It might sound shallow, but you really are judged on what you wear. So often the visual is the first impression that matters most when impressing clients or potential hirers. But even everyday work outfits can be the hardest to plan.
Never fear! Here are a few suggestions for how to style your work look to put your best and most professional foot forward—without being boring or getting bored.
1. Organize what you already have.
Figure out what you already have and what already works for you. What’s your power color? Your best-fitting skirt or pair of pants? If you don’t already have a lot of pieces that go with your power pieces, then you’re doing something wrong. Instead, maximize what makes you feel best by choosing complementary items to supplement your wardrobe. It will make outfit planning that much easier, and means you feel great more often than not.
2. Balance your textures.
As much as you want to wear a suit made out of sweatpants, most work-wear isn’t like this. Especially if you wear a lot of one color or fabric, it’s best to add in a textural mix to keep your whole ensemble from looking really boring. Examples of good textures to try include: leather, cotton, chiffon, silk, satin, and waxy coated fabrics.
3. Get a good fit.
Next time you’re clothes shopping or pruning back your wardrobe, try the following tricks. Check to see whether you can push your elbows back in a button-down shirt without buckling and gapping (no one at work wants to see your bra), and whether you can wedge a finger space into your waistband. Leave it on the rack if it isn’t special and doesn’t meet this criteria. And, most importantly, avoid anything that isn’t comfortable! And if a few wonderful things don’t fit you to a T—consider alterations.
4. Spend more to get more.
A few quality pieces can go a really long way. Invest in good examples of the following, and you’ll almost always have a mix-and-match outfit half ready to wear: a pair each of straight leg and skinny leg pants, a patterned knee length skirt, a plain black and plain white tank top underlayer (not too thin, not too strappy), a blazer, a great dress, a pair of multipurpose pumps, and one pair of comfy flats. Supplement with a few trendy things here and there, but don’t break the bank to get them. Try Target or Cue for these instead.
5. Jazz it up.
Jazz up your classic (or even downright boring) look with a single statement piece fun shoes, a bag, a fabulous necklace, interesting watch, or even lip or nail color. It’s all in the little deets.
6. Mix business and casual.
Turn a casual looking outfit: feminine top, structured trousers or jeans, jacket, and professional bag into something truly fierce with a pair of killer shoes. The shoes and quality of the bag (and structure/fit of the major pieces of the outfit) will sell it, even make you look relaxed, hypercompetent, and oh-so-chic.
7. Go for the careless combo.
Mix textures and shapes, fabrics, femme/masculine pieces, fits, etc. Sex up the shoes to sell this—even if that means a really nice pair of oxfords or brogues. Embrace your inner hipster.
8. Femme it up.
Go ahead and wear your chiffon dresses—just make sure the hem comes to your knees or lower, add a statement piece and/or a jacket or cardigan and a nice pair of shoes, and you can feel free to be your flowy, feminine self—even at work.
9. Bring the edge.
If you work in a creative field, you have the option of really playing with your textures and pieces and sexing up your wardrobe. Think chunky glasses, statement pieces, and trendy sneakers. The sky’s the limit, as long as you keep consistent with the brand you’re trying to build yourself.