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Style Discussion: “Is it wrong to wear expensive designer clothes to work?”

I read this NY Times article: Is it wrong to wear expensive designer items to work? and it really made me pause.

I own quite a few designer items, but nothing obviously designer, like covered in logos or with a specific signifier. For instance, a colleague who joined a project, wore red-soled heels to work the other day, and I knew what brand they were but I didn’t think in such a male-dominated industry, guys would know anything about fashion or brands, until I heard: “She’s doing just fine, I mean she’s wearing LOUBOUTINS to work!“, coming from the mouth of a male colleague.

I realized that those red-soled heels were actually so ubiquitous that even MEN (who are not into fashion or style, based on their outfits) recognized them as a brand or status symbol for women, I suppose from pop culture (TV shows, movies and so on), or in general. They can also (apparently), recognize the Louis Vuitton, Chanel and to a lesser extent, the Hermès logos, but not necessarily the items themselves unless they are covered in logos and very obvious. I mean, if I showed them a Kelly bag from afar, they wouldn’t know it’s one until they checked the label.

Read: Vintage Hermès Kelly Bag (1952)

So with this in mind, I suspect I am of these “rules” for work regarding designer items, especially if you are young and starting out as an intern or new hire perhaps:

Go into work and see what the environment is first

I wouldn’t spend the first month wearing or carrying anything I would enjoy yet. I like to go into work with a simple outfit, plain bags, and see what the environment is. If it’s low-key casual, you don’t want to wear super high heels and expensive suits or dresses. I’d go more towards flats and trousers with a nice sweater instead.

Or if it’s full of other women, I’d also be more careful to NOT bring bags or wear things that are easily recognized by other women as being “EXPENSIVE” as I really don’t like announcing any level of wealth or financial status of any kind to bring the wrong kind of attention to myself. As I get more comfortable, I could… but I generally don’t bring let’s say, my Chanel double-flap bag to work. Ever. Also, it doesn’t hold much anyway, so… that’s a moot point.

Read: Vintage Chanel Double-Flap Bag (1983-1984)

No obvious logos or status signifiers

A Louis Vuitton bag is no more than just covered cardboard, but covered in logos, it is a very loud signifier of it being and “expensive bag”, or people will just assume it’s fake. I would also avoid any obvious things like red-soled shoes or heels (I also hear Louboutins are extremely uncomfortable), or anything that would make people give me a double-take.

Low-key but still designer bags

Obviously a Chanel double-flap bag would be a pretty loud, screaming, iconic bag to wear to work that people will say is an EXPENSIVE bag (they run about $6000 each now, at new). I would still have nice leather bags, but nothing obviously designer, such as Céline or Givenchy because it’s not a name as well known to others as an expensive status symbol or bag.

I would carry well-made, high quality bags, but nothing with obvious logos that people recognize. I’d have items from maybe Want Essentials, Salvatore Ferragamo and so on.

Generally speaking, designer (or obviously designer items), are not in my wardrobe, and if they are with very recognizable brand names or logos, I do not wear them to work or anywhere that would make others feel like I am trying to show off, or to make me feel like I stick out or am out of place, such as at playgroups at a local community center.

I don’t feel the need to show off, I like the items for what they are as themselves – iconic pieces of fashion history, etc, but I wouldn’t want to have people associate that with me as their first impression. I’d rather be more bland until I get the lay of the land and if I want to expose a bit more of who I am or not. I really just don’t want trouble, hassle, jealousy, etc.


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