There’s a pretty evident cliché among women who’ve just graduated from college and are about to embark on their professional careers. We buy a suit. Whether the pant or skirt, the post-grad investment has come to signify a transition to the successful work life we’re out to create despite the fact that, in many cases, a very traditional suit rarely comes in handy. In fact, it might simply go to waste once you realize it's not vital to your job or office (even this editor's been there). But Crystal Ung can help save you from a potentially unnecessary purchase, and more importantly, the entrepreneur might help us rethink the workwear “rules” altogether.
This month, Ung launched The Make, a collection of office-ready pieces, but not in the most traditional sense. “Just 10 years ago when I was graduating college, a recruiter shared a dress code document with me that outlined the company’s rules, which included pantyhose and pencil skirts Monday through Thursday,” Ung tells us about her inspiration behind the new line. “I hadn’t seen pantyhose since the ’90s and was confused and quickly annoyed. Also, I began questioning why.”
The Make offers a more casual, modern, and relaxed type of work uniform including jumpsuits and tees. It’s a line that makes sense for both the post-grad and the established professional in a non-corporate work environment. It’s also for those who want to challenge it. With this theme in mind, we asked Ung to help break down a few more of the workwear style myths women can stop believing in order to honor their personal style as much as their ambition. See her three most powerful takeaways below.
The Myth: A man in a suit = success.
The Truth: Ung tells us that the perception of success, especially among corporate environments, for far too long has been of a man in a suit, “aka the big shot banker, lawyer, etc.,” she says. As she explains, today’s perception of office-ready clothing is one that’s been created through the lens of men’s clothing. “Workwear evolved from a male point of view as dress codes were conceptualized and imposed on women. For generations, these expectations were embraced (perhaps begrudgingly) by women having to compete and play by their rules. Women’s mere presence alone was controversial, likely as the only woman in the room, so they had no choice but to blend in donning the right attire.”
While Ung credits the tech industry today for “the recent casualization of workwear,” she says, there’s still a lot of room for more conservative industries to grow when it comes to fostering an environment where women aren’t held to a standard that simply wasn't created with them in mind. “The pressure to dress a certain way depending on what industry you work in and one’s desire to express personal style is tricky to balance and a topic we hope to demystify,” she says of her own brand.
The Myth: There are work clothes, and then there are non-work clothes.
The Truth: “Our wardrobes should reflect the fluidity between work and life,” Ung says. “We need clothes that are versatile and help us quickly navigate from one occasion to the next without sacrificing design.” This philosophy not only speaks to how we can spend money more responsibly by purchasing clothing that serves us in multiple aspects of our lives, but also The Make’s designs themselves.
The Myth: Some dress code rules just can’t be broken.
The Truth: Consider this half true. Ung confirms that it’s best to take dressing cues from the work environment you are in, but know that rules are sometimes not always hard-and-fast. “We must break rules,” she says plainly. “Who says you can’t wear navy with black, and where did it come from? It originated from men’s suiting which viewed wearing a navy suit with black shoes as a clash in color and formality. As for not wearing white after Labor Day, that was driven by the socialites and wealthy who could afford to and adhered to wearing white only during summer months. Many dressing rules are outdated and irrelevant and we must rebel against them.”
As she tells us, rulebreaking at work is not necessarily a means to be insubordinate. “What you can do to make yourself feel more like you at the office,” she asks, “and, therefore, more confident.”
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