? I pin it back for interviews but it’s not particularly stylish. Does it look unkempt if it’s long? Is it okay to go around the office with a top knot that I made while drafting a pleading?

  38. Katie says:

    Heading into spring/summer, it would be helpful to illustrate “work appropriate summer dresses” vs. “sundresses that should not be worn to work” … and something in between that might toe the line, but could be dressed up enough for the office. Are there any easy rules to follow?

  39. Anna says:

    I’d love ideas on how to look professional without putting on a traditional suit. More ideas related to jackets that don’t look like part of the suit and more suggestions for dresses with sleeves.

  40. Ann says:

    I am on my feet all day and usually wear Dansko clogs. Any suggestions for shoes that look smart and are comfortable? Flats don’t seem to be the answer.

  41. Lexi says:

    What a great idea! I’d love to see outfits for different stages of a career as well.

  42. Jamie says:

    I would love to see some posts about transitioning your office attire to after office (still professional) attire. I work in Higher ED and my best friend works for a Not-for-profit. We both have at least one or two nights a week we go straight from work to a reception/cocktail hour/ dinner/fundraiser.

  43. MP says:

    I might have missed previous post about this, but one thing I struggle with is non-session attire. My office is pretty relaxed, and jeans are fine, but sometime I want to wear a skirt to work and am not sure what to pair it with. Any tips would be great!

  44. Jenny says:

    Hi Belle!

    I recently transitioned to a much more casual, creative office from a more formal corporate environment. Would be wonderful to see your suggestions for styling some of my more formal clothes (sheath dresses, pencil skirts galore) more informally… Could also be interesting to show vice versa as well for other job transitions, as it’s always expensive to overhaul your wardrobe at once! Thanks so much!

  45. s says:

    i would love to see pieces to wear to work in a professional environment where everyone isn’t wearing suits every day. also maybe a post on statement jewelry appropriate for a workplace.

  46. Jaye says:

    I am always cold in my office. What are some options that I can wear as a jacket? I usually wear a jean jacket and I want to spruce things up.

  47. Courtney says:

    A post, or series, on what to wear when you’re the center of attention. For example, what to wear and how to wear makeup on camera (and not look like a circus clown!). What to wear when making a presentation on stage or at a podium. What to wear when presenting at or leading a conference room meeting. Thank you!

    • GoGoGo says:

      Oo, that’s interesting one, Courtney. On-camera styling is an whole field on its own. It’d be very helpful to get a professional take on that from someone with a bit of experience on TV…

      How very DC.

  48. Leesa says:

    I work for a German company and am one of only a few women executives. I am constantly challenged to define clothing for our business meetings since we’ve adopted a business casual (men in ties rule). What the heck is that supposed to mean for me? On top of that we’re meeting in Europe so the definition of what’s work appropriate is more formal than the US. I’m tired of always wearing a suit but need to look professional – even in the business casual setting. Oh and did I mention that I’m a petite 5’1″ so great (high quality) work clothes are already a challenge to find. Anyone out there have suggestions?…

    • Melinda says:

      Check out Jean at She posts great petite friendly business casual outfits. What she wears sounds like what you would be looking for. Good luck!

  49. Rachel says:

    My office is pretty casual… jeans daily is acceptable. So I’d like to see ways to mix up my daily outfits with jeans but at the same time not look like a slob or like I’m going to school.

  50. Bridget says:

    I’m a new mom (one month old son) and realize that my current work wardrobe (mainly tailored dresses with cardigans or blazers) is not breast feeding or breast pump friendly. Besides button downs and wrap dresses, I’d love some work appropriate ideas (work in a Secretary level office of the government) and everyday looks to accommodate pumping at work and breastfeeding my son around the house or out and about without looking sporty or crunchy/hippie.

  51. Katie says:

    Something that wasn’t mentioned is maternity style – there seems to be a baby boom. I’ve had three kids in the last six years and while the dress has gotten better, suits for maternity are HORRIBLE. Any insight you might have on that might be helpful for some. Both on the Hill and lobbying attire

  52. Megan says:

    I’d be interested in hearing about some professional hairstyle suggestions that would take a half hour or less to put together. Also something I’m struggling with as a young professional is what photo’s to use for my linked in and other business social media. I don’t have a corporate photo and I’d like to be able to have one taken by a friend or myself that would present well to the public.

  53. I travel almost every week for work, and am always looking for creative new ways to reuse professional pieces a few times in one trip. I also try to stick to the same heels/bag/accessories, but it isn’t always easy. Almost makes me jealous of men (wear one suit, bring a few shirts and an assortment of ties and you’re good). Would appreciate any insights! Style bloggers do smart vacation packing posts all the time, but professional travel is vastly more frequent and challenging- not to mention my blazer takes up more space than a gauzy cover-up

    • annelie says:

      Yes please!!!! Also business travel to warm climates….. how to look stylish and business without melting!!! Oh, and for those of us with curves …. how to look polished and professional (not outrageous and colourful, which is very popular.). Oh, and yawn….. howntomlook polished when you hate wearinb suits that look overdone……

  54. CJ says:

    I can’t leave the house in my blue suit without feeling like a flight attendant. I need ideas for showing some personality while not sticking out too much in a room full of men in suits.

  55. Julie says:

    How to dress for the job you want not the job you have without looking completely out of place? I work in a state government job in a field office where clothes you might mow your yard in is a common occurrence. I dress in professional business attire or business casual (more Monday casual then Friday casual). I am often accused of showing off or sucking up. Interestingly enough, we do have a dress code of business casual in addition to being mindful of the clients you may have meetings with on any particular day.

  56. S says:

    I’d love to see thoughts on “casual office” attire for technology/software firms, where the men (who are the majority) wear baggy jeans, sneakers and polo shirts. Dark jeans for me seem OK but skinnies?! Are narrow jeans “ok enough” or must jeans be “trousers”? I tend to wear a blazer to “professionalize” the jeans but heels tend to then take the outfit over the top for the tastes of my co-worker men. Forget adding a statement necklace or bracelets. Note that it’s not just my co-workers either, but the partners as well that dress casually. Do I just “get over” the comments and know that I’m dressing professionally so should feel confident in that, or do I “dumb down” to align myself with their poor outfit choices?

    • Belle says:

      If the dress code is very casual and your casual wardrobe contains nicer pieces and accessories, don’t let the bastards get you down. If they make jokes, just ignore them. If you don’t feel the need to defend your choices, they’ll lose interest in commenting on them. They’re just making the comments because they don’t want to be reminded their dressed in a way that would be unacceptable most places.

      I’ve worked in an office where trying to look nice was met with commentary, I lived in a place where dressing business casual was “looking too nice,” but those comments were always based on other people’s insecurities. They don’t want to see someone dressed better because they don’t like the reminder. So wear it with confidence, don’t bring up the topic of clothing and when they do, say “This is just how I like to dress” and move on.

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