Dress Code

So, I had this post as something I was working on, but was sitting around unfinished... and then I saw this and it brought my mind right back to the issue of dressing appropriately for work.  Not because of any danger of being fired over dressing sexy, but because dressing nicely is expected in my field (after all, I do need to look respectable), while at the same time also dressing for the work expected.

In simplest terms, I dislike dressing up for work.

This sentiment is not inspired by a lack of concern for my appearance or laziness, nor is any reflection on my ability to dress myself properly (even if my sense of style may be at times absent).  I do like to present myself as a hygienic and responsible person, possibly even an attractive one of my confidence is high that day.

My dislike is both practical and personal.

To the disappointment of many adolescent fantasies I'm sure, generally librarians don't emulate the iconic pin-up images that many conjure when hearing about our profession.  When I was first considering going from my MLS the top response from anyone I mentioned it to was "Librarians are sexy," including from friends who are non-readers and those who have (to the best of my knowledge) no sexual attraction to me at all. 

Given the right circumstances, I enjoy dressing nicely but I do have practical limitations on what I wear.  A distinct portion of my job involves crawling around under desks figuring out what came unplugged or moving around dusty machinery.  I dress the nicest on days where I'm likely on the Reference desk all day or in meetings and know there is the least chance of me being able to take the time to fix something that would involve the mentioned activities.  I've had to wear a snug skirt (with a thigh high seam slit) as part of a work uniform when I had reach under tables, highly inconvenient and at times embarrassing is the short result of how well that worked out.

Elvgren, Gil.  Rare Edition.  1962
Cute factor aside, Gil Elvgren got it right - that get up just gets in the way!

The irony of this is that I actually do like the aesthetic of the "classic" librarian look, including the blouse and pencil skirt (and while I often do wear my hair up, no, I do not wear glasses).

The bigger reason why I do not like to dress up for work is attention.

The attention that I want to garner in my workplace is respect for what I do.  I want to satisfy my patrons and coworkers through the various aspects of my job.  However for whatever reason, working as a Librarian marks the first job I have worked where I have had to deal with inappropriate remarks and approaches by patrons/customers.  Every time it happens I am caught off-guard and never really sure how to react.  I always fear that I am misinterpreting the comments and so then often say nothing except do what I can to create physical space between myself and the patron, and cut off the interaction as politely and quickly as possible.  Patrons giving me compliments have cornered me, have asked me such questions as "How are you wearing your hair today?" on the phone, and generally invaded my personal space.  I tend to wear my hair up instead of leaving it down since the latter seems to attract odd amounts of attention.  High necked sweaters don't stop patrons from having entire conversations with my chest instead of me.

I am not the only staff at my library who has had issues with patron advances, and there is a bit of a feeling of "it happens to everyone." We make jokes and laugh about it, but when I sit back to think about it, I find it a bit unsettling.  We are a bit too accepting of it as something that just happens, and demonstrably a segment of the population sees nothing wrong with exhibiting this behavior.  If you are involved with a librarian its fantastic to let her (or him) know you find her sexy, otherwise treat the librarians in your life as people and professionals.  I promise we'll be a lot happier to help you.


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