I rode away from the restaurant in high waisted vintage Levi’s, tears blubbering uncontrollably, and a black chiffon skirt tucked away in my basket. It was my fourth day, and I had quit. Though still visibly upset, my change of clothes had helped to settle my nerves, and make me feel a sense of normalcy. It was fairly instinctual, the second I quit I marched to the washroom and changed. Though I personally liked the clothes I had been wearing, they now felt heavy to me — riddled with self doubt and embarrassment, sheepishly hiding in the bottom of a dark tote.
After being told to fix my messy hair — which apparently must have gotten out of place walking from the kitchen to the hostess desk — I was pulled aside. It was then that my co-worker gently pointed out that as the initial face of the restaurant, it was part of our job to look good. She elaborated that this meant that we (or I, rather) should wear something more form fitting — in other words, something a bit sexier. Suddenly my pleated chiffon skirt and ’80s button-front tunic felt like I was wearing an industrial-sized garbage bag.
Perhaps I had taken for granted the fact that my previous employer had fully embraced the way I chose to dress for work (though admittedly it was a bit of a stretch on the company standard). Years of incorporating my own personal style into my work wardrobe had caused me to ignore the reality that in some work environments, maybe I wouldn’t be afforded the luxury of wearing clothing that simultaneously fit both my employer’s and my own dress code. In that moment, standing in the middle of the restaurant in clothes that had once made me feel confident in my appearance, I decided that for me, this was not a reality.
I had always known how important my own personal style was to me, but I never quite knew to what extent until it became endangered. A few reassuring conversations with friends, and one tear stained and clarifying bicycle ride down Queen St. later, and I have come to be proud of my decision. Working in an environment that makes me feel apologetic about the way I dress isn’t an option. In the moment my self-esteem was in slivers, all over someone’s disapproval of my clothing. I walked out the swinging kitchen doors, and into my own miniature personal style revolt. I never thought quitting a job could be a fashion statement.
text by Casie Brown