?' la Mode
Dressing Pro-fresh for your new job or internship
For many students, this is the time of year for anxiety surrounding getting a job, an internship or into graduate school. That also means leaving part-time jobs and the wardrobe - or uniform - required. These 'big girl jobs' come with a new dress code.
This is the time to start considering your clothing style as an investment because it will be with you throughout your career. Here are the ground rules for three important outfits you'll need for your professional career: the first interview outfit, the day-to-day business-casual outfit and the occasional work event outfit.
The first interview
Once you've snagged your first interview, be it for a job, grad school or an internship, one of the first things to do is plan what to wear. Although your resume is what will really speak for you during the interview, your wardrobe can either help or hinder your prospects of getting the position.
Unless you're in a creative field,your first interview outfit must be modest, conservative and classic. This is especially important in conservative fields like medical work or accounting. The first interview is not the time to show off your personality; it's the time to show off your hard work and intelligence.
Do not choose your favorite outfit - choose what is expected of you.
Here, I kept it classic with a black blazer from Ann Taylor, an H&M black button-up, a black and white tweed Ann Taylor skirt, black stockings and low-heeled, black brogue-esque heels from PayLess.
You've also got to update your handbag. You want to pick something that is big enough to carry all the necessities, including an extra resume or two (in a manila folder, of course). It should be something with both high quality and high class. Mine is a black Big Buddha (a daughter company of Steve Madden) bag from Stein Mart. It is roomy and versatile while not being distracting during an interview.
It's also important to choose your jewelry wisely. I'm wearing a Seiko watch that is functional, classic and not obviously fashionable. Don't have a watch? Consider getting one - it looks much more professional than checking your iPhone every minute while you wait nervously in the waiting room.
You want to keep your outfit as modest as possible. You're there to present yourself as a professional who is ready to take on new challenges - not to stumble around in six-inch stilettos.
The first interview is not the only fashion challenge having a professional job will pose.If you land the job, your boss is going to give you a dress code, and it is extremely important to adhere to it. If you ever have doubts or question your outfit even slightly, don't wear it.
Not only do you need to feel comfortable in your clothing, your co-workers should feel comfortable with your attire as well. If you're not sure what constitutes business casual and your clothing filter isn't that great, here are a few basic rules:
1. No plastic thong flip-flops
2. Skirts should not be shorter than two-inches above the knee
3. Leggings are not pants - ever, under any circumstances
4. No sheer shirts (no matter how cute it is)
5. Jeans are only appropriate if you're told jeans are appropriate
6. There shouldn't be any rips in your clothing
7. Avoid clothing that is too tight - fabrics that will always be too tight include neoprene and spandex (i.e. body con skirts)
I obviously can't speak to every work environment you'll enter into and dress codes can vary from job to job, but business casual by and large means a half step up from what you would normally wear. Business casual is not the clothes you'd wear to a frat party - think more along the lines of 'Sunday Best' at a modern church.
For a classic outfit, I went with high-waist True Religion jeans, a collared silk T-shirt from Ann Taylor, a short sleeve blazer from Stein Mart and Clarks brogues. An everyday T-shirt might be business casual in some environments, but you can't go wrong with silk.
Getting a new job means a new paycheck and it is important to invest some of that into a new wardrobe. Refinery29, an American-based fashion website, put it perfectly - you shouldn't shop out, you should shop up. What that means is that you should look for more expensive and better quality versions of what you already own. If you love wearing T-shirts, get some higher quality, more sophisticated versions in fabrics like silk or rayon.
If you're going out for drinks, having a nice dinner or attending the annual office Christmas party,you have a little more freedom to show off your personality. That doesn't mean this a no holds barred, get-dressed-however-you want situation.
You might not be on the clock, but you still need to impress your boss and colleagues.The outfit you choose for this party will certainly not be from your frat-party-clubbing wardrobe. Rather, embrace sophistication and class while showing off who you really are outside of work.
I chose a black and white Ann Taylor dress that references the mod era of the 1960s and paired it with bright blue tights, a bright yellow bag (my favorite color for accessories) and my brogue heels.
This dress could be worn to the office by swapping out the colors for black to make it more conservative, but it also screams my personality. Recently, I've been in love with colored tights, and I'm constantly referencing bygone eras, so this combination fits my style.
If you're going out with colleagues after work, choose an outfit that can easily transition from day-to-night. You could swap out plain stockings for fun, colored or printed ones, change your handbag, put on slightly higher heels or add a burst of funky jewelry to go from Office Drone to Classy Girl at the bar.
Ultimately, getting a grown-up job comes with the fun of picking out an almost whole new wardrobe. If you spent college in yoga pants and T-shirts, the transition into real clothing might a bit difficult.
To get you started shopping, make sure you pick up a few basic pieces that will last you for years: a structured handbag, a black blazer, a plain white button-up, well-fitting trousers, modest and comfortable heels and a pencil skirt. These pieces will function as the foundation for years to come, and they'll allow to you build a wardrobe that speaks to your personality while respecting the position you're in.
Wearing office clothes every day doesn't have to be boring or uncomfortable - search around and invest in clothing you love. Look for clothing that makes you feel like the strong, professional, intelligent lady you are. You already did all the work to get the job - now show off who you are, respectfully and classically.