Dress for the Job You Want: 5 Tips for Rocking Professional Attire
Since graduating in December, I’ve slowly been shopping to build a solid wardrobe foundation for work. In college, I had a basic professional wardrobe for presentations and guest speakers that could cover the equivalent of a few weeks in the office. Using my handy dandy Pinterest for inspiration, I have found some exceptionally great pieces in high and low end stores that have stepped up my daily office look.
What I’ve also found is a large number of college graduates don’t know the first thing about dressing professionally. It’s not because they don’t want to, but they just don’t know HOW. It’s so important to make a good impression when starting a new job, and dressing properly is the key to starting your career.
So fear not, I have made a list of guidelines that I personally live by on how to dress professionally:
1. Know the difference between business professional, business casual, casual and “college casual.”
Business professional: Includes a dress/pencil skirt/slacks/with a blouse and a proper blazer (with a collar, not the trendy ones). This is the classic idea of a business outfit. While sometimes boring, wearing ‘business pro’ for conferences, interviews and important meetings shows that you’re not just the new kid in the office. Chunky or distracting jewelry is usually not worn with business pro. The lengths of all skirts/dresses/slacks must remain appropriate (no higher than above your knee), and they shouldn’t be too tight. Close-toed shoes are usually the norm as well.
Business casual: Includes a professional pant/dress, blouse and possibly a cardigan. While similar to business pro, business casual is what you would wear on a daily basis. Hem lengths mentioned above still apply. Depending on your industry, different colored jeans with nice blouses are a great way for millennials to stay comfortable and classy. My current favorite pants are the J. Crew Frankie Chinos that come in regular and petite! They’re a comfortable and slim trouser pant perfect for any day at the office.
Casual: Maybe a cute day-dress or jeans and a nice blouse. Compared to “college casual,” you’re still dressing up some but this is more for going out for brunch on a weekend with your friends. Not something you usually would wear in the office, except maybe on a casual Friday.
“College casual”: Usually straight yoga pants and XXL t-shirt. If it resembles workout attire, do not wear it to the office. This INCLUDES yoga pants!
(NOTE: All of the clothes mentioned above are not a comprehensive list, and items such as chunky toed “club” shoes and/or bodycon dresses should be avoided for business professional and business casual.)
2. Buy clothes for the body you have now, not the body you’ll have after you “start your diet.”
I’m just as guilty as the next girl for buying a smaller size in hopes that it will fit in the near future. Ladies: if it’s too tight in the fitting room today, don’t buy it! More than likely, it will fit the same way (too tight) while wearing it at the office. That being said, also find out what size you wear in women’s clothing (not juniors) if you haven’t already. After lots of shopping, I’ve found a few stores that I know my sizes in so it’s easier to stick to my guns.
3. Just because it’s cute on Pinterest doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for the office.
I have seen this time and time again online and in real life. There are tons of bloggers on Pinterest that post adorable “work” outfits that don’t actually translate well offline. The main culprits here are skirts that are extremely tight and way too short. This coincides with #2 listed above. Every woman’s body is different and rightly so. Learn your curves and know how to flatter your body type!
4. If you’re not comfortable in it, don’t wear it.
Unfortunately, I found this out the hard way. I’m big on comfort (I would live in a bathrobe if it was acceptable), but when I put on a new black wrap dress one morning that wouldn’t stay put, I figured I’d just have to get over it that day. Yet, behold, I got to the office and soon found out that when I leaned forward I had huge gaping hole across the entirety of my chest. Best of all, I had a presentation that day in front of other new hires. Lesson here: if you think you’re showing too much skin or fear that your skirt is going to ride up throughout the day, just don’t wear it.
5. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
This is my final and most important rule. While I don’t have the title of executive and probably won’t for a good while, I always try and dress like I already am. While industries may differ on what is considered normal, no industry looks down upon an appropriate and well-dressed woman. Dressing for the job I want not only gives me the confidence in what I’m doing now, but I’m always prepared for what or whoever the day brings me.
Learning how to dress professionally is a big step into adulthood. For many college graduates this can be a sad milestone in leaving adolescence, but dressing professionally doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate your own personal style! Learn the basics and then find what works for you. Remember to keep your jewelry simple, hemlines long and to always dress for the job you want. And if all else fails, just wear what Kate Middleton wears.
For examples on office appropriate outfits, check out my board “Wear to Work” on Pinterest. For examples of definite office don’ts, view my board “What NOT to Wear to Work”. As always you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram.
Juliette is a Houston, Texas native and December 2014 Texas A&M University graduate with a degree in Marketing and certificates in International Business and Advertising. She is a self-proclaimed professional procrastinator, recent coffee convert, Jesus lover, Jane Austen disciple and Antiques Roadshow junkie. Life outside of school for Juliette begins in Corporate America but since being Kate Middleton isn’t a profession, her current career plans can be described as “a work in progress.” This past summer, she traveled around Europe and aspires to continue learning about new cultures through travel. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @jkibz15. Visit her personal website to see more of her photography and other creative works.
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