After years of toiling away at school in sweatpants and college sweatshirts, it can be hard to give up the old habits necessary to build an elegant, sophisticated work wardrobe from scratch. If you’re having trouble burying your old college clothing in the closet in preference for business clothing, here are five easy tips to create great style for any workplace or interview.
Plan a quintessential “interview outfit.”
As much as we may despise it, we are always judged by the way we look. Especially in a short job interview based on first impressions, there’s no way getting around a judgment based on your appearance. That’s why it’s especially important to plan what to wear prior to the date of the interview or to pick out one fabulous outfit to wear to every interview. Whether you choose a formal suit, a classic pencil skirt, or even a tailored dress, make sure you wear your best so that your look is conservative and polished. But most importantly, you still have to be comfortable in your professional garb—even if it is a little stuffier than what you’re used to. This way you no longer have to stress about what to wear the night before and both you and your potential boss can stop focusing on how you look and really pay attention to your skills.
Dress for your workplace.
With the integration of casual dress into the workplace, different offices have completely different styles and dress codes. The days of just wearing a suit and nice blouse are long gone as many offices have done away with the strict enforcement of business professional attire, blurring the lines for appropriate work attire. So if your workplace is more of a jeans and t-shirt kind of place, wearing nice trousers and a jacket every day would definitely be overkill. If your office is more relaxed when it comes to dress, feel free to tone down your wardrobe by incorporating business attire with more casual garb. But be sure to always keep yourself looking put-together and never forget that you are at your job.
Lisbeth McNabb, board of director Nexstar Broadcasting and CEO w2wlink, shares a tip she learned from women brand managers ahead of her at PepsiCo Frito-Lay. She says to “Wear a jacket into a mostly male setting and always in the board room or officer decision room. Women need to grab power and, given we do not tend to take as much space or have as much instant authority, take the power with our look. That jacket can be unstructured: a long sweater with belt or any layered look. But that extra layer is key.”
Buy the basics, not the trends.
While shopping for recreational clothing is surely more fun, but if you find work clothing boring and are compelled to only buy the latest clothing trends, you may have some trouble dressing appropriately for the workplace. It’s true, the monotonous tones and limited choices in work wardrobe can become tiresome to shop for, but when you’re spending a forty hour week at the office, you have to own clothing for business. Invest in some basic business clothing that you can wear hundreds of time: neutral toned trousers, jackets, and skirts. Then mix in your own personal flare with colored blouses, sweaters, and accessories that keep your look interesting while still being professional. With just a couple pieces of clothing, you can create a mix and match wardrobe that has multiple looks with minimal shopping or worry.
Out with “Dress for success.” The new trend is “Dress for the position you want not the one you have.”
The new hot advice for every new or emerging employee in the office is to dress for the job you want, even if that means wearing slightly more formal clothing than your current position calls for. This especially applies if you’re trying to establish yourself in a new workplace as a new employee. So to all you straight out of college kids at your first job: find someone at your office that has the position you aspire to achieve and follow some of their wardrobe choices as guidelines for your own style. The main point is to keep your career goals in mind to ensure that your dress accordingly every day at work, even if you have not yet attained your goals.
Linda Descano, Managing Director and President & CEO of Women & Co offers similar advice, claiming it’s important to “Take note of how your manager and her peers dress and mimic their style.” Another one of her exemplary fashion tips is “Don’t underestimate the importance of being well groomed and looking polished – from hair and nails to shoes and heels.” With Linda’s tips you’re always sure to look stylish and office ready.
Use your common sense when you dress.
Just remember that you’re in an office to work and not at a party or your own home. So keep your business wardrobe appropriate: keep skirts and dresses at or below the knee, avoid low cut tops, and leave your weekend clothing for the weekend. Marcy Carmack, professional stylist and founder of The RealReal, noted that “Dressing femininely is great but leave the sexy for night time." So if you have to ask yourself if your outfit is appropriate for the office, then more than likely it’s not.
Check out these articles for more business fashion advice:
Budgeting for Your Wardrobe:
Transitioning Your Style For Your
Casual Dress for the Business Workplace
Taking the Stress out of Dressing
Think You Can Wear That to the Office? Think Again
Develop Your Personal Brand with The RealReal
The premier networking community for professional women