Once the euphoria of graduation subsides, reality kicks in and the “real world” inevitably comes calling. While many of you are graduating at an awkward time between work from home or office, regardless, most of you will spend over 90,000 hours at work in our lifetime. If you’re lucky enough to have solid job prospects, or even an actual offer, you might spend that time sitting at a desk, wearing “office-appropriate” attire that doesn’t speak to your true sense of style. This is especially daunting after you’ve had the chance to wear whatever you want in class (virtual or not). But guess what: it doesn’t have to be that way!
Work Clothes to Express Your Style
Define “Work Appropriate”
Before you load up on expensive suits and closed-toe shoes, determine what “work appropriate” attire means for your employer by asking the hiring manager or human resources department for insight. A financial company likely requires a suit and tie while an Internet company may not mind sneakers. Consider CNN’s “10 commandments of dressing for work” for some universal do’s and dont’s on work clothes. This can be a good start to ensuing you incorporate your style into office clothes 101s.
Make What You Have Work
Even if you’re short on essentials, mixing and matching can extend your existing wardrobe. A pencil skirt paired with a basic tee and scarf looks classic and professional. It can be transformed into a whole new outfit with a cardigan and statement necklace. Go through what you have and make a checklist of what you need so you don’t double up.
Hit up Discount Retailers
Go Consignment Shopping
Your local second-hand store should be the first place you go when shopping for workwear. Though used, consignment clothing items are carefully evaluated for quality and cleanliness. Ultimately, you’re getting items that are in tip-top shape for a fraction of what it would cost new. Search your closet for clothes and accessories you no longer wear before heading to the consignment shop and consider selling them for credit towards a future purchase.
If you’re really strapped for cash, consider organising a clothes swap with friends or family to score new (to you) styles for free. You may find it’s your favourite new way to shop for clothes and continue organising swaps well after your first pay.
Follow The 70-30 Rule
Play with Pops of Colour
Too many board rooms are filled with sensible blue and black suits. Why not bring some colour to the table? According to WhoWhatWear, a little colour can bring neutral tones to life. So add some colour to any part of your look – your clothing, your shoes, your purse, or even the accessories you bought at an online contemporary clothing store over the weekend.
Look Ladylike in Lace
Have you ever put on a pantsuit and found yourself feeling boxy and bland? Give that suit a feminine spin with a lacy camisole. A little peek of lace will give your outfit a fun look that can be perfect for hitting the bar after hours. Don’t worry, it can still meet the standards for the most conservative of office dress codes.
Make a Statement When You Step Outside
Your outfit may be all business, but your coat is ready to party! A colourful, on-trend coat is a great way to liven up your work clothes (especially during those drab winter months). Find something in a pattern or colour that speaks to you, or swap out the standard blazer for a fashionable bomber or motorcycle jacket. Voila! Très chic!
Add Some Accessories
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A woman should always feel glamorous – even when combing through countless email memos from HR. The folks at Verily Magazine suggest incorporating chic, fashionable accessories into your office look, from silk scarves to statement jewellery. Learn to accessorise basic outfits to keep yourself looking fresh on a budget. Try on something that’s been sitting in your closet, or experiment with some new accessories. It’s cheaper to change up an outfit with a statement necklace than purchase a whole new look. For example, a basic black dress with a bold turquoise necklace looks completely different when paired with a wide belt and scarf. Pick up cheap yet trendy costume jewellery from stores like Forever21 or Charming Charlie.
Sport Some Sleek Shoes
Start your day on the right foot, and with the right shoe! Often times, your shoes are the easiest (and, for us shoe addicts, the most fun) way to dress up your wardrobe without pushing the limits of the dress code. Add some sexy slingbacks to your suit, or a pair or patterned oxfords for a fashion-forward menswear twist.
Break Out the Makeup Brushes
Remember those gorgeous pops of colour we talked about earlier? They aren’t limited to attire. Makeup is a wonderful way to express your creativity and make you feel great, so why not wear your favourite shade to work? Try out a bold red lip, eyelash extensions or a bright blue eyeliner – you’ll feel confident and ready to conquer the corporate world.
The Gist of it
Let’s face it, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in that office. You can easily turn your bland work clothes into a lively professional look you’ll love. With the tips you have, you can even get the missing pieces on a budget. So whether you’re shopping thrift, coupons or sales, you’ll be able to mix and match to look professional and express your style. Select pieces and accessories can go a long way. Sporting a sleek jacket, painting your lips a powerful red, or dressing up with accessories, make sure you wear something to work that makes you feel happy, confident, and ready to be your very best!
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