Transitioning from the dorm room to the office can be rough. While you lived in pajama pants, jeans and sweatshirts in college, office fashion is quite different. There are so many options in the women’s section of the department store to choose from that it may be difficult and overwhelming. Here are some quick tips to look both fashionable and professional at the same time.
1) You can’t go wrong with basic suits in simple colors. Black, brown, navy and sometimes dark green are easy to match and go over well in a professional environment. Feel free to mix and match a bit. There’s nothing wrong with a green suit jacket and black dress pants, as long as the colors complement each other.
2) No Jeans! Professional suit pants may have side pockets, but never back patch pockets. A business casual office will allow you to wear khakis or corduroys. In neither case, even on “casual” Friday, should you ever wear jeans.
3) Cute tops can make up the difference. If you are in a professional environment, having to wear a suit to work every day can get tedious. You can pick trendy tops like lacey camisoles and tanks with a slight shimmer, as long as they aren’t too low cut.
4) If you work in a creative, yet professional environment, like at an ad agency, you can get away with outrageous jewelry. The chunky necklaces that are in style will add just enough flair to your outfit. If you work in a more conservative atmosphere, banking or accounting, for example, keep your jewelry simple. A small ring, quiet pendant necklace, or small earrings will work perfectly.
5) Tired of wearing suits to work? Toss on your jacket over a cute, knee-length dress. There are plenty of dresses that are appropriate for work. Just keep the fabric plain and the silhouette well-tailored. Work is not the place to pull out that old bridesmaids dress or the flowery number that you use as a bathing suit cover-up.
6) Speaking of skirt lengths, they should be no higher than a few inches above your knee. You don’t want them to be too long, which would look frumpy, or too short, which is never appropriate for work.
7) The shoes that you choose can make a difference. There are so many different heel-heights and styles to pick from that it’s hard to go wrong. If you’re comfortable standing all day in four-inch heels, then by all means, do so. Just make sure that they are closed-toe shoes. It’s never appropriate to show your toes in even a business casual office.
8) It goes without saying that you never want to be smelled before you enter the room. Good grooming and a light application of perfume are necessary. Too much perfume will cause people to gag in your wake. Plus some of your co-workers may have allergies and sensitive noses. Sure, you want to smell nice, but you don’t want to annoy your colleagues.
9) The same goes for makeup. Keep in mind that many offices are adequately lit, so the copious amounts of makeup that you wear in order to stand out in a darkened club are not appropriate. Wear enough that you feel confident and sure of yourself, but not so much that you veer into clown territory.
10) Last but not least, go for quality over quantity. A $300 jacket that you wear 30 times boils down to just $10 per wearing. That jacket will last you a long time if you take good care of it. If you pay $30 for a jacket and it falls apart after two wears, you didn’t save any money. Your clients, colleagues and bosses can all recognize good tailoring and quality fabrics. If you want to be seen in the best light possible, go for something well-made over several cheaper things.
Dressing for the office doesn’t have to be intimidating and scary. With the right options in your closet you will be able to go to work feeling confident every day, and that confidence will translate into your career trajectory.