I work on middle earth. I have just finished watching the Lord of the Rings film trilogy with my seven-year-old son and he is obsessed with the idea of middle earth. You know that place where the people are dead but not really dead? The no-man’s land between heaven and hell? Here but not here, there but not there? That’s where I work. It’s no less profitable and certainly more manageable than corporate America but from a fashion standpoint it is downright confounding.
When I say I work on middle earth this is what I mean. I have my own business that requires me to occasionally meet with clients in various cities around the country. Day to day, however, I shuttle from home to my little office in Fremont to my son’s school up the block. I spend a fair amount of time working in my car or at my son’s soccer practice when my blue tooth cooperates. I think a lot of women, at least a lot of the women I know, work on middle earth too. Corporate America does not tend to be (there are some exceptions) conducive to mothers or father’s who need flexibility. So many of us women/moms have traded in our office jobs or careers for middle earth—a strange but more accommodating place.
But the pressing question for me is not how to juggle it all on middle earth but more importantly, what to wear while there? This question, this quandary is largely responsible for my overspending and unending confusion when I glance into my overstuffed and mismatched closet. I am left wondering what the appropriate wardrobe is for middle earth. I know it is somewhere between pajamas and a suit. The vast divide is difficult navigate.
I’m not quite sure what the Ann Taylor suit is doing in my wardrobe but it’s there … in case? Those up-tight but fabulous looking pumps at the far end of the shoe rack—definitely not for middle earth but maybe, just maybe appropriate for the next business trip to New York.
When I mention the middle earth concept to my husband he starts rattling off these terms as if to remedy my confusion. Business Casual: casual but no denim. Casual Friday: jeans allowed (in Seattle this includes shorts and Birkenstocks with socks). Business Formal: jeans? Don’t even think about it. Tie? Probably.
On middle earth it’s more like this. Casual Friday: Pajamas until noon. Business Casual: bra, clean jeans, a presentable t-shirt or blouse, hip jacket and clogs. Business Formal: Panic! Yikes! Go buy something new! And that’s when a sales girl takes advantage of the casually dressed vulnerability of the middle earth inhabitants. They, the middle earthians, invariably walk away with an expensive suit or a stiff blouse that they will never wear again.
Where does the middle earth population get its fashion inspiration? It’s certainly not in the fashion magazines. The glossy rags are still promoting the street-walker look for the evening and suits or dresses for the workday. The idea of shuttling back and forth from work to home to my son’s school in a dress is laughable. I often look at the well dressed, well pressed and perfumed women at my son’s school with envy. That used to me with a corporate job and a dress code. They look so put together and inspired to “change the world.” Me on the other hand, in my ripped jeans, butchy Frye boots and denim jacket look like someone who could be holding the yield sign at a construction site. Welcome to middle earth girls.