Let’s be honest: dressing up for work is way different than dressing up for class. One of the big realities that young professional women face upon graduation is that they will need a whole new wardrobe for work. No fear, Ms. Career Girl is here!Don’t you dare go into debt over starting your professional wardrobe! You can buy one piece at a time. Here’s where to start!
- Pencil Skirt. Need I say more?
- High quality white collared shirt. Brooks Brothers has shirts that don’t wrinkle. Ann Taylor’s collared shirts are pretty high quality too. The goal is to buy a shirt that you don’t need to dry clean or iron every time it gets out of the wash. Take the time to make sure it fits like a glove. You’ll be wearing this shirt a lot and it will drive you crazy if it doesn’t fit. Don’t be afraid to get a shirt tailored to fit your body if necessary.
- Black work heels. Work heels mean they are classic, easy to walk in and worn only at work for the most part. In fact, it might be a good idea to leave this pair of shoes in your desk so they don’t get trashed at the bar, in the mud, or in the snow on your walk in. Make sure your shoes aren’t falling off when you walk. It looks stupid and you’ll be more worried about saving face than focusing on the tasks at hand.
- 2 pairs of tailored pants. Yes, I said tailored. This means that if you’re short like me, get your pants hemmed! Dragging baggy bottoms are gross and unprofessional. Even worse, you may trip! I would get one nice pair of black trouser pants (Banana Republic’s are awesome)? and one boot cut pair. Make sure they aren’t too tight. If you have to buy a size bigger, do it. If you hate looking at your size on the tag, cut it off. You do NOT want your co-workers talking about your booty because your pants are too tight.
- A great belt. Buy a belt that can be worn over your pencil skirt, over your cardigans, with a dress, and to spice up your collared shirt and trouser pants.
- Tights/Nylons. Although every office is different, my general rule of thumb is to wear nylons or tights unless it is over 85 degrees. If you work in a law firm, conservative bank, or see clients in the financial world then nylons are a must. If you work in a creative advertising agency nylons may not be necessary but they definitely polish your look. Other things:
- Painted nails. Not ones that are chipped and not hot green ones. Yes, details matter and people notice these things.
- Lipstick/gloss. There’s nothing that screams Go-Getter more than lipstick. It shows attention to detail, and it finishes your look. We’ve all heard it before: women who wear lipstick to their interviews are more likely to be hired.
- Be aware of your roots. If you are not a natural blonde (like me), you know that roots are a scary reality. There is nothing worse than a fake blonde with 2 inches of black roots. Goodbye professionalism! If you can’t afford to be blonde, then it’s time to go darker. Fake-blonde addicts: plan ahead for this expense by setting cash aside after pay day. This may change your mind about being blonde!
- Consider buying an in-expensive cropped black blazer so that you can buy fun, cute and cheap tops to go under it. I did this a lot at my last job, and I would always laugh when my co-workers would pull me aside and say, “Oh my gosh you have so many clothes!” No, I don’t. My apartment is tiny and so is my closet! I just buy cheap accessories, wear headbands and fun shirts underneath that same jacket to spice it up, show a bit of personality and change my look!
Nicole Crimaldi is the founder of mscareergirl.com, a personal and professional development blog for ambitious young professional women. Nicole works in Finance in Chicago.