I recently had a request to write a post on work/professional attire and I thought, why not! This is actually a perfect post for me to write at the moment considering I just started my new position of Director of Communications. Dressing professionally isn’t just about looking good. Professional attire shows your coworkers, clients/customers, and bosses that you are taking your job seriously. You are, essentially, an ambassador for your company, so dress like it! Your outfits need to be clean-cut and classic for the overall professional look to come together. The time of norts and leggings all day, err day has come and gone. You’re a working woman now, and it’s time to look like one!
First thing’s first: read your company’s dress code policy. The policy will give you an idea of how “dressy” your attire must be. Usually, it will simply state “business casual”. Bottom-wise, this means you may wear slacks as long as they fit properly (not tight in the bottom and thighs), and skirts and dresses if they are an appropriate length (usually hemlines must be no more than 5 inches above your knee).
Now, here is a breakdown of every essential piece you need you in your stylin’ professional wardrobe!
- Colors: black, navy, nude, white, pop colors
- Blazers are lighter than traditional jackets so they’re perfect for wearing around the office without having to worry about too much bulk. A well-tailored blazer will finish off an outfit for a clean, professional look. Start out with your neutral colors then throw in a pop color or two of your choice for a touch of fun!
- Colors: black, navy, grey
- Slacks are the traditional pant of choice for office wear. I personally love wearing slacks. They’re comfortable and if well-fitted, elongate your legs. Sticking with neutral colors for your pants will give you a good base to build your pop colors on the top. P.S. Don’t think that when I say “slacks” I mean just wide, bell-bottom hems. If you prefer, go with a slimmer leg for a more modern style!
- Colors: black, navy, pop colors
- Skirts can be your best friend in the workplace. Having a good amount of skirts in your wardrobe doubles, even triples, the amount of outfit choices you have. Start out with pencil skirts to be safe with length then branch out with more flowy options.
- Colors: every color imaginable
- The dresses are where you get to really let your style shine through. Dresses are probably my favorite clothing item to where to work because they’re so easy to just throw on and go. Wear any dress you love to work, just as long as it adheres to company dress code policy. Make sure your legs, bottom, and cleavage are well-covered, especially when you sit down!
- Button ups
- Colors: neutrals, pop colors
- Button ups are a classic staple piece for any wardrobe. They’re easily paired with slacks and skirts and never fail to give off a clean-cut look.
- Shell tank tops
- Colors: neutrals, pop colors
- Alongside the multitude of blouses you’ll be wearing, shell tank tops are my personal God-send. Tank tops (or any form of sleeveless top) are office taboos…unless they’re covered by a blazer or cardigan. Most of my blouses feel too bulky to wear with a blazer so I toss on a simple tank top for the day and I’m never disappointed.
- Sensible shoes
- Colors: black, nude, pop colors
- I don’t know about you, but I am not about to walk around an office with slick floors or run errands for my boss in 5 inch platform stilettos! Be conservative with your heel height unless you are exceptionally comfortable with wearing higher heels for long periods of time. But don’t think “sensible” means “ugly and boring”! I have a number of adorable 2 to 4 inch heels and comfortable but cute flats that go with almost all of my outfits.
- After you’ve built your basic, clean outfit by all means add your favorite accessories! My only suggestion is make sure your accessories don’t get in the way of your work. Sure, that bangle compliments your shirt perfectly, but if you sit at a computer all day, is that going to hinder or annoy you while you type? Don’t load yourself down with accessories for the office. Use them as pieces that compliment your style, but don’t overcome it.
The two biggest issues I have when shopping for professional attire are 1. Where do I shop? and 2. These clothes don’t fit me off the rack. For the first issue, definitely check out The Gap, J.Crew, Banana Republic, and department stores like Dillard’s, Macy’s, and Nordstrom. I have to remind you that these clothes are going to be seen by your bosses and clients/customers. Your clothes MUST look good. In order of them to look good, they must be quality materials and well-made. To get such quality, you’re most likely going to have to spend a little more. But don’t worry, these clothes will last for years if you take good care of them! Consider it an investment.
As for the second issue, a good tailor will become your new best friend. I am very short with a slim torso, wide hips, and a large chest. Most items are not going to fit me perfectly off the rack. I currently have a large pile of clothes that will find their way to a tailor here very soon, including all my slacks, two blazers, a few Lilly Pulitzer dresses, and a Free People maxi. Blazers, slacks, and dresses are absolute musts to get tailored. A blazer or slack that is too large and looks bulky will crumple your entire appearance into sloppiness. Find a trustworthy tailor in your town, probably someone who tailors prom and wedding dresses or suits (not the one at your local dry cleaner…bad experiences from them). Yes, a tailor is an extra expense but I guarantee you that you won’t regret it.
My final piece of advice is this: if you would wear it to the bar, don’t wear it to work! Save the sky-high heels, sheer and cleavage-showing blouses, and tight pants for going out with your girls and opt for more conservative (but fun!) pieces for the work place. Good luck ladies!