When you’re freshly graduated and on the hunt for a new job, creating a professional yet stylish wardrobe might be the last thing on your mind. You’re too busy sprucing up your resume, searching for potential employers, and worrying about rent to even think about going shopping and spending money on new clothes (or maybe you’re never too busy nor worried to go shopping…). Eventually, once you’ve landed your dream job, you’re going to have to revamp your wardrobe. But that doesn’t necessarily mean trading in your distressed jeans for black slacks and your band tees for blouses. There are ways to incorporate your personal style into your professional style. Entering the world of jobs and rent and blazers doesn’t mean abandoning your old style. Ahead are a few tips and tricks to dressing for the job you want, and after you’ve landed the job, keeping your style professional and stylish.
Understand the Job
The first step to curating a bitchin’ professional wardrobe is understanding your new job or the position you’re applying for. There’s obviously going to be a different fashion standard for a corporate office than for a non-profit art organization. There are varying levels to dressing professional: business casual, business formal, business professional, casual. What’s the dress code like at your job? How do your co-workers (both your equals and your superiors) dress? Figuring this out is the first step to dressing professionally and appropriately.
Have a Simple Blazer Always on Hand
Rule #1: When in doubt, wear a blazer. If you’re unsure what to wear to an interview, your first day, or a meeting with your boss, throw on a blazer. In most professional environments, a blazer is totally appropriate attire. Blazers are a statement piece that are a must-have in any professional setting because they look great with everything–skirts, slacks, any style of blouse, even thrown over a dress. If an outfit feels incomplete, throw on a blazer and you’ll be the baddest bitch applying for the position. They’ll hire you based on your fashion alone.
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Stock Up on Basics
The more basics you have, the more outfits you can create. It’s the same idea that’s behind creating a capsule wardrobe; if you have classic items that never go out of style, you can constantly create new outfits when you pair basics together and add interest with accessories. Invest in a blazer, a couple pairs of slacks, a few blouses, a skirt, a dress, and a trench, and you’ve got yourself a professional (yet stylish) wardrobe. Creating a professional wardrobe with basics means spending less time in the morning deciding what to wear and more time impressing your boss with your punctuality.
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Remember, Basics Don’t Have to be Boring
Despite their name, basics don’t have to be boring. We hear the word “basic” and think uninteresting and uninspiring. But that’s not always the case. Look for basics that are neutral in color but not necessarily in structure or shape. Try an asymmetric skirt or a blouse with a neck tie. Try a cardigan in a funky fabric or slacks with a subtle plaid. These tiny touches of personality will add some visual interest to your outfit without compromising your professionalism.
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Stick to Neutrals and Use Accessories for an Important Pop of Color
The easiest way to create a professional wardrobe is to stick to neutrals and use your accessories as pops of color and print. If you’re wearing a black skirt with a white blouse and black blazer, you can add some visual interest with a leopard print purse and matching heels. Your usage of leopard print will definitely be seen while still being subtle enough to be ultra professional. Scarves, jewelry, shoes, and bags are the perfect way to be subtly stylish in the work place.
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Consider Length, Neckline, and Fit
One of the rules to dressing professional in the workplace is refraining from showing too much skin. Maybe on Friday night, you wear your lowest-cut top and your shortest skirt to the bar or club. I definitely support that. But come Monday morning, you want to adjust your fashion so that you’re ready for an impromptu meeting with your boss. So when buying clothes for work or for an interview, consider the neckline, the length of any skirts or dresses, and the fit. You don’t want your dress to fit so well that all of your curves are on display. Or maybe you do! This goes back to number 1–understanding your job and its dress code.
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Avoid Clothes that Require Dry Cleaning and Ironing
This is a tip that will save you time and money. Skip clothes that require special attention when it comes to cleaning them. If half of your wardrobe requires dry cleaning or ironing, that’s half of your wardrobe you can’t wear unless you’re making weekly trips to the dry cleaners. I’m sure you have more important errands to run and better things to spend your money on than perfectly laundered clothing.
Think about Comfort When Choosing Shoes
Maybe back in our younger days, when clubbing was still cool, we would sacrifice blisters and sore ankles to look good. We would wear a pair of neck-breaking heels that we could barely walk in despite the pain we’d be experiencing the next day. But as you get older and enter the big-girl world, this is not okay anymore. Wear comfortable shoes, dammit! Comfort shoe brands aren’t just for your mom. You, too, should be kind to your feet. They’ll thank you later.
Own a Few Day-to-Night Dresses
There may come a time when you need to easily transition from a day in the office to a night on the town. Maybe you’re getting off work late but you have plans with your girlfriends that you’ve bailed on twice already. Or maybe you’ve been working all day and your manager (who you’re desperately trying to impress) suggests you all go out to the bar for a drink. You obviously don’t want FOMO, so you have no choice but to get a beer with your coworkers. For this reason, you’ll want to invest in a few dresses that can go from day to night just by changing your shoes and adding different jewelry. Just like that, you’re prepared for whatever your day may throw at you.
It might be scary to graduate from college and start a new job. But creating a professional yet stylish wardrobe shouldn’t be a reason to freak. Spend your energy freaking out about your potential morning commute or learning everything there is to know about your new boss, not your new professional wardrobe! Share this article with your newly hired best girlfriend. She’ll thank you later!
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Recent college graduate, avid reader, lover of music and all things Yankees. Collector of pins, patches, and records.